Directors: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
Cast: Chris Smith, Lauren Bittner, Dustin Ingram, Hallie Foote
Plot: While making a sex tape, Dennis (Smith) stumbles across evidence that suggests his girlfriend’s house is haunted.
No matter how good Paranormal Activity 3 gets there is a sense that we have been here and done this before. It is the obvious criticism and one that I don’t necessarily want to make. I try to stand back and come at each Paranormal Activity movie with a fresh mind, trying to find new things to point out and compliment. However, as a brand new couple (the parents of the last two victims), begin playing around with a camera system and the same, familiar jump scares begin to creep into play, it is impossible not to feel tired of the set-up.
Credit to Joost and Schulman, they do have some tricks to bring to the table. Sometimes it is just a new take on the same jump scare. As a door is slowly pushed closed by a demonic force, we are prepped for the obvious jump as the door finally shuts. We get the jump scare but Joost and Schulman do something different with it that I appreciated. They didn’t steal the jump from the audience (you can call jump scares cheap until you’re blue in the face, but they are the reason everyone turned up for this movie in the first place!), but at the same time, they threw in a nice twist. Other new bits of innovation include a rotating camera, replacing the fixed one. While the fixed one managed to squeeze every portion of atmosphere from the room, that trick was getting tiresome, so the rotating camera became a worthy addition to the movie. At first, it seems like a good way to get a bigger picture of the room, as with the fixed shots, we are always missing something out of sight. However, with the moving feed, the directors carefully time their scenes, so the one thing you want to keep your eye on is glimpsed at, before frustratingly being taken from our field of vision. The monster is much scarier when you don’t know where he is and it leads to the two greatest jumps of the movie: a figure hiding under a ghost costume and one scene that brings the house down (pun intended). That is my favourite thing about Paranormal Activity 3. I can almost feel the directors and writers sitting in a script-writing meeting and letting ideas bounce around the room. While Paranormal Activity 2 was dull until the final twenty minutes, Paranormal Activity 3 spaces its best moments throughout the movie. Sure, it still has characters you don’t care for and long periods of boredom, but the constant scenes that made the wait worth it makes the third movie much better than the second in my eyes.
Sadly, the core problems remain. The first still stands on a pedestal, because the characters were more three-dimensional and had better actors behind them. The second and third might bring story developments to the table that creates the impression of a bigger and better sequel (there is another last act twist that really shocks!), but the original will always be the one to beat. Perhaps the real problem is not topping the original, but the fact that Paranormal Activity just cannot be copied. In the first, we put up with the long waits for the scares, because we had no idea what we were waiting for. The tension was carefully orchestrated. In the sequels, they are replicated, not cleverly planned out. The audience knows what they are going to be shocked with (one difference is the mysterious entity being give the name Toby and compared to Bloody Mary – another piece of inspiration from the creative team), so the long waits aren’t appreciated as much. But the catch is without the long waits, there really isn’t much point in making the sequel. However, seeing as I have two more ahead of me, without counting the sixth Paranormal Activity in post-production as I speak, I assume that the producers are still determined to prove me wrong.
Final Verdict: Someone really makes a good attempt at bringing new ideas to the table, but the third is still unable to escape that sense of pointlessness. Better than the first sequel, but it won’t win over any new fans.