Remember the release of The Blair Witch Project all the way back in 1999? Back then, the idea of a ‘found footage’ horror film was a unique rarity, legitimately (and quite cunningly) leaving the film’s legitimacy purely in the hyperbole machine. A string of imitators followed yet the filmic model never really came into prominence again until nearly a decade later, with great success stories such as Rec and Cloverfield. Then Paranormal Activity came along in 2009 and gave sleepless nights to millions. Creating high levels of tension and dread through events as innocuous as a light turning on by itself or a door moving, it was a near perfect example of the less is more approach to horror movie making.
The unfortunate downside to it, however, is it showed that anyone with a digital camera and a small budget can make a horror movie. In this regard it was more influential than The Blair With Project yet, only two years down the line since the original’s worldwide release, the fatigue on the horror sub-genre, as well as the Paranormal Activity franchise itself, is starting to show signs of fatigue.
Promising to deliver much of the back story suggested in the first two entries, Paranormal Activity 3 takes us back to 1988 when sisters Katie and Kristi first encountered the demonic entity that has stalked them through to adulthood. Much like parts one and two, the man of the house, in this case step-dad Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith), finds the paranormal occurrences fascinating and opts to set up cameras around the house to record as much as possible. As you’d expect, things take a decidedly eerie turn for the worse.
Much like its immediate predecessor, Paranormal Activity 3 has some major problems. Whilst the second entry was a sure fire case of lesser-sequel-to-better-movie, it had moments that hinted of better things. It was suitably creepy, yet never reached the terrifying heights of the original. Part 3, however, fails to deliver anything new or, most crucially, anything truly unnerving. Where long static shots of darkened rooms used to be frightening, causing the audience to scrutinise everything, they are now tedious to the point of boredom. Even worse, the audience’s patience for these moments are now rewarded with jump scares that are both cheap and lazy, as opposed to extended moments of terror (who can forget the dragging from the bed scene in the original?). As such, the tension is drawn exclusively from when the next ‘BOO’ moment will be, which, considering the pedigree this series has already garnered, is totally unforgivable. There is no legitimate fear or dread, resulting in a film that is often tedious and downright boring.
There were a few memorable moments; there is an excellent play on the sheet ghost motif and there is a kitchen scare that greatly outdoes the same idea in the second film, but these are fleeting instances of legitimate terror in an ultimately dull experience. In the end, a horror movie is supposed to scare its audience. In that regard, Paranormal Activity 3 is a failure.
With impressive box office revenue, expect Paranormal Activity 4 out next Halloween. Where the franchise can go now, though, considering both sequels were in fact prequels, is anyone’s guess. Coming October 2015: Paranormal Activity 6: The Caveman Days.