'Paranormal Activity 3'
(Lauren Bittner, Chris Smith, et al / PG-13 / 91 mins)
Overview: The 'Paranormal Activity' franchise continues with this third outing from Paramount Pictures. Oren Peli and Jason Blum return to produce the highly secretive feature, with Catfish's directing duo of Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman taking on the helming duties.
Verdict: This latest entry is a prequel set in 1988, depicting the girls' (here played by Jessica Tyler Brown and Csengery) initial childhood encounters with the entity that stalks them throughout the series. The two share a two-level home with their mother Julie (Lauren Bittner) and her boyfriend Dennis (Chris Smith). Kristi's imaginary friend, Toby, quickly turns out to be not-so-imaginary, and not very friendly either. After accidentally capturing footage of something unusual, Dennis, a wedding photographer/videographer, decides to set up a couple of video cameras in the house.
Naturally, what follows is a lot of footage of things going bump in the night, lights playing tricks on everyone, and furniture finding its own feng shui before the goings finally amp up and become truly malevolent. It's the same sort of thing we saw in the first two, but PA3 tops its predecessors, especially last year's risible sequel, by being more inventive without coming across as a slick, soulless retread. Minimalism has always been one of the series' strengths, and an apparent budget boost allows for judicious use of digital effects to allow this entry more of an edge without going overboard.
The fact that PA3 feels more creatively inspired and less derivative than PA2 is due to the new blood involved, namely directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (the duo behind last year's semi-documentary "Catfish", which was creepy in its own right) and screenwriter Christopher B. Landon. They correct the mistakes of the first two by crafting some fleshed-out characters and throwing in a little humor early on to off-set and contrast the tension.