The demon in the “Paranormal Activity” movies doesn’t just go bump in the night. No. It also likes to yank your hair, possess your kids, move your furniture, drag you across the floor, and beat the hell outta you. What a douchebag.
Like its predecessor, “Paranormal Activity 3” winds back in time in an attempt to further trace the origin of its supernatural mysteries. The year is 1988. Sisters Katie and Kristi are young and naive. When their father, Dennis, begins to suspect that an entity might be roaming around their house, he sets up some cameras to catch the bastard on the act. Turns out, videotaping on an excessive scale runs in the family. If these folks went out more often, they’d probably end up with priced footage of Big Foot and the Easter Bunny.
The recordings eventually reveal that, something… is among their family. Because this is our third attendance on what is essentially the same movie, this discovery is only shocking for them. “Paranormal Activity 3” suffers from The Side Effects of Unplanned Franchising, where its makers force a complicated plot to adapt to a simple concept that’s best left untouched. This move is applied to successful movies so countless sequels can be produced in the expense of the original’s reputation. (The idea of [REC] probably wasn’t enough for three more sequels, so they added an out-of-place supernatural twist, which we saw in [REC] 2.)
The mythology in “Paranormal Activity 3” has wandered too far, wrongfully assuming that it’s scarier if we know more about its monster. It introduces elements that comes out of nowhere, asking questions that will be answered in, of course, “Paranormal Activity 4”. As for the demon, his presence here is much more welcomed than in the previous two films, thanks to the sisters. We know now that the demon’s nickname is Toby, and that he is a good sport when it comes to children’s tea parties. Toby’s motives are also revealed, but his actions don’t seem to enforce it.
Many say that people tend to “perform” when they know that a camera is watching. The same could also be said for Toby, who acts out his terror in perfect accordance with the position of the cameras. One of the movie’s few innovations is the placing of one camera on top of an oscillating fan; the camera pans back and forth from the kitchen to the living room. Toby’s choice of movement in this area of the house will not only scare the person in the room, but also the person who watches the recording later on. That’s twice the scare.
The humans, on the other hand, are not so sure what to do with themselves. They are aware of the evil, choreographed demonic presence, but their snooping around just seems to taunt the beast, which is actually a benefit for a horror-hungry audience. Excluding the cheap scares in the earlier scenes, “Paranormal Activity 3” produces massive tension and dread that’s unfortunately toned down by the fact that we’ve all seen it before. This could have been the scariest movie in years if it wasn’t two movies too late.
The subtle flaws are beginning to surface, the repetition is beginning to wear out, and the forced franchising is something I disapprove of, but I can’t give “Paranormal Activity 3” a negative rating. Those who buy a ticket for this will get what they paid for. This installment is louder and faster, with a camera that’s more mobile, thanks to the father with a relentless passion to videotape everything, as if he has no family to worry about. What a douchebag.