In 1988, intrigued by seemingly supernatural incidents connected with Katie and Kristi, two young sisters, Dennis, their stepfather, begins video-recording in their home. Disturbing events ensue.
Like the Saw and Final Destination franchises, the now-annual Paranormal Activity films spin a single gag – here, a sudden, unexpected movement caught on video – into an entire saga. Imaginatively, the series proprietors have drafted Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, creators of the suspenseful/creepy documentary Catfish, to craft this year’s instalment, a prequel covering the early haunting of the sisters whose traumas featured in parts one and two. Young Kristi’s imaginary friend Toby evades video surveillance but still manifests with increasing ferocity.
The 1988 setting means different video equipment, but the film springs same tricks: long-held shots which pay off with spook moments, false scares as fed-up folks play pranks on each other, light-hearted moments that segue into serious panic (a joke with a typical white-sheeted figure ghost is especially good), unwary amateur investigators getting too close to the occult, a slow build to a horrid finale.
Though Joost and Schulman do a solid job, they don’t really raise the series’ game even if this springs nicely demented twists in the last reel, when it turns out that getting out of the haunted house and escaping to grandma’s place (which evokes a key Catfish location) is a very bad idea, and delivers a full quotient of creepery.
If you dont expect innovation from a part three, then this wont disappoint: it may be hokey, but the scares still work.