Thursday, October 20, 2011

Paranormal Activity 3 Has Over Played It's Hand

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3
Directed by HENRY JOOST and ARIEL SCHULMAN
Starring CHLOE CSENGERY, JESSICA TYLER BROWN, 
LAUREN BITTNER, and CHRISTOPHER NICHOLAS SMITH

Somehow I don't think the filmmakers intended for most of the audience to laugh their way through Paranormal Activity 3. Admittedly I was in a college theater with a primarily college-aged audience, so perhaps the audience laughed when they weren't supposed to? The more likely scenario is that the audience got it right.

Written by returning screenwriter Christopher Langdon and directed by Henry Joost and Ariel SchulmanParanormal Activity 3 is promising at first. Set in 1988, we're quickly introduced to Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith), a wedding videographer and new live-in boyfriend of Julieplayed by Lauren BitnerJulie just so happens to be the mother of the doomed sisters, Katie and Kristi. Of course in 1988, Katie (Chloe Csengery ) and Kristi (Jessica Tyler Brown) are kids and not the adults knocked around by invisible entities in 2006.

Back in 1988, Dennis starts to hear unexplainable noises in the house. Dennis' occupation as a videographer is the writer's quick and dirty explanation as to why these poor folks are, yet again, video-taping themselves. Not finding a logical explanation, Dennis suspects ghostly activities. So what does a wedding videographer worth his weight in salt do? It goes without saying that he sets up his trusty 1980's camcorders. I believe they were called handy cams or Video8's. (That's a great piece of 80's trivia.)

Dennis soon enlists his spooky and paranormally-inclined friend, Randy (Dustin Ingram) in his investigation. Randy is supposed to be the film's comic relief, but since the majority of the film is so laughable it's a moot point. The relationship between Dennis and Randy is actually one of the more interesting relationships of the film.

Needless to say, as in the previous films, Dennis gets more than he bargains for and the activity escalates. Kristi talks to unseen imaginary friends, things move around and go bump in the night, and a baby sitter gets scared out of her wits. These are the more entertaining aspects of Paranormal Activity 3. The first clue that the film is in a downward spiral are the cheap scares.

Unfortunately the slow and steady build-up of the previous two films are lost in Paranormal Activity 3. In it's place are people jumping out of closets, in front of cameras, and the old "don't turn around" routine. This is lazy writing and it seems to be the rule, not the exception, the higher up the sequel ladder you go. Paranormal Activity 2 was unique in that it was a semi-decent follow-up toParanormal Activity. You should have no such illusions with Paranormal Activity 3.

One could believe the Blair Witch shenanigans the first two times, but a third time? With VHS tapes no less? After the film's over, the viewer is left to wonder if the ill-fated family is cursed to film themselves for posterity's sake or perhaps insurance purposes?
Another negative is the nostalgia or lack thereof. The 80's set design was weak and could have been stronger. Save the 1970s, the 80s was perhaps the worst fashion decade most of us lived through. Why not amp up the nostalgia and make this film totally 80's-riffic? The babysitter was rocking the look, but the mom could have been styled better, as she was far too modern. Simply put,Julie should have been in 'mom-jeans.' If you want to see a great science fiction throwback, watch this summer's blockbuster Super 8.

But I digress, Paranormal Activity 3 is truly an exercise in excess. When the original Paranormal Activity came out it was psychologically terrifying and a welcome relief to the blood-drenched mayhem of the Saw franchise. That said, the previous two Paranormal films sufficiently tied up most loose ends, rendering a third film utterly useless. Despite this, I entered the theater thinking that perhaps there was more story to be told, specifically about the sister's luckless childhoods via VHS tapes. I was wrong and more importantly so were the writers and producers. Save yourself some money and wait for it on dvd.

Words of warning: Many of the scenes shown in the trailers are not in the movie. In fact, several teaser scenes that hooked the audience are either absent or filmed differently.

I really liked the first two, but I was not impressed with the latest installment in the franchise. You can see my review of the second film from 2010 here. Please don't be one of those folks waiting at the theater at midnight. It's not worth it. See it at the $1.50 or wait for it on dvd.

Katie (Katie Featherston) and Kristi (Sprague Grayden) all grown up in 2006.
TWO OUT OF FIVE STARS

12 comments:

  1. I stopped at the first movie, which was like an hour and a half of suspense leading up to a jump scare... :/

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  2. I despised the first so I won't comment except to say, I grew up in the 80's. I can't imagine someone at the time having the money to set up a small truck's worth of equipment, plus said video accouterments were expensive as hell. Wedding videography wasn't exactly the money-making profession it is now. Loved your review, it was incisive and entertaining.

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  3. I was thinking of seeing this one since it's fresh on RottenTomatoes.com

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  4. the first one scared the crud outta me! i've been too chicken to check out any of the others!! but i have a pal who's anticipating this one greatly. i'll have to warn her not to get her expectations up too high!

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  5. I lurrve the first two PA movies and seriously need to see this new one. I'm not gonna read any reviews till I see it myself.

    Did you see THE DEVIL INSIDE trailer? Proper creepy.

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  6. A few friends went and I decided not to join them, sounds like I made an alright decision there.

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  7. Sub-Radar-- I think I should have stopped too. Unfortunately they're going to turn this into the next Saw franchise, sans the blood and guts. If this film does well they will release a new one every year. All I can say is that these people must really love videotapping themselves.

    Melissa-- Thanks. I remember that you hated the first two. I actually liked the first two films. That's why I was so surprised that I didn't like this one. I literally laughed the whole way through.

    Alex-- Ha, good. Your wallet will thank you.

    Film Geek-- Yes, I've heard this is getting good reviews. I'm quite surprised by this because it was so laughable. I guess some movies are truly a subjective experience.

    Vic-- I just thought it was a let down, but supposedly it's getting rave reviews. I don't see how. I did like the first 2 films.

    Movies on my Mind-- I did see that trailer. That trailer was terrifying. I don't know if I can watch that one. That looks seriously scary.

    I thought PA3 was ok. It's not terrible, but it's not good. If you're a fan of the franchise you may find it midly amusing.

    Damon-- Thanks a bunch.

    A-- You really did make the right move. I didn't have to pay for the movie, but if I had paid for the full $10 to see the late night feature, I'd have been ticked.

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  8. L'ho visto martedì al cinema e confermo che ormai è un
    franchise, si ripete proprio la struttura narrativa, come
    per dire: "è quella solita cosa che volete".
    Nonostante tutto, qualche balzo sulla sedia lo dà, ansia lo
    stesso, le persone sedute dietro di me soffrivano, eheh.
    Ciao! :)

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  9. Così vero. E 'la stessa formula vecchia e non vi è nulla di diverso. Anche se mi ha fatto saltare un paio di volte. Quali film ti aspetti di?

    Fate attenzione. Addio!

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  10. Andrò a vedere "Insidious" su cui ripongo un po' di speranza. :)

    ReplyDelete

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