Paranormal Activity 3 (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
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Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)

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The horror. The gravity-defying, trampoline-based horror.

A key piece of dialogue framing my opinion of Paranormal Activity 3 wafts into the auditory channel after fifty mind-numbing minutes and eight days of movie-time.  Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith) has been documenting the relative inactivity of the home for over a week now and mentions how he needs to keep going to note "all the freaky stuff that's been happening".  To this point, the only freaky thing involved dust sort-of collecting over a possible figure and a light-bulb bursting.

Ah, yes.  The horror.  The unimaginable terror of a bulb descending into its ordinary life-cycle and bursting.  Now, I'm willing to stretch plausibility as much as possible, but the idea of the series continuing to be any sort of "legit" document of possession has long since past it's sell-by date.  It's become just another series of tiresome static shots and endless backdrops coalescing into an idiotic final act.

I say this as someone who has never quite grasped the appeal of the Paranormal Activity series.  Granter, horror films have earned their bread and butter for years by providing endless jump scares, so the placid pacing and nearly inconsequential terror gathered by the first film was a welcome surprise by many.  I found the acting too horrible to really drive home the effectiveness of the terror and since the formula was easy to discern from the opening scenes, just found the rest to be dull.

The formula continued on into the second film which was mildly improved by better actors and has now descended into the idiotic with the inclusion of witches in this additional sequel/prequel.  Now, a smarter series might be able to find something interesting to do with the fact that each installment is going further back in time, but Paranormal Activity is not this series, and this film will not be its messiah.  If anything, they need to press things onward a bit, because the tendency of this series has been to respond to "Why is this happening?" in the stupidest ways possible.

You aren't missing anything interesting with the lights off.

So PA 3 takes place roughly twenty years before the first film in the '80s.  We know this because a babysitter shows up in very "Valley Girl" clothing and Teddy Ruxpin provides and inexplicable PoV shot which instilled more chuckles than terror.  Beyond this, the film feels like an anachronistic failure, adding too little background detail to cement it in its time period while additionally failing to maintain its own video-based style.

The whole point of PA 3 is to answer the questions of how Katie (Chloe Csengery) and Kristi (Jessica Tyler Brown) are haunted in their later years.  But now the horror is explained and it just raises more incredibly stupid questions.  Like, why does the demon only target children?  Why do witches go into arranged marriage deals with the underworld?  If the demon feeds on fear, then how does the total lack of terror help the demon become stronger?

These aren't unfair questions since the film strives to answer the "Why" for the first two.  But the scares have become so thoroughly mundane the film barely seems to be trying to maintain its own scary reputation.  There's one shot involving a collapsing kitchen later on in the film works decently, but only if memories of the previous two films aren't fresh in your head.

Let's just burn the past and start over, or at least reallocate film resources a little better.

It's difficult to find something interesting to say about any of these films.  I like the strangely conservative undercurrent between all three films (involving unmarried couples being punished) reinforcing traditional family values, but aside from one good shot PA 3 hardly touches on this.  Discussing this film as a standalone afterward is difficult as well, as my movie watching partner went into this film fresh and was more confused and frustrated instead of intrigued.  So those coming in new will just be angered by the strangely convoluted mythos, and those of us who have been in for the long term have recycled scares and idiotic answers to questions we didn't even have.

PA 3 is continuing along in a horror tradition breeds nothing but repetition and senseless answers to questions that don't need to be asked.  What little horror was generated in the original film comes from the inexplicable nature of the possession.  Did we really need the explanation or, worse, the need to ask more questions?  "No" to both, and recycled scares won't aid the simple fact I needed help to stay awake during  Static Shot #45-A.  Grateful as I am for the help and commentary while staying alert, the results just aren't worth it.

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Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)

Directed by Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost.
Screenplay by Christopher B. Landon.
Starring Chloe Csengery and Jessica Tyler Brown.

Posted by Andrew

Comments (2) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Another movie where the ending nullifies any potential enjoyment.


    Because the Grandmother is part of the coven, that means the main characters from the previous movies were never the tortured everyman/everywoman (mostly everywoman), but rather chosen from birth. Way to ruin any sense of dread and fear.

    If the main characters were just people who were tortured/haunted at random, then that would be scary. There is no rhyme or reason for the main characters being haunted, they just are. Anyone, including the audience, has an equal chance of being tortured, which adds to the tension.

    Now that the main characters were chosen from beginning (but the mother wasn’t? And she was killed?), the movie loses the fear and the tension the movie tries to create is completely undercut. The movie becomes a meditation of confusing mythos, ponderous jump scares, and long static shots. How very disappointing.

  2. One more thing. Randy was awesome. He stole the show. If Paranormal Activity 4 is about him, I am totally watching that movie.

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