They said it couldn’t be done. A fifth year of 31 Days of Horror? 31 more terror, gore and shower scene-filled movies worth highlighting? But Rejects always say die and never back away from a challenge (unless you count that time Kate Erbland was challenged to sit next to Allison Loring for Paranormal Activity 4), so we’ve rounded up the horror fans among us and put together another month’s worth of genre fun. Enjoy!
Paranormal Activity and Paranormal Activity 2 showed us terrifying glimpses into the lives of adult Katie (Katie Featherston) and Kristi (Sprague Grayden) and the strange activity that seemed to surround them. But what happened to these two sisters that caused this activity to follow them into their adult lives and leave them with no memory of what happened to them as children? Paranormal Activity 3 gives audiences a glimpse into that backstory of what may have happened to the girls when they were younger that caused or led to the unfortunate incidents that haunted their adult lives.
The Paranormal films may rely on tricky camera angles and low-budget tricks to get their audiences to jump out of their seats, but the moment Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith) attaches one of his cameras to an oscillating fan, a brilliant new horror trope was born. The idea that you could see something in one half of the frame and then be forced to wait until the camera panned back around to see what happens next created a whole new (and terrifying) way to create unsettling suspense.
This idea is best used when we spot what looked like one of the little girls under a white sheet in the far left of the living room, leaving us to slowly watch as the figure ends up standing ominously behind the girl’s babysitter, Lisa (Johanna Braddy). This image itself is off-putting and successfully puts you right on edge, but when Lisa finally senses something and turns around, whatever was under the sheet disappears, causing the sheet to drop to the floor and viewers to scream with questions of what exactly was under it.
While no actual sex takes place in the film (the story does mainly focus on two little girls) the girls’ mom, Julie (Lauren Bittner), and Dennis do attempt to make a sex tape, but before things can really heat up they are interrupted by the house shaking – thanks to an earthquake (considering the family lives in California) or something more nefarious…
These films are more about the scares than actual violence, but there are moments sprinkled throughout Paranormal Activity 3 that prove whatever “Toby” (the girls’ imaginary friend) represents certainly has a violent side. Toby may mainly makes his presence known by slamming doors and rattling hanging lights, but when young Katie (Chloe Csengery) gets her hair pulled or yanked across the floor, or Dennis’ friend Randy (Dustin Ingram) gets a scratch down his side, you begin to wonder what kind of reach Toby truly has to affect people and not just their surroundings. While hair-pulling and scratches are a drop in the horror violence bucket, the fate Julie and Dennis eventually face certainly ups the ante and ends the film on a surprisingly violent note.
The Paranormal films make their bread and butter on their ability to scare audiences, but they do so by spacing out their scares making it more about suspense leading up to those scares as your eyes search the screen for anything that could jump out at you. Paranormal Activity 3 makes good use of the many mirrors throughout the girls’ home and calls back on the images we have come to know from the previous movies (the video camera’s red light and static-filled television screens), but also introduces new scares with the oscillating fan and showing the girls actually interacting (almost playing) with this being rather than simply reacting to it. This film certainly follows in the previous two’s footsteps being more about the build-up than the scares themselves, but Paranormal Activity 3‘s imagery of innocent children surrounded by something this frightening gives this entry into the franchise a constant sense of unsettling fear.
Paranormal Activity 3 played better on the big screen with a rapt audience, but when viewed at home (especially a second viewing) the scares had less of an impact and the “found footage” looked a bit too good and less believable. However, when viewed by new eyes, the film successfully delivers the scares and sent me into the sweatshirt of FSR’s own Kate Erbland (while she was still wearing it) when we watched it in theaters for the first time (you can read that full story HERE.)
The scares may not always deliver major payoff, but they do succeed in keeping you on the edge of your seat (or in your friend’s sweatshirt) and when they are teased, they usually work at making you jump. While this film is not your standard horror fare of blood, guts, and gore, the Paranormal franchise knows how to build the tension and make you fear the normal, wondering if there is something para-normal behind your everyday trick of the light or bump in the night.