Move over, Dakota Fanning. There's a new, creepier- looking girl in town.
There’s something to be said about the Paranormal Activity franchise and its ability to pull folks in year after year with the same formulaic “smoke and mirrors” spookiness. This year’s installment managed to rake in over $114 million in nine days, which includes the $24 I plunked down so that my bestie and I could enjoy it in all of its unremarkable glory. And give it the MST3K treatment.
The story opens with a missing scene from Paranormal Activity 2 in which the Rey family returns home to find their posh McMansion tossed all about, presumably by a prowler. But the only item missing is a box containing old VHS tapes from Kristi and Katie’s (the now-possessed sister from the first film) childhood. We are not told who unearthed these tapes, or even how. And in a few minutes, we stop caring.
Soon, we are transported to 1988, where a young Katie and Kristi (who I thought was the older sister, not the younger one but appears to be the younger one in this instance) are sharing a house in a friendly California town with their mother, her live-in boyfriend, and Toby, Kristi’s imaginary friend. The bestie and I surmised that Toby was really the angry spirit of Kunta Kinte and had been waiting for years to exact his revenge on any white folks he could find. Which, honestly? Would’ve made a lot more sense.
Anywhoozle, Toby is a pretty demanding imaginary friend, waking Kristi up at ungodly hours to do mischief, forcing her to invite that creepy Teddy Ruxpin to their mid-afternoon tea parties. He’s also a touch sensitive about the “being imaginary” thing. After getting Kristi into some wacky hijinks, Dennis, the live-in videographer boyfriend (played by Christopher Nicholas Smith) decides that all of his downtime would be better spent installing cameras around the house in hopes of catching some cool, spooky shit.
What could go wrong?
Everything, Sally. EVERYTHING.
Every perceivable slight causes Toby to step up the haunting. Katie’s round of “Bloody Mary” finally causes the demonic spirit to reach his breaking point, treating her to some good old-fashioned bed-moving and kid-dragging, Poltergeist-style. Another funny scene involves Toby yanking the child up by the hair and slamming her to the ground like The Undertaker. In my head I imagined him muttering, “Think I’m still imaginary now, bitch?”
Throughout it all, Mom Julie (played by Lauren Bittner, another virtual unknown) comfortably adapts a “See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil” policy that serves her well until the last 20 minutes of the film. Because the ghost of Kunta Kinte–much like a crazy bitch who boil rabbits in your kitchen–will NOT be ignored. Nor will the massive plot holes, sadly.
Jessica Tyler Brown plays Kristi so well that I’m convinced she’s going to be the next Dakota Fanning, who happens to be the patron saint of creepy child actors. And Chloe Csengery fares well as constantly annoyed big sis Katie. But it’s angry spirit of Kunta Kinte who really steals the show.
Final Rating: Two and a half Smileys and a West. On the upside, the best friend and I have been inspired to kick off our Paranormal Activity Tour, where we’ll be snatching random bitches from beds nationwide. Tour dates to come.