Editor’s Note: The version of the film screened at Fantastic Fest is an unfinished cut.
I could probably make this review incredibly brief and make everyone happy.
If you liked the first two films you’re likely to like the the third.
I wrote that review while waiting in line for the men’s room.
Like Paranormal Activity 2, Paranormal Activity 3 is a prequel to its predecessor. It takes place in September of 1988 when the two sisters of the first two films were little girls and the referenced beginning of their experiences with the invisible, kitchen furniture-hating demonic figure began. Seriously, this demon really hates kitchens. I think he hates everything but camcorders, actually.
Also like its predecessors this picture starts with light, random noises caught on video that lead to louder noises after a couple of days, which lead to a few bangs against the walls, which lead to an angry invisible demon being really mean, which leads to physical altercations with the family members, which lead to kitchen renovations, and somewhere in there the audience screams and craps themselves.
As the series continues, the only thing that’s going to matter is whether or not, as an audience member, you’ve grown tired of the home video recordings as the method to tell the story. If you can get past the idea that each of the women in this family (two sisters and now their mother) choose the most hopelessly infatuated-with-recording-everything men in history then the film can work. Though, it is a pretty big stretch to think that these men (and it’s always the men) feel compelled to constantly carry a camera with them for no logical reason other than to record legitimately scary things happening right in front of their faces. Maybe the first two occurrences one could believe easily – just so people you tell could believe your story if you have video evidence. It might also help if you’d decide to just go ahead and tell every single friggin’ person you could possibly know your damn story in the hopes that maybe someone will try and help you. Just sayin’.
For better or worse it’s exactly the same formula as the first two films to a T; and why not? Just like every other horror franchise (most recently the Saw and Final Destination pictures) the film sticks with what’s worked in the prior pictures, makes some kind of new elemental or technical addition (this film adds an oscillating camera to the series’ oeuvre) and finds newer ways for the bad guy to be bad. To that end, Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (the same team behind Catfish) have upped the prior two films with the scare gags. The effect is probably not as prominent as it was from the first picture, but that’s to be expected after two films of desensitization. However, the events are larger and with the inclusion of the oscillating camera, a little more creative as well.
Other than that though, unfortunately there is nothing new to really say about this picture that can distinguish it from an explanation or discussion about either of the first two films. It really is the conjoined triplet. If you didn’t like either of the first two films you will almost certainly dislike this one for the exact same reasons. If you liked the first two films then patience and desire for a refreshing spin notwithstanding you’ll probably like this film for the exact same reasons. It’s either identically intense, or identically annoying and if it isn’t either then it’s probably because the viewer changed their opinion about the series because of over-familiarity. Oren Peli and the producers ought to understand that by continuing the series by utilizing the exact same methods and gimmicks can only hurt the franchise. They’re not going to gain new fans by making the same movie over and over and will most likely lose some existing fans because they’ve seen the same movie having been made three times over. Each new entry makes it increasingly more difficult to give pass to some absurd behavior by the subjects (seriously, men, put the damn camera down!).
That being said, I am a fan and found it identically intense.
THAT being said…if they make another, I will setup cameras in the producers’ homes, because it appears demons will go wherever there is a camera.
The Upside: New scares of the same kind.
The Downside: The same everything.
On the Side: The cut screened at Fantastic Fest was unfinished. However, with the sound mix seeming pretty tight and their not needing much in the arena of digital effects, so I imagine “unfinished” meant “let’s see if this ending works for theaters or a dvd extra.”