It boggles my mind that there are websites that will give the recent The Thing prequel a negative review for repeating the beats of the John Carpenter original, but will give Paranormal Activity 3 a positive review. Now don’t get me wrong, Paranormal 3 brings a good amount of scares and jumps, and is mostly successful, but the movie rips off everything from the old BBC TV movie Ghostwatch (worth seeking out) to Poltergeist, Halloween:The Curse of Michael Myers, and even the first two movies in the franchise.
The thing about PA3 is that it’s largely effective as a scary movie. Until the last fifteen minutes, the film actually does a good job of racketing up tension and throwing a good jump scare at you every couple of minutes. The problems with the movie actually don’t come from the acting or the scares, but from the very basics of the story and the direction. It’s hard to go into too many details without spoiling things, so let’s talk a bit more after the jump, shall we?
Remember…SPOILERS AFTER THE JUMP!
Okay, so PA3 jumps back in time to 1988 and tries to explain the “weird stuff” that Katie and Kristi (from the first two movies) went through as kids (which they discuss at length in part 2). So we get to see them as children and their first experiences with “Toby,” the demon (now named) who, ultimately, possesses Katie and steals Kristi’s baby son. Their parents (who look a lot like Micah and Katie from the original Paranormal Activity) try to make the best of a bad situation – the mother is oblivious, and the father, much like Micah and the father from part 2, is fascinated by the haunted activity and goes about setting up cameras throughout the house.
Problem is that the film asks us to swallow a lot more than the original two. When kids are involved, it’s REALLY hard to believe that the parents wouldn’t take their kids from the house, even when Toby is abusing them, attacking their friends, and there is CLEAR evidence of the haunting on tape. I mean, I can understand that the mother refuses to buy into the nonsense, but her boyfriend (the kid’s real dad never shows up…probably something for part 4, I guess) sees all of the stuff on tape, and never removes the children from the house? Really? Not only that, the film doesn’t even try to come up with a reason for him to ALWAYS have a camera on him. At least the first two used the excuse of “needing the camera light” or the night vision. This one? Well, he just apparently likes to have the camera on him even when his life is in danger.
The first two films explain that Kristi and Katie had some weird stuff happen to them as kids, that culminated in a house fire. Well…there’s no house fire in this one…so, when is that going to happen? Not only that, both of their parents are killed by Toby. Umm…and this never came up? Even if they are brainwashed to not remember what happened (something alluded to in part 3), it really doesn’t make sense, since Katie and Micah actually refer to her mother in the original movies. Did a new mom come along at some point?
There’s also the fact that the whole demon thing is explained as the grandmother being involved in some kind of demonic cult that is going to sacrifice the first born boy to the demon (which finally happens in part 2). First, not really sure we needed the explicit explanation. Second, Toby does a LOT of damage in this one, and attacks a good number of people. But…if he’s so strong, why does he spend so much time making noises and possessing people when he could just take the kid himself? And then…why the hell did the grandmother hold on to the video tapes for almost twenty years with proof of the existence of Toby and the demonic cult? She actually had to take the video out of the camera and put it in a box to hand down to her granddaughters. Just…odd reasoning.
If it sound like nitpicking, it’s because the film BEGS to be nitpicked. When you make, essentially TWO prequels to a successful film that are supposed to explain the events of the original, and release the films so close together, you really have no excuse to not plug up all the plot holes. I worry that Paranormal Activity 3, despite actually being scary, is the beginning of the series jumping the shark. It seems like so much was removed from the movie (seriously, 90% of what you’ve seen in the trailers is not in the actual movie) with the intention of having a part 4 that fills in even more gaps, but do we need ANOTHER prequel? Either jump forward in time (there can’t be a manhunt for Katie?) or just jump to a different storyline – I think I’m ready to put the story of Kristi and Katie behind me for now.
Ultimately, Paranormal Activity 3 is an example of why, sometimes, it’s best to NOT explain everything and leave something to your audience’s imaginations. You’ll jump, but leave unfulfilled. Oh, and those last 15 minutes that they’re advertising will “ruin you for life?” Yeah…they border on ridiculous, and practically ruin the film. Don’t get your hopes too high.