Friday, October 21, 2011
Another Helping of Paranormal Activity
I'm not going to talk about Paranormal Activity 3 much, simply because I find this sort of movie is the least likely to have audience members umming and aahing over whether to see it. Not much I say is going to effect whether you want to see it or not; either you're a sucker for this stuff or you're not and I, most certainly, am the former. I found the first edition of this franchise incredibly effective, trading in the sort of scares that send shivers down my spine rather than force me to cover my eyes with trembling hands. Looking back on it now and perhaps I should've seen everything that movie did miles in advance, but in the moment it worked and it worked excellently. The sequel, however, while still able to general a general sense of unease, wasn't quite as good. By giving audiences less interesting characters and using more traditionally manipulative scare tactics (babies in peril, barking dogs) it felt less like a new take on the original than a watered down copy.
The third film though is thankfully a return to form. Now being directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (yes, the men behind the is-it-real-or-isn't-it documentary, Catfish - make of that what you will), the film takes place in 1988 to look at the origins of the haunting that has followed this family for decades. It's remarkable how effective so many of the scares in Paranormal Activity 3 are; everything from the fake boo scares of a character jumping out of a closet to the sight of a gust of air being projected into the face of a character. How is this still scary? I'm not sure, but it does manage the best person-wearing-a-bed sheet scare since John Carpenter's Halloween, so that's quite something. I guess this is just the sort of stuff that I find scary. I love the way I actually have to work during these films and make sure my eyes navigate every inch of every frame at all times in the hopes of never missing a scare. The rotating camera featured in this second sequel is a particularly torturous affair as it makes the anticipation of a scare so much more of an endurance test. How many times can the camera swing 180 degrees around a room before finally capturing something you didn't notice before (a swinging light fixture, an extending shadow, etc)?
Meanwhile, I like that this film is the second haunted house movie of 2011 (the other being Insidious) to have the characters be smart enough to actually leave the bloody house! That the terror doesn't stop there is hardly surprising, but I have to admit that when Christopher Nicholas Smith's character enters the room I squealed out "Oh jesus!" Thankfully only two people heard me and not an entire cinema of texting teens (oh gawd, I never want to go to a public evening screening again after my experiences at Footloose last week, but that's another story entirely). Basically, Paranormal Activity 3 is just a really fun, scary time at the cinema. I'm not sure how much longer this franchise can continue to be made using the same motif of handheld cameras within this one particularly unfortunate family - I suspect Paranormal Activity 4 will go back to the future and follow the ghostly goings on of an altogether new family - but as it stands the Paranormal Activity franchise is back on top where it began. I'm sure many commentators will decry the lack of originality or what have you in churning out a third of these, but if they continue to scare me as much as this one did then I will happily keep watching. And if you have, like me, seemingly seen the trailer for this movie in front of every movie you see? Well, don't be too worried because the finished film features barely any of the material shown in the trailer! They're either very smart and brave, or very stupid and are going to annoy people. It worked for me! Just ignore the fact that a movie made up of 1988 home videos is in glorious widescreen and enjoy the ride. B+
I do want to bring this film's lead actor to your attention. His name is Christopher Nicholas Smith and he is a hottie (the women of this family have good taste in men it would seem!) Look, I don't care if it's frivilous or gratuitous to make mention of this, but he is and I was downright angry when I got home and googling him only to discover that there is only one image of him! How is this possible? It's a travesty, I tellsya. A travesty!
The internet has failed us yet again.