I had the pleasure of meeting the directors of “Paranormal Activity 3″ about a year ago at a special Ain’t It Cool News.com hosted screening of their first documentary feature “Catfish” at the South Lamar Drafthouse in Austin, Texas. The film stunned me, the charisma of Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman left quite the impression on me, I was quite impressed and amazed. Though I remember thinking as I walked out of the auditorium just what it would be like if they were to helm a “Paranormal Activity” film seeing as the level of suspense and dread that they managed to build in “Catfish” was so strong and that it was a 100% completely true film. Well, now we have our answer and I must say that I was quite impressed.
“Paranormal Activity 3″ is a prequel to “Paranormal Activity 2″ (which was also a prequel to “Paranormal Activity”) that takes place in 1988 and documents the events that were so heavily discussed in “PA2″ regarding the childhood events that young Katie Featherson and Kristy had to undergo. The film has some fantastic and brilliant scares, some that even creep you the hell out despite the fact that it’s somewhat comical. One of these scares involves a babysitter and bed-sheet, made me giggle but still gave me absolute chills.
The cinema verite style of film-making is worked into the story by the fact that Katie and Kristy’s step-father Dennis runs a small production company filming and producing wedding videos, so needless to say he is absolutely loaded with all the equipment he needs. Once he begins hearing strange sounds in the house and even witnesses a talking teddy bear that has turned on for no apparent reason, as well as the fact that Kristy has taken a liking to talk to an invisible friend that she refers to as Toby, Dennis decides to rig the cameras around the house just to see what might happen. Several other reviewers have mentioned that the best camera set up is the “fan-cam”, a camera that has been rigged to the top of a rotating fan motor so that it can pan left to right from the living room to the kitchen. This camera definitely provides the two biggest screams in the whole film.
Despite how much I enjoyed the scares, which directors Joost and Schulman managed to set up with perfect timing, I just wish that the film was a bit longer so that there was time to allow the audience to just relax and feel at home before something just slams in their face. A slow burn would’ve been fine, but the scares just become constant, one after another after another and eventually I just started wanting a break so that I could relax and calm down so that the next sudden scare would be more intense. The constant one scare after another kept me on high alert through the whole film which took away from it a bit. The fun of the first two would be that there would be lots of quiet and you would have to wait a long-long time until something happens at the most completely unexpected moment (for example, the kitchen scene in “PA2″).
The film looked fantastic and I totally bought the time period as the 80s. The actors felt extremely genuine and believable as well as I totally believed that all the females were related in that that the mother in the film greatly resembled an adult Katie Featherston, great casting on that choice. The story-line was very solid for what it was until the last fifteen minutes. I know that the last 15 minutes of the film is the part that everyone is absolutely raving about but to be honest it let me down because it’s one of those random “out-of-nowhere” sudden endings.
From the description of what Katie gave of the events and the references to their childhood home burning down, “Nobody was hurt, thank God. We all got out safely.” This is not at all of what Katie remembers. “You know what I remember? I remember you crying all the time. I remember you couldn’t sleep. You were having anxiety attacks. Weird people kept coming over to our house,” Katie would tell Kristy in “PA2″.The events that take place in this film do not match that description but seems to be leading up to something bigger. The footage that was depicted in the trailers of “Paranormal Activity 3″ quite accurately seemed to cover details of what Katie would tell Kristy in “PA2″.
Also another thing Katie said in the first film was that she and her sister would see a dark figure standing at the foot of Katie’s bed which is again another scene that is not in this film. Another thing that concerns me is that Katie calls her father in the first film after the discovery of the burned photograph. But the problem is that the girl’s father is no where involved in the picture. All of these omissions from the storyline of this film is the main thing that drives me absolutely insane, however, I get the feeling that these subjects may be covered and cleared up in future sequels. My only concern about future sequels is how much longer the creators can cleverly work in the cinema verite style. My theory is that this film is essentially “Paranormal Activity 3A” and that next year’s film might be “Paranormal Activity 3B” and I certainly hope that’s the case. The film that I saw advertised in the trailer was the film that I wanted to see.
I have the feeling that Paramount has something rolled up their sleeves and I beg and plead them to bring back Team Joost and Schulman for the next film because I really enjoyed the new style that they brought in to the film. Plus the way the film left off feels like it’s a new story that Joost and Schulman have started and I would love to see them finish what they’ve begun. The ending may have upset me because it was so sudden, but maybe if “Paranormal Activity 4″ can clarify what exactly I just saw happen and get things connected to where they make sense in conjunction with the first two films then I’m sure I’d be much happier.
I did not hate the film at all. In fact I had a very good time watching it. It was just the film’s ending and the fact that at several moments in the movie I felt like massive chunks of it was missing. I’m anxious to see what the Fantastic Fest cut was like, or hopefully an unrated directors cut that’s at least 2 hours long. I’d watch that full blast and have an extremely good time. I know this has been said a million times already but if you enjoyed the first two films, I’m sure that you’ll enjoy this one. Just fair warning, that ending is going to throw you for a loop!
“Paranormal Activity 3″ is now in theaters.
CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT: 8