Fast forward to… the fan-camera in Paranormal Activity 3 | On Demand
The mediocre third installment boasts one truly great gimmick.
Like The Blair Witch Project, Oren Peli’s debut feature Paranormal Activity was an experiment that can’t be replicated. Because the film deals with “real people” trying to capture the haunting of their California home on videotape, the scares rely on the illusion of artlessness—the sense that the camera setups have been picked not by professionals but by a bunch of homebodies mucking around.
Once the director of The Door in the Floor took over in Paranormal Activity 2, it was hard to shake the feeling that you were watching seasoned filmmakers playing dumb. Now there’s Paranormal Activity 3, from Catfish filmmakers Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. Technically a prequel, the new movie dials back the conceptual rigor—the last third all but drops the pretense of an objective camera—and traffics in more conventional plotting and scares.
But it does have one truly brilliant gimmick, which is to place a camcorder on an oscillating fan. As our viewpoint pivots from side to side, with evidence of the supernatural kept tantalizingly out of view, there’s always a temptation to turn your head just slightly farther to the left or the right than what the frame allows you to see. It’s a great concept that TOC contributor Sam Adams has likened to the experiments of avant-garde filmmaker Michael Snow. To conjure the spirit of the original, the movie needed more fan-cam and fewer covens. (Available on VOD, DVD and Blu-ray Tue 24.)