HORRORFEST: Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)

By now I’m sure you have realized that these movies are a one-trick pony.  That being said, the trick is still just as effective as ever.  We’re three films into the franchise, and while things certainly aren’t as fresh as they were in the original installment, Paranormal Activity 3 has more than a few surprises in store for you.

The second installment in this franchise was a direct prequel leading up to/paralleling the events of the first film.  Here we have a prequel to the prequel, if you will.  Paranormal Activity 3 shows us the beginning of the supernatural events plaguing Katie, Kristi and the rest of their family.  The film is set 18 years prior to the events of the first two films.  The cast is the most likable one yet, due mostly to the casting of Jessica Taylor Brown as young Kristi.  Her performance feels remarkably organic for her age, and she’s absolutely adorable.  It’s not often that I come across a child actor that I actually don’t mind watching, and for that reason there is an even greater sense of dread because I’m worried about what will happen to this character.  Whereas the child actor in the second installment was annoying and distracting, here the children make the movie.

But you don’t care about that.  All you really want to know is whether or not the movie is scary.  Well, the movie does virtually nothing to innovate on the established formula.  The only new trick that the filmmakers introduce here is an oscillating camera.  But the scares are just nerve-wracking as ever.  I’ve always been and always will be an advocate of slow-burn scares and tension, and this movie offers more of that than the previous installment.  Some would call the technique these movies employ a gimmick.  I call it effective horror.

One of the two main camera angles utilized in the film.

Yes, the premise is based largely on cheap scares, but the filmmakers know audiences love cheap scares.  They make the viewer’s heart skip a beat.  They encourage young teenagers to scream in terror.  Cheap scares are easy, but I will argue that these movies are about more than cheap scares.  The tension I feel while watching these movies is incredibly visceral, and maybe that’s just because I’m a sucker for ghost stories.  But regardless of what triggers these emotions out of me, the fact of the matter remains: I was scared as shit.  On paper, this is the scariest movie in the franchise yet.  The only reason I hesitate to call it so is because it lacks the freshness of the original.  The ending of the film dragged the terror on for minutes, leaving me feeling absolutely terrified and drained by the end credits.  The twist the movie introduces to the story-line provides great promise for the direction of future iterations (there will definitely be a P.A. 4).  However, the plot conflicts with the backstory set-up in the previous movies.  But for me at least, it bodes well for the series, even though I had to suspend belief in order to buy into it.  It’s far from a perfect film, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the hell out of it.

I question how much longer this franchise can continue without becoming a parody of itself.  It only took three films before the Saw movies devolved into un-watchable garbage, and I fear the same of these movies.  For the time being though, Paranormal Activity 3 still provides the jolts and edge-of-your-seat movie-going that we all crave this time of year.

3.5/5

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