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Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011 03:32 pm

Paranormal pulls off frightening hat trick

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While not quite as effective as its two predecessors, there’s still enough gas left in the franchise’s tank to make Paranormal Activity 3 a worthy entry in the series and one that delivers what is arguably the scariest moment of the cinematic year. The new blood behind the camera, Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, who delivered last year’s intriguing “documentary” Catfish, don’t shrink from the task of following up parts one and two and provide some genuinely chilling moments and an unnerving conclusion.

Working backwards, 3 takes a look at the origin of the troubles that have plagued sisters Katie and Kristi Rey (Chloe Crengery and Jessica Tyler Brown) for years, all of which came to a head in the original. Seems that in 1988, while living with their mom (Lauren Bittner) and her new boyfriend, Dennis (Brian Boland), the family begins hearing some strange noises in their new home. In an effort to find out what’s going on, video cameras are set up around the house, effectively capturing all that goes on when things go bump in the night.

While finding logical explanations for setting up cameras is getting pretty hard to justify (Dennis just happens to be a wedding videographer), Joost and Schulman do come up with an inspired way of using this device. One camera is set on top of the base of an oscillating fan so that it slowly moves back and forth, giving us a delayed view of what’s happening in the living room and kitchen. The slow speed with which the camera moves provides an almost unbearable sense of tension. The directors reward our patience by delivering two show-stopping frights.

To say that you won’t be able to predict where this film’s plot is headed is an understatement, but the direction it takes is inspired and within the realm of where the other films have gone. Suffice it to say, the Paranormal Activity films have become the most reliable modern horror franchise, eschewing the gore of the Saw movies and instead relying on old-fashioned cinematic techniques to get audiences to leap from their seats. Rarely have long spells of silence or deft editing been used so effectively to withhold and then provide the images audiences dread to see. The producers behind these movies know that less is always more where fright films are concerned. It will be interesting to see if they know when to stop making them or if they’ll milk this cow dry.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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