I’m sorry, but I wasn’t aware there were ground rules when it came to horror franchises. The one I’m most offended by after seeing Paranormal Activity 3 says that ‘once you’re innovative and create some great scares, you must spend the following installments cutting as much from that same cloth as possible’. The original Activity was a decent flick for a variety of reasons. For one, it was novel. For two, there was a small inventory of characters, so there was no extraneous action or character development to drag the pace down. Finally, it spent quite a bit of time building some psychological tension. 3 spends so much time building up and building up and building up that when it finally releases, it’s a quick release and it’s over.
I had never enjoyed horror films before because an obvious lack of motive makes the scares hollow, makes the antagonists mere shells. They’re doing this just to do it, but why? Why does this film, like its predecessors, spend so much time moving stuff and opening and closing doors? Why is there such an arbitrary ramp up in the titular paranormal activity? Why are all these cameras so high resolution, both in the modern movies and this one, which takes place over twenty years ago? None of these questions would even be an issue if it didn’t abide so closely to the first two films. I’m practically spoiling the film by saying it’s identical in pace and structure to its predecessors, which is the second time I’ve had to say this in the past week.
When the scares do finally arrive, they’re either cheap or ones you’d expect out of a film like this. Almost all of them are telegraphed so far in advance that you can cook up a s’more to choke on for that flash of a second it appears. Tossing stuff around a room isn’t scary anymore. Spending five minutes panning between two points to conclude with a collapsing bed sheet isn’t scary. Then there’s the other half of the binary protagonist who won’t have/believe any of this stinking up the sections in-between and blaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah. Like a matryoshka doll, Paranormal Activity 3 encapsulates the stories of the first two films, but the more it explains of the horror, the less credible it becomes. So I go back to my original point: why is this film so bound to the framework built for the series? Is there truly no new frontier for them to mine scary stuff out of? Sadly, I’ll be there at midnight next year when the Paranormal Activity 4‘s protagonists set up a series of 8mm cameras and make jokes about disco balls.
SPOILER SECTION FOLLOWS (CLICK AND DRAG MOUSE OVER TO REVEAL)
Okay, so all of that build-up and then what? So they go to grandma’s house and it’s revealed that she’s part of the previously alluded to covenant of sisters. The film probably would’ve gotten two extra points if, once they heard the vehicle turning over, it came crashing through the house with the two parents in bed. THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN THE SICKEST THING EVER. The long shot where he’s walking through the empty house is easily the freakiest part of the whole film, but it concludes when he opens the door and turns the light on that old folks home. I mean, the witches. Or whatever they are. It’s boring. I thought the whole voodoo/witchcraft/demon explanation from the first film almost killed it, which is why I was glad when they ripped most of it out in the sequel.
Also, the ‘falling kitchen’ scene wasn’t nearly as scary as the ‘cabinets and drawers’ scene in the second movie. There were just far too many jump scares here.
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