“Paranormal Activity 3” is the overkill prequel to the other two films of the same name released in the past two years. Focusing on the two characters from the previous ventures, we follow Katie (Chloe Csengery) and Kristi’s (Jessica Tyler Brown) first encounter with the supernatural beings that will plague them for the rest of the series. Sort of like the distance in quality between “Jaws” and “Jaws: the Revenge,” the third installment leaves much to be desired. So much so, in this case, that one starts to wish the filmmakers had chosen to shelf the idea of another attempt.
I’ve likened the recent onslaught of DIY, found-film-style horror films to the infomercials I end up watching early in the morning when I can’t sleep. Though the premise is intriguing and even innovative at first, winning me over with its shiny minimalist design, I start to feel this incredibly deep void form within me and come to realize that, no, this will not be a fulfilling experience; I’ve been here and seen this all before. This film may as well have been an 84-minute Slap Chop advertisement.
The thinly veiled cultist plot fails to spark much fear or surprise. Grandma goes on and on about how her daughter wanted a larger family, more importantly, a son (the previous films show the creepy stuff starting up with the birth of a son). Weird things start to happen. The youngest daughter has a malicious imaginary friend that doesn’t want her to talk about him. Dennis starts to film the activity and we go through various walk-through scares that are less than inspiring.
There’s a fine line between being minimalist and good and being overly simplistic. Ten minutes into the film, I knew what was coming and could feel that void building.
I’ve been pretty forgiving with these films, and I’m willing to suspend disbelief for the most part, but I’m starting to wonder how each encounter involves a doomed male counterpart setting up cameras to capture the strange activity in their homes. How is it that the hapless (and totally doomed) boyfriend, Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith), happens to be a professional cameraman with the MacGyver-like ability to fashion a balanced, rotating camera out of a desktop fan (in the prehistoric days of 1988, no less)? Why do these apparent non-believers have such a morbid curiosity about this stuff, anyway? Is filming everything really the first course of action for a person under a paranormal attack to take?
Rest assured, I’m skeptical and sort of insulted.