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Movie of the Week: Paranormal Activity 3

This week I had the choice of Paranormal Activity 3 and The Three Musketeers.  I have a strict policy on Three Musketeer movies: if the theme song is not performed by Sting, Bryan Adams and Rod Stewart then I am not seeing it.  So it was off to Paranormal Activity 3 (I am intrigued by the movie Margin Call, but because I had a free ticket to a Regal Theater I was going to see whatever I could at that theater).

Paranormal Activity has been a breath of fresh air to the horror genre.  Unlike recent horror franchises (Saw and Paranormal Activity, which exhausted their concept after one film, and then for 4-5 more films each offered audiences violence of a profoundly absurd level with no actual fear or creativity in the process).  Paranormal Activity used its low budget to its creative advantage relying on noises, suggestive movements, etc. to create a 90 minute feeling of non-stop dread.  Paranormal Activity 2 was also quite strong in my opinion.  Paranormal 3 is very tense and uses some new, but simple tricks to ramp up the tension even more.  However, the ending of the film was the first disappointing feeling I have had in the three films.  I think this signals that the franchise should end here.  Of course, that probably means we are in store for at least 3 more films.  So Paranormal Activity will inevitably become the Robert DeNiro of horror franchises, where by 2014 we will all be going, “Was that ever any good?”

The first sign of trouble for the film was actually the actress who played the lead in the first two films.  She has clearly embraced Hollywood and shed about 20 pounds since Paranormal 2, which sadly meant a diminished breast size, breasts that were featured very prominently in the first two films (even though clothed, they were dead center for much of the IMAX experience I had last year in Indianapolis while watching 2).  The plot of the film concerns the two sisters of 1 and 2 as little girls, when the demon that haunts them first entered their lives.  There are hints in the beginning of the film that it may be the girls’ birth father haunting them.  This seemed plausible since the man appeared Latino from the photos.  Those dudes don’t like it when you look at their chicks when they’re alive so can you imagine if their lady was shacking up with some new guy and they had the ability to come back and haunt him?  However, I started to doubt it when he never slapped around his old lady.

The film adds some subtle camera changes, like a camera mounted on a fan so that it can rotate and capture the entire room.  This is an incredibly simple, but thoughtful way of ramping up the tension without any special effects.  The film is literally 80 minutes of tension and in that respect it maintains what has made the franchise so good.  But the ending of the film, if thought of in context of the previous two, sort of makes only half sense.  It also felt like a bit of a cop-out.  But for 80 minutes you will definitely get your money’s worth.

Sadly the scariest part of the movie may be that when it ends you can anticipate the horror that the studio will perpetrate when they inevitably run the franchise into the ground.

Final Grade – B+

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