October 23, 2011

Movie Review: Paranormal Activity 3

I guess it was inevitable. Two years ago the first Paranormal Activity movie arrived with a great deal of hype and fanfare with a wonderfully slow theatrical roll out that did nothing but fan the flames of hype. Fortunately, the movie lived up to my expectations, and it left me shaken and disturbed. Then, last year the sequel came and actually proved to be one of the rare sequels that is actually an improvement on the original. Now, I am not sure I was as shaken, but the jumps were effective and it successfully built the mythology. With two successful films under their belt, it was inevitable that a third would come, especially so now that Saw is out of the way and a new Halloween horror franchise is needed.

Speaking of Halloween horror franchises, I think I am up for this being a yearly recurrence. I do enjoy the jump scares and the moments of Where's Waldo-esque screen searching mixed with bits of mythology building. Although I do think that after this outing I think it may be time to shift focus to a new family. How far back are we expected to go? How much more footage can there be? Are they going to revisit other angles of what we already know? Maybe it's just me, I just don't think there is anywhere else to go with the current line. Maybe I'm wrong, and if so I would love them to prove it. (yes, i'll be there for the next sequel, should there be one).

As Paranormal Activity 3 opens we meet Katie and Kristi, the troubled sisters and stars of Paranormal Activity 1 and 2, respectively, before the events of those films take place. Katie is getting ready to move and is storing some stuff at Kristi's. Among the stuff is a box of video tapes from when they were little kids. A year later Kristi's place is traced, apparently ransacked, but the only thing missing is that box of tapes. From here the scene shifts to 1988 and we get to watch an edited piece of film from those videos.

This third trip chronicles the early contact between the young girls and the demon that would recurringly haunt them for years. Katie, Kristi, their mother Julie, and her boyfriend Dan are happy with their lot in life, but when tings start happening the fabric of their family could be ripped to shreds!

Well, we already know that the girls are going to make it through OK. We also know that the demon is not going away anytime soon. What remains is an 80-minute movie that is going to provide a series of jump scares and fill in a few blanks by adding to the mythology.

Now, considering the story is on the thin side, as dictated by the format, I cannot go into a lot of detail here. I will say, that just like the other two films, you will given a bunch of pieces and a lot of space to move them around and holes to try and fill in between them. I think this just adds to the success of these movies, they leave  lot of room for discussion, even if I don't believe the movies have a lot of replay value.

This third film does offer a new reason for stuff to be filmed. While I feel that some of it feels a little contrived, they do bring in some new ways to show said footage. The first film was a guy filming to figure out what was going on with his new camera, the second employed security cameras, and this one is again to figure out what is going on, but they employ a swivel for one of them which leads to some nice tension building and reveals. Not bad at all.

I feel this is the weakest of the three, but that doesn't really say much as I found both prior films to be pretty strong. The fact is that I am liking it more the further away from seeing it I get. I did not walk away quite as shaken as I did from the first, but it is no less effective. They have made this first person/found footage style work for them. It is still a tricky proposition to make it stick, and it sticks here.

Aside from all the talk of style, jump scares, and demons, the characters are actually interesting too. They are not written or played like movie characters. They are partly dull, partly interesting, partly annoying, just like real people. There are moments that play the edges of disbelief, but for the most part they are believable as the incidental subjects of home videos. That said, the performances of the little girls were quite good with young Kristi being really good, bordering on the creepy.

If you don't like this style, or didn't like the first two films, there is a good chance you aren't going to like this one. So, take that into consideration and decide to give this a shot. It is worth the trip.


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Dan O. said...

Definitely better than the second one and even though it's a little bit of the same thing around again, it still is totally freaky and has so many chilling moments that will stay in your mind forever. Good review. Check out mine when you get the chance.

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