The new film is a prequel to the first films and follows the template set by the first two movies. Set in the VHS era of 1988, recurring characters Katie and Kristi Rey are little girls living with their mother (Lauren Bittner) and her boyfriend (Christopher Nicholas Smith), a wedding video editor. When they start hearing strange sounds in their new house, he sets up video cameras to find out what’s keeping them up at night. Is the boyfriend obsessed or is the house possessed?
Richard: Mark, I have to say, I’m a bit of a sucker for things that go bump in the night and even though the Paranormal Activity series should be a little long in the tooth by now, it still made me jump. Are you as big a fraidy cat as I am?
Mark: I usually pop a Xanax before I see a horror film so I can better appreciate the movie for its technical merits. But I didn’t for this one. And yes, the movie did frighten me, but only in the last 15 minutes, which were terrific. I found it a bit too long getting going and had a bit too much dark humour to create that air of dread right off the top. The first two installments of the franchise really creeped me out; this one is better made, but didn’t give me the punch until the end.
RC: This one is 99 per cent anticipation, one per cent payoff, but the one per cent is pretty good. I think the low-fi feel of the movies — the picture really does look like home video most of the time — combined with really natural performances from unknown actors make the Paranormal Activity movies feel like real “found footage” movies. Most movies of the genre are a little too slick. These aren’t. There’s no music, no stars and it feels like you’re watching something that could be real … almost.
MB: Yes, and that’s not easy. It takes real filmmaking talent to look this artless. One thing I love about the series, and this movie in particular, is how much of the plot takes place at the edges of the screen. You really have to pay attention to see what’s really happening in the frame. And the static takes almost feel like some European art film, although the technical innovation of the oscillator-cam in this film is inspired. I was also pleased that the movie had a backstory and plot, although, cleverly, you don’t realize it until the movie is done.
RC: This one is a prequel, featuring the recurring characters Katie and Kristi Rey as creepy little kids. Not sure what’s next though … maybe Paranormal Activity in Outer Space?
MB: Well, before the screening, we were warned that to prevent privacy, the theatre would be continuously scanned using night vision technology. Paranormal Activity 4, anyone?