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While admittedly impulsive—it’s mere hours since I saw the
film—I’m inclined to believe that PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 is the best of the
series. It seeped into me in a way the first two failed to. And as much as the
ghostly proceedings are to blame (I’m outright terrified of the idea of
apparitions and the like), there’s something else that kept me uncomfortable
throughout; the fear of real adulthood. [SPOILERS abound]
Staring down my mid-twenties, I’m in the midst of a
perpetual youth where most of my income goes to any combination of a) beer b)
my girlfriend c) food and d) cinema. There’s a far off distance (that’s not so
far off) in which I’d like to own a house, be happily married and have a
family, yet I’m now somewhat afraid PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 has taught me that
absolutely no sense of confidence or security comes alongside this.
The moment the stress started to mount, I was watching the
two child protagonists, Katie and Kristi, faux-camp outside in the backyard.
Instead of leering jealously and thinking enthusiastically, “fuck yeah backyard
camping trip,” I worried I’d be entirely too fearful to let my (hypothetical)
children sleep outside, while I nestled snugly in. Any number of things could
go wrong, and where exactly would I be? It soon became clear that the threat in
this sequence, spectrally speaking, wasn’t concerned with the tent and having
some fair confidence the girls weren’t in harm’s way, I started to realize it
was merely the prospect of them being out and myself being in, that tore me
apart. And as the film wore on, a whole slew of societal norms that come with “family
life” all of a sudden seemed absolutely horrifying.
[Here there be SPOILERS]
Almost in succession, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 hits the main
stressers of eventual adulthood. The kids find themselves separated from their
parents (Julie and stepfather Dennis, who brings a whole other subject into the
mix) on at least two occasions. One of which is a standard “date night,” and
the other a required doctor’s visit that seem to only emphasize just how
vulnerable your kids can be, regardless of who’s watching them, or who’s
playing Bloody Mary with them. Babysitters are no protectors; they’re actively standing
by the door waiting to leave, when you get home (incidentally, the best
intended scare of the film happens amidst a babysitting session).
Also on deck is the financial strain, as a snide comment is
made to impart that new husband Dennis isn’t as stable as he should be, merely
piggybacking on his well-off wife, Julie. While the scrutiny that comes with
such can be overbearing (and might even be true, the recklessness and childish
nature of grown males seem to be a theme in these movies), it also leads to a
bigger issue, the scrutiny of in-laws.
[Seriously, here be SPOILERS]
In her limited screen time, Grandma makes two things clear:
a) she has serious concern over new husband Dennis and b) she’s grade-a evil.
Of course, not all grandmas lean the way of the witch, but this is “extreme
fears realized” and Granny (with that grey straw hair acting as a neon warning)
conveys that despite his obvious love and concern for the new little girls in
his life, their love for him and Julie’s love for all, he is unfit for her
daughter. After a visit to her house (in which she makes the married couple sleep in separate beds!), Grandma manipulates her daughter into a mindless, suspended, trance
state and Dennis’ death becomes particularly poignant after putting
forth all his energy to protect his family (while admittedly carrying around
that goddamn camera), Grandma literally bends him over backwards to a point he
can’t handle; and then exudes her desired influence and control over the children.
It’s entirely feasible I’m projecting standard and recent apprehensions
of my own onto the film, but at the same time, I think it might be there to be
found. And it spooked me much more than the flattened sheet already had.
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