Paranormal Activity 3 the third installment of the franchise started in 2007, relies on subtle movements, the power of suggestion, and a heavy dose of imagination from an anxious, but ultimately disappointed audience. The found footage film uses similar tricks as its predecessors with a vague plot-line, hand-held taping, and a shaky attempt to scare.
Directed by infamous film-makers, Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, of the 2009 documentary Catfish, the film opens in 2008 with sisters Katie (Katie Featherston) and Kristi Ray (Sprague Grayden) looking through a box of VHS tapes from their childhood.
Whatever happened to us when we were little? one asks the other. I don't remember anything, the other replies. The tapes quickly and mysteriously disappear from Kristi's home, but the audience is not left to guess what the found footage holds.
Flashing back to 1988, the remainder of the story takes place as an 80s period piece. The much younger Katie and Kristi, who fulfill every scary movie's need for pale girls with long black hair, live with their mother, Julie (Lauren Bittner), and her boyfriend, Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith), a wedding video-photographer.
After hearing strange noises one night, Dennis decides to set up video cameras around the house, one in the adults' room, one for the kids, young Katie (Chloe Csengery) and Kristi (Jessica Tyler Brown), and one on an oscillating fan scanning the living room and kitchen.
The film then, in a similar style to the first two, shows the night footage captured by Dennis' cameras laced in between the family's day-to-day life. After the appearance of what is first thought to be Katie's invisible friend, Toby, Dennis begins to notice the unexpected in the Ray family home - lights flicker, doors slam open and closed, lamps drop unexpectedly, Kristi talks to Toby in the middle of the night - all while the girls' mother, Julie, refuses to notice a thing.
While Kristi's connection to the paranormal activity of the house is new to the franchise, much more is left to be desired. PA3 uses the same tricks as the first two, yet fails to deliver in ways the other movies succeeded. The characters are dull and one-dimensional, the dialogue is only accidentally comedic, and the audience waits for the majority of the film for something - anything - to happen.
PA3 tries to build suspense and anxiety in its audience by filling the first half of the film with little more than subtle signs of a supernatural presence. The two biggest jolts end up being fake-outs, jokes by teasing female characters, and the audience is left more scared by its own anticipation of fear than anything that actually happens on screen. The voyeuristic surveillance footage of sleeping family members becomes tedious and taxing; the film fails to build up the tension it truly needs to succeed.
The most entertaining moments of the film, come not from on-screen action, but from the audience itself. The Thursday midnight showing was packed (with $8 million at the box office to prove it) and audience members were quick to shout and shriek advice and commentary as the film dragged on. Laughs and screams were provoked more frequently from a neighbor's accidental touch or a viewer's jest than from the characters on display.
After over an hour of built-up anticipation, the grand finale tries to redeem the film by furthering the franchise's plot line and by packing a number of special-effect driven scares into the last fifteen minutes.
Unfortunately, the drama comes too late and the found footage genre (which predicates itself on believability) tumbles into the realm of the absurd.
Paranormal Activity 3 ends up being little more than a dissapointment, leaving plenty to the imagination and even more to be explained in the inevitable (and unfortunate) Paranormal Activity 4.
Watch the Paranormal Activity 3 Trailer: