**** crookedcartridge.com ****

Review: Paranormal Activity 3

I’ve never finished watching an entire “Paranormal Activity” movie. Why, you ask? Well, maybe it’s because “found-footage” movies are rarely interesting or scary to me. Especially when there’s nothing believable about the acting, the plot, or the very obvious “camcorder” grain / filters over clearly HD movie footage.

But recently, I had nothing better to do, and I got curious. The Paranormal Activity series has been going on since 2007, and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere since the general viewing audience keeps paying for the sequels. I’ve obviously seen the trailers, and to be honest, nothing about these movies are scary.

Every trailer I’ve seen involves someone getting dragged out of a bed, in a very “jump scare” sort of way. Why is that scary? Because people hate the idea of being dragged out of bed? Or because the effect looks semi-convincing with little to no analysis? The problem is, some people are really used to seeing special effects in movies, like myself, and unless special care is taken to mask these effects in a realistic way, it will stick out like a sore thumb.

So I’ve decided to watch these films completely out of order, because I want to judge them as individual films, not simply as a set of sequels. I picked numbers out of a hat, and came up with the order 3, 4, 2, 1. This way, I won’t know what to expect or try to draw parallels between the four films.

The first Paranormal Activity film I decided to watch was the third in the series. It’s supposed to be set in 1988, which stands out as the first glaring issue. This movie doesn’t look like it was shot in the late 80’s by any stretch of the imagination. Maybe some references are made to things like betamax occur every once in a while, but that doesn’t change the fact that this movie is shot in extremely high definition.

Putting a half-assed VHS effect over your hollywood quality movie isn’t going to immerse anyone. Every once in a while, you’ll see someone wearing something that looks a bit dated, but if they didn’t put timestamps for “1988” over half of the footage, you wouldn’t be able to tell that it’s supposed to be the eighties.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about the movie itself. Under all the pretense of this movie being a period piece, we’re left with another typical “reality” horror film. Shot in a pseudo-documentary / home movie style, our protagonist Dennis is conveniently enough a wedding videographer. I guess this is the movie’s way of tying up loose ends, begging the audience not to question the number of cameras / camera angles used.

So this guy has a ton of cameras, and decides to start filming every little thing that goes on after some disturbances late at night. His family is fine with it for some reason, and after a certain point they barely mention the cameras anymore. Seemingly random events begin taking place in the middle of the night, and even with video proof, some of the family remains skeptical.

When things actually start getting ridiculous, Dennis has a hard time convincing his wife to continue filming, and he doesn’t get a chance to show her a legitimate sighting that was captured on tape. So all of a sudden, just after the haunting is really confirmed, they begin ignoring the problem. This is a big problem in movies, like how they’re constantly “splitting up” in Alien. This would be the point in real life where you do the following:

(1) Move away from your current residence.

(2) Get your demon-posessed daughter a shrink.

(3) Sell ghost sighting footage for big bucks.

But the problem with this story is that it follows not what would / should happen realistically, but rather a sequence of events tailored to keep people in their seats and jump-scare them from time to time. Here’s where the plot points take a nose-dive in terms of immersion and depth of realism. Instead of doing any of the logical things I’ve mentioned above, this is what the characters end up doing:

(1) They carry on daily life like nothing happened.

(2) No professional help is ever consulted.

(3) Two of them die as a result of their own apathy.

When you start watching one of these movies, I guess it should be expected that characters who do nothing to save themselves sort of deserve to die. But these characters are given ample opportunities to conquer the odds and do something slightly realistic, yet choose not to. A lot of the time, they even go out of their way to set up unrealistic situations for the sake of yet another jump-scare.

By the end of the movie, the characters have finally fled to their grandmother’s house in seek of peace from the haunting, which they probably should have done from the beginning. But that would cut out at least an hour’s worth of jump-scares. At their grandmother’s house, shit really hits the fan, and the haunting is in full effect. Dennis wakes up to find the house dark and empty, so he decides to take a look out in the garage across the property. When he opens the door, there are suddenly a dozen elderly women on the other side. They begin chasing him and this is when I realized something.

The entire shot of him searching the house for his family was from the perspective of a steadycam. That means that Dennis is just as worried about getting footage as he is about finding his wife and children…

Moving on. Earlier in the movie there was brief mention of a cult that indoctrinates little girls and impregnates them. Dennis seems to think that this cult has something to do with the disturbances taking place. Again, this is the point of no return in terms of storytelling. When he brought these points up earlier, he was ignored and considered crazy.

So in a very oddly paced manner, the movie begins to wrap itself up. Dennis looks outside and sees the elderly women gathered around a bonfire in the yard, and catches a glimpse of someone at the top of the staircase. His wife just sort of hangs there, awkwardly suspended above the ground in a really slow zooming shot that you wish was about ten seconds shorter. She just kind of flops over onto Dennis and sends him falling down the stairs, and the camera magically changes angles.

Dennis then proceeds to have his spine snapped backward by the ghost-spirit-demon-thing, the grandma comes into the room and just kind of stares out into space for a minute. The two little girls follow her upstairs, and then the credits roll unceremoniously. So what does this sequence of events teach us? Or moreover, who exactly are we supposed to identify with in this movie? Nothing can be learned from this, except “Don’t mess with demons, they’ll break your spine.” or maybe we’ve learned that bad acting isn’t limited to only children.

I’m not exactly sure what the point of these movies are, all I know is that I’ve got three more to go and I’m gonna enjoy making fun of every last one. I’ll be watching these over the next week or so, and there should be a review for Paranormal Activity 4 up soon.

Categorized as: Movie Reviews | Written Reviews

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.