Director: Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman (2011)
Starring: Christopher Nicholas Smith, Lauren Bittner, Chloe Csengery
Find it: IMDB
The most videotaped family in all America returns; this time nearly twenty years ago, in a 1988 that doesn't look remotely like 1988. The ill-fated Katie and Kristi are young children, bunking together in a possibly-haunted house whilst stepfather Dennis (Smith) videotapes their every move. The quality is pretty good for a 1988 home movie. Especially when one stops to consider how most real movies from 1988 look like shit, let alone You've Been Framed clips.
Little Kristi's (Jessica Tyler Brown) invisible friend Toby turns bastardly bully after a game of Bloody Mary exacerbates the situation. Cue the usual furniture flying around the room, doors slamming and innocent children being tossed around the place like cheap confetti.
Following the disappointing Paranormal Activity 2, this second sequel/prequel is something of a return to form for the franchise. The scare scenes generally work better this time around, (perhaps due to the cheap trick of having two sweet children at peril, rather than obnoxious adults) with more time devoted to building tension than its slapdash predecessor. Still it fails to recapture the original piece's sense of menace - although I'm unsure whether it ever can. We're wise to the demon's tricks now - learning that its name is 'Toby' does it no favours.
Toby chucks furniture about the house, terrifies babysitters and locks little Katie in a cupboard. It's a wonder that wee Kristi and Katie grow up to be so well-adjusted, given their treatment in Paranormal Activity 3. I daresay a later instalment will explain why they never seem to remember any of this ever happening. Stalked by demons and cameras since they were children; I wouldn't be surprised if the poor little dears didn't just repress it all away. Whatever the case may be, Paranormal Activity 3 is further proof that the women of this particular family have exceptionally sucky taste in men. Dennis is nowhere near as annoying as Paranormal Activity's Micah, but Julie (Bittner) could do a lot better. What is it with the men in this franchise and their stupid fucking camera fetish? Those two poor girls have been videotaped more than the Osbornes.
It's a pretty poor prequel in that it doesn't feel at all like 1988. I was hoping to see ghastly haircuts, revolting clothes and a Vice City soundtrack. But aside from some beautifully clunky VCR technology (the technique with the fan motor is a nice touch) there's nothing to suggest any particular place or time. Indeed, the film-makers themselves occasionally forget their own modus operandi - there's a piece in the script where characters talk about Virgin Mary toast; a fairly recent phenomenon.
How much life is left in the franchise is unclear. Already it seems a little lost. But Paranormal Activity 3 does offer some genuinely chilling moments, and an endgame that's new to the series (even if it doesn't make much sense). Myself, I look forward to seeing what possible reason they can find for shoehorning the cameras into Paranormal Activity 4.