I wish I could say the same about the Paranormal Activity franchise. The third installment is now crushing it at the box office and all I can say is that I miss Saw. At least the Saw franchise is an intricate series and we know that each episode perfectly sets up the next installment. Paranormal 3, however, is just a repetition of the same tricks, only ever so slightly embellishing on the franchise's previous hand-held camera "found footage" scare-fest. But tricks aside, this is still a one-way ticket to Dullsville.
It's no secret that I absolutely detested the first Paranormal. I skipped the second one and even though everyone said it was way better and scarier than the first (not a tough achievement) I highly doubt it. This third installment brings all the same supremely irritating qualities. And that's not a surprise, given that it's basically the same movie with different people. Seriously, why continue having annoying characters with idiotic supernatural plights?
Once again, a family suspects a threatening, supernatural presence has invaded their home, and so they begin to videotape themselves around the clock in hopes of capturing proof. This takes place in 1988 and is supposed to enlighten us as to why the sisters from the previous films have demons on their tails. Oddly, the footage in this prequel looks like it was shot on digital, with none of the VHS fuzz that would have existed from 1988, and it blows bazooka holes into the premise of the first two movies. If the sisters had been videotaped essentially their whole life, you'd think that, instead of constantly being documented, they'd finally throw in the ghostly towel or be wise enough to start one of those aforementioned TV shows where they get paid to piss their pants.
This time around the producers reeled in co-directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman whose first feature was 2010's questionably "real life" social-media mystery Catfish. I have to admit that a couple of the tricks they use are kind of cool (like the oscillating fan cam) and some of the jolts are way better than anything the predecessors came up with.
But the big glaring fault in P3 is that, with indisputable proof of what's been going on in the house, it still takes forever for anything to really happen and an eternity for the characters to get a clue. Then, of course, it's too late and time for the movie to end with a big scary bang.
It's amazing that anyone can fall for this ultra-cheap, super-manipulative trick of demons and "found footage" again and again. I guess it's like riding the carnival funhouse torture dungeon ride, you want to be scared so you'll be scared... plain and simple. The franchise's brilliance is that it's so cheap and yet so effective. I think it has to do with our reality TV quick-fix mentality. This movie preys on our childhood fears of the unknown and only gives us one kind of scare. Here, the audience gets to stare at the camera footage of a room while some furniture gets thrown around, some doors open, and somebody stands in one place for a long time. Then, there's some really loud bangs and clumping noises, as we wait for something to pop out of nowhere for a jolt-scare. Add amateurish fast-forwards, jump cuts and shaky camera work and the formula is complete.
Treading on thin ice, the threadbare premise of this franchise has been worn down. But PA3 dutifully sets things up for the next installment. One doesn't need any kind of séance to determine that it will probably arrive around next Halloween. With the intention solely to make audiences piss their pants, maybe the gimmick for Paranormal 4 will be to hand out diapers in the theater. Saw, I beg of you, please come back.
Paranormal Activity 3
Starring: Chloe Csengery, Jessica Tyler Brown, Lauren Bittner, Christopher Nicholas Smith
Directed by: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman