Love them or hate them they make loads of money - part Blair Witch Project, part REC, part Ghost Hunters and Most Haunted. It has spawned two sequels already - not it's not Maniac Cop or Evil Dead its... Paranormal Activity. Whhooooaaa Spooky!
As it's Halloween weekend I thought I'd put together my findings on the films that caused a 1000 manics and wannabe film makers to run-around their houses with the lights off, their night vision cameras in hand and pull objects supernaturally on piano wire or fishing gut. Unlike Blair Witch copies the amateurs can emulate PA in doors without having to leave the comfort of their own home - no cold, no damp and no snot running from their nose... Here are my thoughts on the films that launched a thousand screams and possibly made you reconsider home security cameras.
Paranormal Activity (2007)
A couple becomes increasingly disturbed by Paranormal Activity in their home, wow sounds great? The films strong points is that it contains some quality direction by Oren Pel, fantastic plausible natural acting, some skilfully thought out camera work and effective sound effects.
However, it's simply another story told through the eyes of a character, in this case Micah's camera lens. In a nutshell builds up to a big scare at the end (depending on which version you see of the film).
It's over ten years since the 'The Blair Witch Project' used the camera point of view and while Paranormal Activity looks good, is well executed and constructed, it goes over the same old formula. If you enjoyed and were scared by Blair Witch you'll love Paranormal Activity.
That said, if you thought Blair Witch was hyped and shock-less on it's release and you have a preference for REC or Cloverfield, you'll be disappointed.
If you're a big fan of these point of view camera films, and you have to see another this probably isn't it but if you like TV's Most Haunted, Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures and the like this may do the trick.
Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)
A couple become increasingly disturbed by Paranormal Activity in their home that maybe linked to their an infant son. His teenage half-sister against their father wish tries to uncover the truth.
This sequel /prequel contains some quality direction by Tod Williams who takes over the reigns for this instalment. With the usage of static security camera's and some thought out camera work it gives P2 a slight edged and a grander film quality over it's predecessor. However, the jump out sound moments aside the sound effects and design appear less creepy this time around.
The whole cast are fantastic. The acting is plausible and natural by the leads, notably Molly Ephraim who plays the inquisitive everyday daughter and Vivis Cortez as the 'help'. Those with young children and pets will be left a little more disturbed by this follow up and fans of the first will be pleased by Katie and Micah's return.
Sadly, for the most part its purpose is to build up to a big scare at the end. Again it's simply another story told through the eyes of a camera lenses and the writers inject some unnecessary connections and exposition to the goings on which takes away some of the mysteries random edge.
It's nearly 15 years since the 'The Blair Witch Project' used the camera point of view and while Paranormal Activity 2 looks better than the first it goes over the same old formula.
If you enjoyed and were scared by 1st you'll be blown away by Paranormal Activity 2. Yet, old school haunted house fans maybe left less chilled and thrilled.
Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)
Two girls befriend an invisible entity who resides in their home and their mothers partner sets out to film the strange goings on.
The two leads from one and two Sprague Grayden and Katie Featherston reprise their roles briefly. Part 3 opens with a brief insight of the events of Paranormal Activity 1 and 2. It quickly moves to 1988 (you view the contents of some missing tapes) to a time when the sisters Katie (Chloe Csengery) and (Jessica Tyler Brown) Kristi Rey are young.
This prequel directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman Paranormal 3 is technically well filmed, exceeding the likes of Blair Witch in both look and sound. Because of the 88 setting, there's lots of nice touches, the sets, the VHS imperfections, date/time stamps and noise of the camera zooming.
Like its predecessor, there are good naturalistic performances. Sceptic Mom Julie played by Lauren Bittner and boyfriend Dennis - Christopher Nicholas Smith are more than adequate. Dennis' character is as likable as Micah from the first. Video obsessed he makes a swivelling camera from a fan to the annoyance of his wife.
Old ground is trod, characters filming themselves, waking up late at night, creepy images, bangs, shaking rooms, noises and so. There is nothing more creepy than children talking to unseen entities or babysitters getting scared.
You follow the characters on their journey as they investigate and interrogate the video footage and strange goings on in their new house. There's a few stand out moments, the hair pulling and balloon bedroom part complete with blanket flying at the camera. The scene where Dennis' friend Randy experiences the ghostly goings on is a highlight.
Paranormal Activity 3 is not a horror in the traditional sense- if you enjoy these camera point of view chillers and was scared by first two this will possibly exceed expectations. That said, it's not as clever as part 2 in its narrative intertwining.
Ultimately once again it builds up to a big snapping scare, its more of the same. Nevertheless, it still manages to suck you in an be intriguing - why I'll never know.
For anyone else outside the UK here's the 1985 Scotch video tapes famous for the slogan "Re-record, not fade away, re-record, not fade away..." Happy Halloween!