By Clint Morris
“She got blown in the face”, one of the characters in this second sequel to the hugely profitable “Paranormal Activity” franchise says during the movie.
Now we’re not talking bloke custard on phizog here, we’re speaking about an imperceptible someone blowing a bit of gob wind on an unwary babysitter – whoooosh!
And therein lies the magic ingredient of these low-budget horror movies — keeping it simple. No huge effects, no big stunts, no guys in monster suits.. just a gush of wind. A slam of a door. A moving sheet. A creak. A rattle. A shake.
After the success of the first film, a non-union cheapo shot and edited in a tyro filmmaker’s home, one expected Paramount (who picked up the rights after the film started playing to raves at festivals and, so the story goes, spooked EP Steven Spielberg) to go all “Evil Dead 2” on this series’ ass — more money, big stars, outlandish special effects, Linkin Park soundtrack. But credit to the studio for not fixing what wasn’t broke; the film’s low-budget, star-less, untinsletown stance remains (Sure, the marketing budget hovers around the $150 million mark but just go with it…).
These films are all about credible scares — making the audience believe that what they’re seeing is actually going on. And I tell ya, what happens in the lens of that camera – that these movies are seen through; they’re all shot like documentaries, the camcorder being our eyes and ears – plays no less than spinning-head-Reagan brilliantly — these are mostly in-camera practical effects that fool the mind into believing what they’re seeing is real.
The first two films fixed on two twenty-something sisters that discovered, via their video cameras, that their homes were haunted.
This third film tells the back-story of the girls’ induction to the evil spite that’s been haunted them all these years.
After a quick epilogue in which siblings Katie (Katie Featherston) and Kristi Rey (Sprague Grayden) bond over the latter’s impending pregnancy, before digging up some old VHS tapes from 1988 (strangely enough, there’s no copy of “Teen Wolf Too” or “Arthur 2 : On The Rocks” amongst the home videos there), we’re treated to the vintage delights of a yarn about the two young girls, Katie and Kristi (Chloe Csengery and Jessica Tyler Brown, respectively), who with their mother (Lauren Bittner) and her videographer boyfriend (Christopher Nicholas Smith) start to hear, and ultimately see, things going bump in the night (I could make a crack here about a moment in the film when the adult duo decide to make a sex tape, but I won’t) in their home.
To explain how it all plays out, and how the spirit (who actually snags not only a name, but a bit of a back-story this time around; up till now, we’ve known little about the Casper that screws with the girlies) keeps the family up at night would be robbing you, the audience, of the film’s surprises and scares. So I won’t. Not one. But I will recommend nailing your sheets to the mattress.
“Catfish” helmers Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman inherit the director chairs from original “PA” director cum rich cat Oren Peli and, “Paranormal Activity 2” helmer Tod Williams. I know, I know…but without getting into an argument about just how real their first film, a ‘documentary’ about internet relationships, was if it led to this, Joost and Schulman really know how to suck an audience into not only believing but feeling what they’re seeing on screen. Again, let’s not get into that other argument. Just good job, guys.
Considering how fast they’re punching these films out (once a year), it’s amazing that the films are as well written, structured, directed and performed as well as they are.
I guess the “Paranormal Activity” movies, with their lacklustre budgets and D-list casts, might be seen as the K-Mart of horror movies, but I tell ya, like a department store sweater, that doesn’t don’t mean they’re not a quality product. Throw away the receipt, you won’t want a refund.
But just for the record, no, I did not get scared – this is the guy that sat through both “Poltergeist” and “My Stepmother is an Alien” at the cinema and didn’t flinch once. Not once. Brave? Chyeah.
Nothing. Guess behind-the-scenes material would be useless, yeah?