The first Paranormal Activity was shot for $15,000 by writer/director Oren Peli. Worldwide, it grossed about $193 million.
That's amazing. Right there we have the solution to the nation's ongoing economic swoon. We're going to have to overturn the law against human cloning, but extreme measures must be taken to produce an army of Pelis to work around the clock turning 15 grand into 200 million. In no time at all, we'll be looking at so much money the nation will quickly be replaced by a giant Betty Ford center.
The plan will work. Those earnings weren't a fluke. The second film cost $3 million and grossed $177,500,000. The newest entry, Paranormal Activity 3, ran $5 mil and has already made 10 times that much. Accuse the producers of milking it if you want, but as entertainment, they're still doing good work long after the novelty has passed.
After Christopher Nicholas Smith moves into a new house with his wife and her two young daughters, he starts hearing strange noises. Soon, daughter Jessica Tyler Brown begins talking about Toby, her invisible friend.
Smith, a part-time wedding photographer, sets up video cameras around the house to document the goings-on. But it isn't long before the spectral visitors are doing more than making noise.
I didn't catch Paranormal Activity 2, but I did see Paranormal Entity, which is the most shameless attempt to profit off someone else's success since Titanic 2, a real movie that will no doubt inspire similar classics such as Hindenburg 2 and 9/12. Anyway, I figure that should bring me up to speed on any relevant plot points I missed. Oh wait. Turns out there is a lot of continuity to the series, and it's pretty convoluted by now. Thank goodness for the fine autists at Wikipedia.
Well, now that I'm all caught up, I see that it doesn't matter, unless you've somehow survived the last year despite your burning need to know the alluded-to past of Paranormal Activity's Katie and her sister, Paranormal Activity 2's Kristi. Truly, this series sets a shining example of sustainable living for all mankind. It recycles, reuses, and replenishes its own mythology like it is being paid 5 cents per can. This thing is so green trees write metaphors about it. If you've seen the first or the second, I think you are legally allowed to go to the third without paying, as they are all the same movie. Go ahead. If that ticket-tearer tries to stop you, just punch him in the face. He's not being paid enough to fight back.
But if it's same movie, different number, the new team of writer Christopher B. Landon and codirectors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman bring some novel tricks to the table. Best of all is Smith's use of an oscillating fan as the stand for one of his cameras.
To the viewer, this is as manipulative as it is brilliant. The camera pans slowly from one side of the house to the other, revealing something deeply creepy, then leaving it behind, just as slowly, to return to the oblivious character across the room. The wait is maddening; with no way to speed up the next reveal that's surely coming, all you can do is chew your chair to pieces like a puppy left home alone. Also, the next time you leave your puppy home alone, please give her something to watch besides a horror movie. Try something with turtles.
Other tricks are old hat by now--off-screen noises, fleeting glimpses at the edge of a shaky, hand-held camera--leaving Paranormal 3 an obvious comparison to what you'd get if Poltergeist and The Blair Witch Project incarnated, mated, and gave birth to a strapping baby horror movie.
Paranormal Activity 3 isn't as good as either of those, and if you're the kind of person who gets exasperated by unoriginality, then I pity your spouse. And also you're not going to like this. But if you're fine with one more trip to the well, Paranormal Activity 3 is spooky and gripping with a great performance from young Brown with long moments of tension before its big loud scares. Consider me an unlikely fan.