Film review: 'Paranormal Activity 3' still makes you jump
In this image released by Paramount Pictures, a scene is shown from the film "Paranormal Activity 3." (AP Photo/Paramount Pictures)
I'm all for a horror franchise with annual installments, a tradition you can share with your family and friends. It's the one thing I liked about the now-thankfully-dead "Saw" franchise. And it's even better with "Paranormal Activity," a relatively nonviolent franchise that doesn't try to out-gore itself with every installment. The films are content with scaring the audience with startling noises and baffling phenomena.
Structurally the movie is pretty much the same as its two predecessors, especially the second. We start off with perfectly innocent home movie footage that establishes the characters.
Something mysterious happens during one of the shoots. One of the characters thinks there might be something otherworldly going on and decides that the house needs 24-hour surveillance.
Over about the next hour, we see highlights of the footage from the next few weeks. We jump about once every five minutes, usually from red herrings at first, but eventually from things that are unexplainable and dangerous.
Then whatever it is that's causing all the trouble decides to ditch the subtlety and completely terrorizes the characters.
The climax involves the main character running around with a handheld camera "Blair Witch"-style as we jump about every five seconds.
The major difference this time is that the film is a prequel two the other two films, taking place in the '80s. Kristi (Jessica Tyler Brown) and Katie (Chloe Csengery) are just little girls who we know will grow up to be haunted adults.
This of course means that they'll live through the film, which takes away some of the mystery. They live with their mother (Lauren Bittner) and her new boyfriend (Christopher Nicholas Smith). Everybody is living peacefully except that Kristi behaves strangely, talking to her invisible friend Toby. I say invisible. Not imaginary Things start going bump in the night and you know the rest.
Knowing the rest does not work in the film's favor. For a film whose success is based on startling people, it sure is predictable. It's way too easy to figure out the film's sense of timing.
Watching the film, I kept saying things to myself like "It's early, so this has got to be a red herring", "We're due for a big scare any second," and the one I repeated like a catchphrase, "This can't end well."
Although admittedly it didn't stop me from keeping my fingers in my ears and my eyes squinted for half the movie.
The audience saved the movie, as it usually does. I picked up on a pattern to their reactions, one you can use to your advantage if you wish. Many of them were so jumpy that they would scream at anything.
A split second later the entire theater would erupt in laughter because of the screamers, who by that time were laughing at themselves because they had screamed at something stupid.Try to condition yourself to laugh as soon as you're startled, it will be that much more infectious.
I won't argue that it's necessary to come out with a new "Paranormal Activity" every year because the movies don't lend themselves well to rewatching.
Once you know exactly where the big scares are, you can predict them down to the second. The problem is that "Paranormal Activity 3" is so much like "Paranormal Activity 2" that I had too good of an idea of when the scares were coming.
I could usually predict them to within about a minute. I want the filmmakers to keep the tradition of annual Halloween releases alive, but next time do a better job of keeping us guessing.
2 1/2 stars out of five if you've seen the other "Paranormal Activity" films and have a general idea of what to expect.
3 1/2 stars if you haven't.
"Paranormal Activity 3" is rated R for some violence, language, brief sexuality, and drug use. Its running time is 85 minutes.