Movie Review: Paranormal Activity 3

I hate to admit this, but the evidence is all so apparent…  I’m kind of a fan of the Paranormal Activity movies…

I’ve now seen all three of the films in theaters on their opening weekends.  And frankly, I’ve enjoyed watching all of them.  While this 3rd one was probably my least favorite of the series, it did its best to not be a stale repeat of the previous two.  In the first film, simple door slams seemed to suffice enough for most of the movie to provide the scares.  While found footage films are nothing new, there was something about staring silently through a stationary camera into a dark room waiting for something slightly scary to happen that seemed kind of new.  The second film was slightly more intense, and added more stationary cameras than ever.  It wouldn’t be good if it were the same level of fright, so they did some cool innovative scares (including the kitchen cabinet scare, which is still the best of the whole series, in my opinion), and it worked for me.

Obviously, the series must naturally progress by having bigger and more innovative scares, and Paranormal Activity 3 both delivers and fails in that regard.  There are some moments, like the “Bloody Mary” scene (which, in a very nice twist, wasn’t the one from the trailers) that actually raised the hair on my legs a little bit.  Then there were other moments that seemed too cartoonish and obvious.  The entire ending sequence was well done overall, initially providing a lot of great, disturbing imagery. But the final result of the whole film was pretty shitty.  I guess I’m saying; awesome walk-through of the creepy house during the final 10 minutes, but the very last 2 minutes were very unsatisfying. And, I think, didn’t make much sense to the overall mythology of the story…

They also had some good, innovating use of a moving camera.  A humorously constructed camera rig out of a common household fan provided a slow-moving look at two rooms in a back and forth motion.  This allowed the film makers to do some pretty neat, and very well constructed moments.  All while killing the audience with horrible anticipation.

I mean, that’s really been my favorite aspect of the Paranormal Activity series; the anticipation. They basically tell you right to your face that something awful is about to happen, they rarely bullshit you with non-scares, and then you just have to sit there and squirm until something happens.  Until anything happens.  Even if the payoff isn’t as good as you’d hope it would be, the waiting provides enough raw emotion out of the audience that these become intensely fun films to watch.  The reason that #3 was my least favorite of the series was because the payoffs weren’t always that great, but the well thought out waiting game was as top-notch as these films have ever been.

They used the gimmick of going into the past of the two leads of the previous films (and you need to suspend disbelief about the fact that they are apparently using the greatest VHS cameras never made) and having the whole film take place in the 1980s.  I don’t know how they could milk this same story line any more without completely stretching it.  I’m not sure they even need another Paranormal Activity film to be made.  But with the cheap cost, and the ease of the writing, it basically boils down to whether or not some young filmmaker can devise ways to scare people in this format that the three films before it haven’t done yet.  I don’t know if a 4th one would work, or even be slightly good; but again I hate to admit it, I’d probably be in theaters opening weekend for a Paranormal Activity 4.  That’s just how it is.  These movies, more than most other recent horror movies, provide a superb level of visceral, raw terror that I just want to be part of.

i.e.  they are FUN.

7 out of 10


 

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