Yes, people, it's time to finally get around to writing about the third movie in what probably will be called the "Paranormal Activity Triology" if we're lucky, and the "Paranormal Activity Series" if not. I missed this one on it's cinema run, so this is actually the first movie I saw for the first time at home, I'll get back to how that may have impacted my feelings about the movie, but first, the basics.
Paranormal Activity is the VHS-tape blast from the past, starring Dennis and Julie, the parents of Kate and Kristy, the main characters from Paranormal Activities 1 and 2 as they go through some haunting-related problems. In many, perhaps even most, ways, the plot is a carbon copy of the two previous movies run through a late 80's filter. That can work, though, Paranormal Activity 2 was pretty close to 1, but it had enough of what made the first one great and a few new things to add to the mix, like more cameras and a dog. Sure, as far as innovations go, a dog might not be much to brag about, but it's something.
I do, however, not think "the same but slightly altered" worked here, and there's several reasons for it. For one, there's little to no ambiguity as to what'll happen to these girls, so the only question that can be answered to any degree is "why?" Throughout Paranormal Activity 2, and a little bit in 1, there are sprinkled hints that someone done fucked up and pulled a Faust, dooming firstborns to abduction and suburbanites to torment.
Although I'm ambivalent as to how good an idea revealing any details about horror backstories actually is, I was actually kinda pumped for seeing what the filmmakers did with wrapping up the whole thing. It'd be pretty interesting, actually, seeing the poor doomed sap that's holding the camera this time, unraveling a demon-fueled conspiracy, either ancient or too recent for comfort, or perhaps the young sisters stumbling over demonic spookfests and trying to understand what and why. But no, it's focused on the two young parents, because... that's what worked last two times, I suppose? To the movie's credit, they get into the whole demon pact thing for the final ten or so minutes of the movie, but that's during the "shit's intense and the cameraman runs around for about fifteen minutes before getting killed"-bit that always seems to happen in these things.
As far as scares go, well, they certainly upped the ante here, The Demon clocking in an own personal best at "lifting up every goddamn thing in the kitchen and dropping it suddenly," but that, and a couple of new lifts and throws also feels kind of odd and off-putting, most notably when it hoists the eldest girl up by her hair, on camera, of course. It's not that I'm against upping the ante, but it feels like it breaks the suspension of disbelief for me, although I'm actually not entirely sure why, There is, however, one damn clever scare involving a bedsheet, although it feels more like the demon showing off at this point.
Also, while the movie doesn't innovate much, it still has a decent bit of the things that makes the two previous movies good. The long stretches of nothing happening still frays my nerves, as my brain fills the blanks with all manner of scares, most of which never happen. It's borderline genius, really, the movies manages to basically lean back and let the audience freak itself out, with nary a flex of budget muscle, it's horror aikido, basically. Of course, I feel I got it better in the two previous movies, but it says something about the technique when it works three movies in a row.
I think I'd have a better time if I watched this in the theater, though. I tend to get distracted when watching movies at home, and movies with long stretches of nothing really happening, movies where said stretches are kind of the point, indeed movies where the scares happen with little pomp and circumstance, aren't really made for such viewing. Also, the slightly nervous atmosphere of a theater watching a horror movie makes it easier to get into movies like PA, and the tension is allowed to build further, with fewer options for distraction, and such.
I feel like sequels just can't win with me. REC2 changes a lot of stuff, and I hated it, Paranormal Activity 3 changes nearly nothing, and while I won't say I flat out hated it, I certainly didn't like it. Perhaps I'm just too picky, and if nothing else Paranormal 3 managed to at least squeeze some tension out of me, and that should count for something. The PA train kinda has to stop here, fourth installments are seldom good news, and the charm is starting to wear thin.