There’s something that makes a horror movie extra scary when a dog stares intently into a doorway. Or when an old man on the side of the road predicts murder and mayhem to a van full of horny teenagers heading to summer camp. But there’s a special place in the World of All Things Spooky for children who see dead people (it’s just two doors down from the creep-ass place the Toddlers & Tiaras kids dwell).
From Carol Anne in Poltergeist to the boy in The Sixth Sense, Hollywood has long had a history of scaring the Bejesus out of people through that special ghost-kid bond. And now, the third installment of the increasingly big(ish)-budget Paranormal Activity franchise adds two new little girls to the ranks: one who sees and talks to the ghosts, the other who’s horribly tormented by them.
We’ve been fans of Paranormal Activity ever since the original and think the first sequel ranks up there as one of the best ever made. It manages to expand the story, incorporate ingenious plot twists, and frighten like few other movies. Therefore, it’s a welcome thrill that Paranormal Activity 3 is every bit as scary (even if not as completely satisfying) as the first two and only deepens the mythology of the series with plenty of room for more—all in a movie that stands completely on its own for newcomers to the story.
The caught-on-tape gimmick is dangerously close to running out of steam, yet there’s something about the conceit of seeing an entire movie through the viewpoint of handheld or strategically placed video cameras that adds just enough realism and rawness to amp up the suspense.
Each film so far has had its own unique perspective: tripod-mounted in the first, multiple camera security system in the second, and in this one (set in 1988), a rigged oscillating fan contraption that slowly pans the main part of their house, building anticipation with each excruciatingly slow reveal.
And when the pierced, tatted, muscle-bound thugs sitting next to us screamed like little girls throughout, we giggled with delight.
Now playing in theaters everywhere
Rated R, 86 minutes