Paranormal Activity 3

Reviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 10/22/11 01:40:29

"Same Crap, Different Decade"
1 stars (Total Crap)

For those of you with a hankering for unnecessary horror movie prequels that wasn't entirely quelled with last week's release of "The Thing," "Paranormal Activity 3," the latest entry in the inexplicably popular low-fi franchise may prove to be a satisfactory moviegoing experience. On the other hand, if you are crazy enough to be looking for something original or even simply an inspired rehash of familiar genre material, you are likely to come away from it feeling burned out and ripped off.

Like the previous two installments in the series, it takes the form of a collection of home videos chronicling the increasingly violent and bizarre spectral activities besieging a couple of sisters and their loved ones. This time around, the story takes place in 1988 and documents what happens to pre-teen sisters Katie and Kristi (Chloe Csengery and Jessica Tyler Brown) when their comfortable existence living in the suburbs of California with their mother (Lauren Bittner) and her boyfriend (Christopher Nicholas Smith) is torn apart by visits from Kristi's increasingly malevolent invisible "friend" Toby, who appears to be targeting them for some unknown purpose. Luckily, the boyfriend is a wedding videographer with a lot of spare time and videotape on hand that allows him to document everything that is going on in excruciating detail, even going so far as to document himself as he looks at the footage that he has already shot. Beyond that, the film moves along the lines of the previous installments by consisting largely of one endlessly dull scene after another of the characters sleeping, sitting or squabbling that is eventually punctuated by some sudden violent act designed solely to make the less secure viewers jump in their seats out of pure reflex.

In essence, watching "Paranormal Activity 3" is like being trapped in an exceptionally lame Halloween haunted house exhibit for 90 minutes and being forced to endure the same old scares ad nauseum. To give the film a little bit of credit, it does offer up one interesting visual conceit--one of the video camera chronicling the action is positioned on an oscillating fan so that it can rotate back and forth and slowly reveal that things are amiss--and one legitimately effective "BOO!" moment (I won't reveal it but you'll know it when you see it) but those brief highlights are subsumed by 85 minutes of otherwise pure tedium climaxed by five minutes of off-hand brutality. Additionally, the found footage gimmick has by now lost whatever marginal impact it might have once had--what was once an amusing gimmick that had viewers searching the screen in earnest to see what element was creepily out of whack has now basically been transformed into a supernatural version of "Where's Waldo?" And once again, the central questions that I have had in regards to all these movies--why don't the spirits just destroy the cameras and who exactly is supposed to be compiling the footage that we are seeing?--are frustratingly left unanswered for anyone crazy enough to care about such things.

Look, I don't mind old-fashioned frightfests--there was an impressive one earlier this year named "Insidious" that beats this one like a gong--but "Paranormal Activity 3" is an annoying bore from start to finish.Then again, if you loved the previous installments, and to judge by the enormous crowds both at the screening I attended and waiting to get into the midnight shows scheduled immediately afterwards, you will probably like this one as well because it is exactly the same thing as episodes past. For the rest of us, the best thing about the film and the series as a whole is that it at least managed to bump off the increasingly repellent and seemingly indestructible "Saw" franchise from its perch for the time being. Other than that, I can assure you that the seemingly omnipresent trailer for the upcoming Adam Sandler opus "Jack & Jill" is far more terrifying than anything on display here.

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