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PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3

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C'mon, critics: who has seen it? And don't even tell me you've turned down screenings.

The first two movies are pretty great, in my view. Drew McWeeny credits them for "killing" the Saw franchise, and I'm not sure whether that's true or how that'd even be technically possible, but the first two films give me the sort of high I got from the really scary horror movies as a kid. It's that feeling that freezes me when the roller coaster is click-click-clicking up the steep hill. THIS ISN'T FUN. WHY AM I DOING THIS? I WANT OFF. And then I'm hurtling downward and the speed fills my lungs and guts and I know exactly why I'm doing it.

The films play with the gnosis surplus/deficit dynamic of modern horror. Many horror films get their scares by giving the viewer more knowledge than the characters have; the "found footage/surveillance" genre, like Blair Witch and these films, invert it by giving us less knowledge than the characters, since we're constrained by what the home movies/surveillance cameras pick up.

I can't remember whether the first two films were PG-13 or R, but they're free from exploitative sex or violence, and so I've shown them to my 14 year-old, Leah, after Ali and I pre-viewed them. Leah really dug them, and we've talked about seeing the third one in a theater. The films really activate the pro-DIY part of my cinephile brain; Leah and I said to each other after watching the second film that we really ought to try to make a horror film.

I'm curious to hear any impressions from critics as to the film; this one--I know from the extended trailer that played on the zombie show last night--is R-rated, and I'm not willing to walk into it cold, daughter in tow.

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Links to our threads on Paranormal Activity (2007) and Paranormal Activity 2 (2010).

Russ wrote:

: C'mon, critics: who has seen it? And don't even tell me you've turned down screenings.

I can't speak for any other critics, but movies like this generally don't get screened in my neck of the woods until 10pm the night before release -- which, in Vancouver's case, would have meant a screening late Thursday night, but it was cancelled when Vancouver became one of the Top 20 cities to win an "early screening" that takes place tomorrow night, i.e. Tuesday night. (And because my wife works late on Tuesdays, I can't go to the "early screening" ... but I *could* have gone to the Thursday screening. Thanks, studio.)

: . . . the "found footage/surveillance" genre, like Blair Witch and these films, invert it by giving us less knowledge than the characters, since we're constrained by what the home movies/surveillance cameras pick up.

We're also constrained by what the editors have decided to show us. This was one of my quibbles with Blair Witch back in the day, in fact: the film toggled back and forth between the black-and-white footage and the colour footage, so obviously we weren't JUST watching the footage that someone found; someone had EDITED the footage, but this raised questions about why certain basically pointless things had been included.

The only true "found footage" movie -- i.e. the only movie that gives us the footage As It Was Found -- that I can think of right now is Cloverfield, which also, as a bonus, found an ingenious way to include flashbacks within its footage.

: I can't remember whether the first two films were PG-13 or R . . .

They were both rated R ... for language. (The second movie also had "brief violent material". The third movie is rated R for "violence, language, brief sexuality and drug use.")

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What I do not get is...this is a prequel set 18 years before the first film. Were home security camera and home video THAT prevelant to provide all the different perspectives the films offers?

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Nezpop wrote:

: What I do not get is...this is a prequel set 18 years before the first film. Were home security camera and home video THAT prevelant to provide all the different perspectives the films offers?

Well, depending on who and what these characters are, it doesn't really matter how PREVALENT the use of these technologies is outside their home. But for what it's worth, my father bought our family's first video camera in 1982. We never had home security cameras, though.

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The only true "found footage" movie -- i.e. the only movie that gives us the footage As It Was Found -- that I can think of right now is Cloverfield, which also, as a bonus, found an ingenious way to include flashbacks within its footage.

I kudos the flashbacks in Cloverfield, but I hold that [REC] did this "found footage" horror genre best.

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Nick Alexander wrote:

: I kudos the flashbacks in Cloverfield, but I hold that [REC] did this "found footage" horror genre best.

Ah, I don't believe I've seen that one.

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Nick Alexander wrote:

: I kudos the flashbacks in Cloverfield, but I hold that [REC] did this "found footage" horror genre best.

Ah, I don't believe I've seen that one.

It's definitely worth seeking out. They made an American version that's almost the same shot for shot, but the Spanish version is superior if only because you won't be distracted by Dexter's sister.

Edited by Scholar's Parrot

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Nick Alexander wrote:

: I kudos the flashbacks in Cloverfield, but I hold that [REC] did this "found footage" horror genre best.

Ah, I don't believe I've seen that one.

It's definitely worth seeking out. They made an American version that's almost the same shot for shot, but the Spanish version is superior if only because you won't be distracted by Dexter's sister.

It's superior because of three elements:

1) They didn't train actors to work a camera--they trained a real camera operator to be an actor (less shaky cam).

