FILM REVIEW: Paranormal Activity 3 (15)

The evil spirit which haunted Oren Peli’s 2009 low-budget horror Paranormal Activity is back and this time, things go bump in the nightmares of two little girls with an imaginary friend, who is terrifyingly real.

Structured once again as found footage, the third film in the series is probably the least scary of the unholy trilogy, employing many of the same shock tactics as its predecessors.

However, directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, who made the acclaimed documentary Catfish about the perils of social networking, deliver several effective jolts.

Paranormal Activity 3 traces the malevolent force that haunts sisters Katie (Katie Featherston) and Kristi (Sprague Grayden) back to its origin.

The film opens in March 2005 in Carlsbad, California, with Kristi heavily pregnant and painting the nursery a fetching shade of blue.

Her sister arrives and stores two old boxes in the basement, one of which contains numerous video cassettes marked with the girls’ names. Curious.

Events rewind to September 3, 1988 - presumably one of those archaic VHS recordings - and the birthday party of young Katie (Chloe Csengery).

Younger sister Kristi (Jessica Tyler Brown) keeps to herself, talking to an imaginary friend called Toby.

Celebrations are captured by videographer Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith), the new boyfriend of the girls’ mother, Julie (Lauren Bittner).

He becomes intrigued by strange sounds in the family home.

“It’s a new house. It shouldn’t be making these noises,” he mutters ominously, setting up two cameras, each able to record six hours of grainy footage.

Nothing much happens on the first night, September 10, 1988, but as with the earlier films, events become increasingly sinister.

Paranormal Activity 3 is an assured opening chapter in the horror mythology, sowing the seeds of terror in childhood that reap such bitter fruit for the sisters in later years.

The third film starts gently and apart from a couple of cheap surprises, the knot of tension in our stomachs doesn’t begin to tighten until the halfway point.

Joost and Schulman follow the template of earlier instalments, from doors that open or slam shut without warning to bedclothes that ripple under the control of invisible forces.

The directors’ most novel conceit is perching the camera atop a rotating electric fan, allowing the field of vision to turn slowly through 90 degrees, thereby giving us a panoramic view of the family’s living room and kitchen.

More than once, we glimpse impending doom on the edge of the screen just as the fan begins its rotation, and for the next 15 seconds our imaginations whir feverishly into overdrive as we contemplate what horrors are unfolding just off screen.

Only when the fan glides deliciously back to its starting point are we afforded another fleeting shot of chilling reality.

Now you see it... now you don’t. Boo!

By Damon Smith

:: SWEARING :: SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 6/10

Released: October 21 (UK & Ireland), 84 mins