Paranormal Activity 3
Director: Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman

Cast: Chloe Csengery, Jessica Tyler Brown, Christopher Nicholas Smith
Review by Brian Sammons

Paranormal Activity 3, if you’ve seen either of the two previous films, then you’ve pretty much seen this one. Yep, spooky ghostly stuff starts to happen to an average family out of the blue and that family decides to get a whole bunch of cameras to record it. Plenty of jump scares, and a few good creepy moments, ensue. That’s the winning formula that has made these incredibly cheap to make fright flicks so successful and profitable. That profitability is the reason why Paramount has been releasing a new PA movie every Halloween since they started.

Now I’m not going to get off on a rant here about how Paramount is milking this cash cow to death, and in the process, making everyone sick and tired of what was once original and fun. However I must say that this third time at bat, while not a strike out, is more like a so-so hit that gets a man on base, if only that. Part 3 does do a few new things, but not enough to warrant any real excitement. On the other hand it’s not completely awful, so there’s that, I guess. So grab your video camera, get ready for things to pop up off screen and go “boo,” and let’s watch some new activity of the paranormal kind.

The story this time is a prequel, not a sequel, and if you’ve watched the other PA movies, then you know it would be kind of hard to follow the continuing adventures of two sisters that the paranormal entity has the hots for, mainly because they don’t continue all that much. Well one sort of does, but I digress. So instead of that we get to see the sisters as little girls in the 1980s when the spookiness first started for them. That leads us to my first complaint about this movie; in typical fashion the haunting shenanigans really ratchet up towards the end of the movie, so how the hell did neither girl remember the creepy craziness when they got older and were in the first two movies? I mean there are some hardcore Poltergeist-like stuff happens, not just creaky floorboards at night. You’d think once someone gets batted all over the bedroom by Casper the unfriendly ghost, they would remember that. Sure there is a throw away explanation when someone starts to do some research on cults and says, “they often brainwash little girls” or some such nonsense, but that seems more like damage control than a believable answer. But then this is a movie about invisible demons, so maybe I shouldn’t get so hung up on what’s believable or not.

Oh and don’t get me started on the fact that in both the previous films it was established that the girls’ house was lost in a fire, and yet here the spooky beastie doesn’t so much as light a match. What, did the writers of this movie just forget that? Or were they hoping that we would forget? Either way, that’s a pretty big oversight.

Luckily not everything here is boo-boos and missteps. One nice thing about this movie is at least it has a plausible reason as to why the haunted family would have so many cameras on hand to record the paranormal activity, and that is because the new hubby to a woman and her two young daughters just so happens to make a living by filming weddings. That combined with the pretty authentic ’80s look, complete with a VHS video feel to everything did put a smile on my face. In a similar vein I like the ingenuity they used in order to come up with a camera that would sweep back and forth by attaching a camera to an oscillating fan. Since the best pay offs in any Paranormal Activity come when the camera isn’t looking at something, but then cuts back to a scene so you can see that something has moved or changed, this moving camera really worked and provided some of the film’s best scares.

To be honest, despite being very derivative of the other films, Paranormal Activity 3 still provides some good frights, even if the whole show does have that “been there, done that” feel to it. When you come down to it, that’s all you can ask of any horror movie, so in that regard, PA3 succeeds, if just barely. The sad truth is that not only were some of the jump scares predictable, as they were just variants of what we’ve seen last year and the year before, but so too was the ending, which had its twist telegraphed way early on and was easily the weakest finale of the three movies.

As for the new Blu-ray and DVD combo package from Paramount is like the ones that came before it, which means no obnoxious trailers (yay for that) and just a blank menu screen that gives you the option to watch the theatrical or extended cut. Yep, there are two versions of the movie here, although the differences between them are minor. Also like the other Paranormal movies on disc, there are not a whole lot of special features to choose from. Here there are a few deleted scenes collected together as “lost tapes” and that’s it. So if you’re a special feature fan, you may want to hold off on this one until the special edition version that is no doubt sure to come out someday. However if you are a huge PA fan and just can’t wait then the retro ’80s VHS look this film was going for looks far better on Blu-ray than any VHS you’ve ever seen.

Paranormal Activity 3 isn’t a bad movie, and I did enjoy parts of it; it’s just really tired and now overused idea. It is the weakest of the three films by far and a good example of why they should take a break from the annual release schedule they’ve fallen into. Sadly I don’t think Paramount will heed this advice as they have already announced that Part 4 is in the works. Still, if you’re looking for a pretty good spooky film that will give you a jump or two, you could do a lot worse than PA 3.

About Brian M. Sammons

Brian M. Sammons has penned stories that have appeared in the anthologies: Arkham Tales, Horrors Beyond, Monstrous, Dead but Dreaming 2, Horror for the Holidays, Deepest, Darkest Eden and others. He has edited the books; Cthulhu Unbound 3, Undead & Unbound, Eldritch Chrome, Edge of Sundown, Steampunk Cthulhu, Dark Rites of Cthulhu, Atomic Age Cthulhu, World War Cthulhu and Flesh Like Smoke. He is also the managing editor of Dark Regions Press’ Weird Fiction line. For more about this guy that neighbors describe as “such a nice, quiet man” you can check out his infrequently updated webpage here: http://brian_sammons.webs.com/ and follow him on Twitter @BrianMSammons.

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