2) The scares are visceral--the lead actress did not know when the scares would come, so when she jumps, we jump w her.

3) We like the lead protagonist. She's spunky, resourceful, and someone we could root for. If she does something dumb, it's for the right reasons.

Now, sorry for semi-hijacking the thread. I only just caught PA1 earlier this week. It had moments, sure.

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Nick Alexander wrote:

: I kudos the flashbacks in Cloverfield, but I hold that [REC] did this "found footage" horror genre best.

Ah, I don't believe I've seen that one.

It's definitely worth seeking out. They made an American version that's almost the same shot for shot, but the Spanish version is superior if only because you won't be distracted by Dexter's sister.

The remake was decent-though the small changes (specifically in the sparse backstory reveals at the end) seemed to weaken the remake. But really, [REC] and [REC]2 are the rare example of how well the found footage genre can be done. But frankly, I feel like the genre has exhausted it's possibilities. The most that can be hoped for is to do it well, there isn't anything "new" or "surprising" that can be done with the genre.

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Are there torture scenes, ultraviolence or splattergasms in these RECflix? I thought there were, though my only actual experience of the films came in a funny moment in Toronto in 2009. During a public screening of Resnais's WILD GRASS, they decided to do some weird cross-promo with Midnight Madness and as a surprise fed the audience a few moments of RECTWO instead of the charming French absurdist romp we were expecting. There's some terror-stricken, heavy-breathing woman crawling around with sparse light flashing over her, and we're all thinking, "Hey, that's not Emmanuelle Devos." It was a great moment, if only because it broke the spell of tedium cast by the repetition of the same series of ads before the festival's films.

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There are no torture scenes...but there is violence and splatter. They are sorta zombie films. The original films have a really interesting religious connection going on with the outbreak.

I really likes the first Paranormal Activity and found it suffeciently creepy. I amm sure I will see the third one in the future.

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What Nezpop said. A little gore, but not excessive (which wouldn't have been possible in this setting). I can't vouch for REC2, but the first one has authentic jump scares and a varied cast that devolves into chaos. Extremely engaging.

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And now they've reinstated Thursday night's preview screening, but it will start at 9pm instead of 10pm. Okay, whatevah, as long as I get to see it...

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I will be eagerly awaiting your impressions.

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For what it's worth, I'd say this is a worthy extension of the franchise, though it never quite made me jump the way the first two did. (Admittedly, one of the jumps -- a FALSE jump, a we-made-you-go-boo! moment that doesn't involve any actual supernatural activity -- MIGHT have made me jump if I hadn't glimpsed a review that kind of warned me what to expect. But I guess I'll never know, now.)

I did hear plenty of other people in the theatre jump and gasp etc., though -- and they were sitting further back from the screen than I was -- so I guess they weren't "looking in all the right places", etc. (If you see enough of these films, you begin to figure out where the "surprises" are likely to come from, and you can pretty much prepare yourself.) They did, however, begin laughing in disbelief when someone turned the video camera on, including its LIGHT, while trying to escape from a dark house and the people therein.

There's a kitchen scene in here that rivals the equivalent scenes in Poltergeist and The Sixth Sense, although I couldn't shake the feeling that THIS movie's version of that scene might have been made possible by digital trickery.

Interestingly, I had forgotten which sister was Katie and which sister was Kristi, so throughout the entire film, as we follow these two girls, I had no idea which one was the girl from the first movie and which one was the girl from the second movie. (I have since looked this up.) I also have only the vaguest, dimmest recollection of the actual PLOT of the first two films -- I remember scenes, moments, etc. -- so I can't remember which bits of back-story had already been revealed and which had been only hinted at.

Some of the better gags are repeated from the earlier films -- inevitably, I suppose -- but that only made me think of how much newer and creepier they were the first time around.

FWIW, Russ, the "brief sexuality and drug use" alluded to in the rating both occur during an early scene in which the mother and her boyfriend start to make a sex tape, shortly after one of them lights a joint... but the two of them are interrupted before any real nudity can occur. (The underwear stays on, etc.) So depending on how old your daughters are, or what they're used to, it might not be all that big an issue.

Oh, and that scene from the trailer? It isn't in the movie. At all. Though there is another scene that plays on a similar idea.

Meanwhile, there are reports that this film could make as much as $50 million this weekend. Which would give this film one of the biggest opening weekends ever for a horror movie. (Depending on how one defines "horror movie", the only other horror films that have opened in this range, according to Box Office Mojo, are Van Helsing ($51.7 million), The Village ($50.7 million) and Scary Movie 3 ($48.1 million).)

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The Hollywood Reporter has an article on the recent demise of the horror genre (emphases added):

Only a few years ago, a new horror movie was considered as close to a sure thing as anything Hollywood produced.

From 2005 to 2009, studios like Lionsgate, Screen Gems, New Line and Dimension made millions releasing hit after hit, grossing north of $50 million at the domestic box office on low-budget slasher pics and remakes of such genre classics as Friday the 13th and The Amityville Horror.

But this summer and fall, title after title has disappointed, capped by a weak $8.5 million opening for Universal's early Halloween entry The Thing, a prequel to John Carpenter's 1982 horror sci-fi pic of the same name. The likely culprit: The flight of younger moviegoers from the multiplex.

Heading into the Oct. 14-16 weekend, The Thing was tracking to gross $11 million to $13 million, but the audience needed to achieve those numbers never materialized.
Nearly 65 percent of those buying tickets to the movie were over the age of 25, whereas it used to be that moviegoers under 25 powered the genre
.

Other recent titles that have underperformed include the Guillermo del Toro-produced Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, which has only grossed $23.9 million domestic, Shark Night 3D ($18.7 million), Dream House ($18.4 million) Fright Night ($18. 1 million) and Apollo 18 ($17.5 million).

"I don't know what's happening. The young people just aren't there," says Universal president of domestic distribution Nikki Rocco. Chris Aronson, senior vp domestic distribution at 20th Century Fox, was one of the first to notice the decline of younger moviegoers, a trend that began during Christmas 2010 and continues to worsen. "These are the kids who are the stable for this kind of fare," he says.

The Paranormal Activity franchise and Insidious are the only horror movies to do big business of late
. Despite the genre's overall weakness, many are counting on Paranormal Activity 3 to buck the trend when it opens Oct. 21, although last year's Paranormal sequel topped out at $84.8 million domestically compared with the $107.9 million earned by the first film in 2009. Still, the sequel cost just $3 million to produce (the upcoming threequel cost $5 million), a scream compared to most studio franchise pics.

And sure enough, it is now estimated that Paranormal Activity 3 has made $55 million in its first weekend alone, which, if true, would be the biggest opening for a horror movie ever. (In fact, if that estimate holds, it will automatically be the top-grossing horror film of the year; the record is currently held by Insidious, which grossed $54 million.)

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I saw this on Sunday night. Overall, I really enjoyed it. This is the first of the films I saw qith an audience, and I have to admit, it made it a lot of fun.

The oscillating camera technique was a pretty solid way to build suspense.

Also, the fact that the boyfriend is a wedding videographer made a lot more sense that he would have multiple cameras.

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Wait, the Catfish guys (Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman) directed this? That makes me much more interested than I was before.

I watched the first one this summer, and the second this weekend. The way the first two were connected was interesting, especially in the way they tried to sic the demon on Katie, which gave a bit of the "beyond the scares" level that I look for in horror movies.

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Great movie. Even though the series relies on tried and true tricks of the haunted house genre, and the nighttime surveillance form means that character and narrative is even more backgrounded than normal, the ability of parts 2 and 3 to reverse-engineer a plausible story of dread and inter-generational curse is pretty impressive. And you just know that the boyfriend's decision to take refuge with his girlfriend's mother is a frying pan-into-fire mistake. The last sequences suffer from the familiar "Why-would-you-still-be-carrying-around-the-camera?" flaw, but in service to that awesome, awesome moment when boyfriend opens the door to the garage.

The next film, obviously, would go back earlier to trace what ran off the girls' dad. At some point, they'll need to have their Dorothy entering Oz moment and integrate non-found footage. And then they can keep going backward further and further until they get to Vampyr.

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Russ wrote:

: The last sequences suffer from the familiar "Why-would-you-still-be-carrying-around-the-camera?" flaw . . .

Which is aggravated here by the fact that the camera produces a very bright light, which might attract attention from the people that the cameraman is trying to hide from. I think a few of the other "found footage" movies out there have gotten around this by having the cameraman switch to "night vision" mode, but this probably wasn't a particularly plausible plot element here.

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Posted (edited) · Report post

Two questions. The first one is only a spoiler if you haven't seen the second movie.

1. At the beginning of the movie, there's a flashback to Daniel in the basement, and he says the only things missing were the childhood video tapes. Does this mean Katie took them when she disappeared with Hunter, and in the third movie, we're watching them through her eyes?

2. Is Julie dead at the end of this movie?

[edit] Was Grandma in (or mentioned) in either of the earlier movies?

Edited by Tyler

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Posted (edited) · Report post

I saw this last night before seeing Anonymous. I really enjoyed it, and that comes from someone who hasn't seen the first two parts of this series. I don't think that made much of a difference, and now I'll probably want to catch up on the other two.

A question to any MST3k fans out there who have seen Paranormal Activity 3... Did any of you get a Manos: The Hands of Fate vibe as the movie progressed? Just wondering?

Edited by Baal_T'shuvah

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