Chloe Csengery and Jessica Tyler Brown in a scene that appeared in the trailer, but never made the finished Paranormal Activity 3.
Can we please be done with the "found footage" movies already? At least the original Paranormal Activity had the excuse that it was made on a limited budget and that was the producers way of covering that fact. Now with this third installment however, money is no longer a problem and yet they continue with this annoying and limiting filming method anyway.
The plot to this installment takes place 18 years prior to the events of the first two films, but it's the same old formula again. This time around Katie and Kristi, the sisters from the first two films are shown as young girls living with their mother and her boyfriend. As per usual some strange noises prompt the boyfriend, named Dennis in this case, to place a camera in several rooms of the house and film around the clock. Events then unfold similarly to the first film. Eerie noises, then small things moving, then images become clearer until finally genuine acts of the supernatural begin to happen all leading to a death before the final camera shot.
Along with sharing the plot of the earlier films it also shares the weaknesses of them. First, who edited this film? How lucky that every important event was caught on camera, even when it involves a character lugging a camera around in situations where it isn't natural. And like the first film when it becomes blatantly obvious that supernatural events are happening, the characters are slow to believe and even slower to take action. I know that I wouldn't be able to sleep as easily as these characters are in a house where they've seen things moving around of their own power.
There are some genuinely scary and creepy moments, although not as many as in the first film. Some interesting use is made of a camera mounted on an oscillating fan. It moves back and forth and so you only see what is happening intermittently, which allows the filmmakers to move items around between shots. The number of actual jump out of your seat shots is fairly low though and there's no blood and only one cringe inducing moment that comes as nearly the very last shot in the movie.
Curiously, one scary moment from the previews is completely absent from the finished film. In the previews the two girls are shown playing "Bloody Mary" in the mirror of the bathroom. "Bloody Mary" does make an appearance in the film but under different circumstances.
The acting is fairly amateur and combined with the dialogue never really rings true. I never believed that I was actually eavesdropping on a family. It all feels very, very staged, which is yet another argument against using the "found footage" format. A normal narrative film can be unreal and stylized, but when you're supposed to be watching "real" events, then they'd better feel real and these do not and I'm not just talking about the supernatural moments. I also mean the ordinary family moments or when the couple almost film themselves having sex.
Horror franchises always drag on for too many installments (the Saw movies as a prime example) and so I'm quite sure we haven't seen the last of this series. When it does inevitably continue however, I really hope the filmmakers decide to ditch the video footage and make a proper movie next time.
Photos © Copyright Paramount Pictures (2011)