Movie Review: “Paranormal Activity 3”

Written by Josh Litman November 01, 2011

…Happy Halloween?

The third entry in the Paranormal Activity series is admittedly better than the second…but that doesn’t necessarily make it a great (or even good) movie.

The first Paranormal Activity had an element of originality and inventiveness going for it. It took audiences by surprise and succeeded in what it set out to do. The second film, however, was more of the same, without the advantage of feeling fresh or unique. Audiences already knew what to expect, even by that point.

So now that the third movie has arrived, should we expect the formula to be any different? The answer is a resounding NO.

Paranormal Activity 3 is a prequel. Actually, given that number 2 was a prequel, this is really a prequel to a prequel. The basic premise of the story is that a family becomes haunted by…something, causing weird sh*t to go down around the house. In this one, however, a little girl seems to be able to communicate with…whatever it is.

The Paranormal films abide by the ‘found footage’ premise whereby audiences are led to believe that the events happening onscreen are (or were) real. That is, the footage witnessed by viewers is supposedly shot by characters within the realm of the film. Think Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, etc. In other words, a shrewd budget-saving manoeuvre on part of the filmmakers.

And speaking of budget-saving, this film is filled to the brim with what I call gratuitous waiting. That is, you will spend an exorbitant amount of time looking at a perfectly still shot of a bedroom or kitchen where absolutely nothing changes for minutes. Yes, minutes. Sure, it might be kind of fun to notice and pick out all the discrepancies in the room in a ‘Where’s Waldo?’ kind of fashion, but then there should have been more substance – i.e., more creepy stuff to pick out during the course of the film. Hence, gratuitous (AKA boring and cheap). The waiting to sh*t happening ratio is simply way off.

One thing that’s clever about this third entry is that the cameras really are used in some rather inventive ways so as to best induce fear and/or elicit jump scares. A prime example is the camera mounted to a swivelling fan whereby it pivots back and forth between showing the living room and the kitchen, providing an added dimension of fear and trepidation.

It’s incredible how the characters can seem so convincingly rational at times, and then be so unbelievably stupid at others. Seriously, there a number of incidents in the film where anybody else would RUN THE HELL AWAY. But no, let’s SLOWLY SEARCH the area. And continue to HOLD THE CAMERA AND FILM in the process. These characters stick around, perhaps out of curiosity, but more likely as a plot device.

Still, the film does have its moments. Number 3 employs a healthy dose of humour that was sorely missing in previous entries. Consequently, we feel more of a connection to some of the characters than ever before (especially man-with-the-cam Dennis).

Also of note is an uneasy, tension-filled scene where characters play a game of Bloody Mary in the bathroom.

Unfortunately, a lot of anxiety is lost in the film due to knowledge of events in the previous entries. Also, while I would say Paranormal Activity 3 is better than its direct predecessor, its ending feels slightly weaker. The series is known for somewhat abrupt endings, but this one feels especially quick and a bit unsatisfying (particularly when you take into account the extreme build-up that came before).

In conclusion Paranormal Activity 3 is passable entertainment. At the very least, we can be thankful for the pockets of thought and effort detected in this entry on occasion. It’s better than number 2, so there’s that. But it still feels cheap and ultimately unsatisfying, considering the sheer amount of waiting and suspension of disbelief involved. You could do worse for Halloween…but you could also do better.

My Rating: 6.5/10

 

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About Josh Litman

Josh Litman

Director/producer/writer/actor/editor/cinematographer/musician/neuroscientist… Josh prides himself on being simultaneously awesome and modest. In addition to We Eat Films, Josh also produces his own work (films, writing) under the banner of Action Potential Productions and has his own website, too, where his handiwork can be viewed: www.actionpp.com -- or www.joshlitman.com (if you prefer).

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