Paranormal Activity 3
Paranormal Activity 3 (dir. Henry Joost, Ariel Shulman) opens as Katie (Katie Featherston) visits Kristi (Sprague Grayden) in 2005, then ostensibly pregnant with baby Hunter. She brings several boxes previously belonging to their late grandmother to be stored in the basement.
Inside are VHS tapes recorded in 1988. These comprise the action of the film.
Kristi and Katie, both young children, are living with their mother Julie (Lauren Bittner) and her boyfriend, videographer Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith). In the middle of a sex tape Dennis is making with Julie, an earthquake spreads dust on what appears to be a figure crouched next to the bed. Intrigued, Dennis sets up a camera network and carries one around with him to catch a glimpse of any other unusual events. Soon, the escalating interference is attributed to Kristi's imaginary friend, Toby.
Even to a casual observer, the film team rigged up a wonderfully nasty little trick in attaching the camera to an oscillating fan base. As it turns, alternately viewing the entryway of the family's home and then slowly panning back to the kitchen over the course of several long seconds, the suspense builds as naturally as blood spurts from an open artery. You just know (and are rapidly trained to dread) that something terrible is going to happen when it pans back, and most of the time, you're right.
In all honesty, these films do not have riveting plots. They do not have great or even clear camera work much of the time. For much of the first half of the film there is usually a big to do about what amounts to a couple of shadows on the floor and some footstep sound-effects. But what the film does do is build fear steadily, like a roller-coaster, never using gore or cheesy underscoring, and rarely resorting to overwrought computer effects. At the end of the day, it draws attention to the tiny noises in our own houses, and to the way our eyes scan the rooms in front of us. Paranormal Activity 3 manages to be visceral without the viscera.
And as each individual film builds to its inevitable climax, the series itself seems to be building toward something more disturbing each time a movie comes to a close. This time the climax is much darker and bewildering than any of the rest, but again with no closure. However, number four is already in the works. We have not seen the last of Paranormal Activity, nor of Toby.