I can’t help but imagine the pre-production process on a film like Paranormal Activity 3. I can imagine the writer, director, producer and the studio executive all huddled around a desk, hammering out a number of “gotcha” moments. A “gotcha” moment, for those of you who don’t know, is a moment, often built up by silent anticipation, that is sudden, loud and scary. The modern horror film is built around moments like that, and everything in between is just buildup for the next moment. Paranormal Activity 3 is no exception.
Set in 1988, the film follows Katie and Kristi, the unfortunate victims seen in the first two Paranormal Activity films, as children being affected by the same malevolent force. Why they don’t remember these terrifying events as adults remains to be seen. Their mother’s boyfriend decides to set up his cameras all over the house in hopes of documenting the ghost but, of course, fails to capture a single image of said malefactor, instead only nabbing fleeting glimpses.
To be honest, I feel rather indifferent to Paranormal Activity 3. It’s nothing like the first film, which is truly one of the only movies that has ever scared me, nor is it like the second film, which is truly one of the only movies that has put me to sleep. Although it has only a few moments of genuine suspense, it is fast-paced and effortlessly watchable. I saw the movie in a crowded theatre on a Saturday night and I cannot imagine seeing the film any other way. The audience I saw it with jumped and screamed and then laughed, and groaned when the credits began to roll, begging for more.
The actors, for the most part, simply follow the motions of the script. However, two solid performances come from the little girls playing Katie and Kristi. Theirs are solid performances unlike the often conventional ones of the adults. Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, most known for their controversial documentary Catfish, establish a consistent rhythm but never make any unexpected moves. They play it safe, sticking close to their established list of “gotcha” moments, never really exploring the subject matter or the characters, only dancing around them and fooling the audience into actually caring for those onscreen.
This is the third movie in the series and I fear it won’t be the last. The first Paranormal Activity was a novelty, a diamond in the rough. The second fell flat and this latest entry is simply routine. We all know what to expect. We all know the cheap thrills the filmmakers use as an excuse for entertainment. We all know how the story plays out, who lives, who dies and essentially what happens in between. But is there a point? I certainly can’t see one.