If you’re into sitting on the edge of your seat without ever actually finding yourself frightened enough to fall out off of it, “Paranormal Activity 3” may just be the film for you. Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Shculman did a wonderful job in this prequel at creating suspenseful moments that generally only lead to…well, really, really boring moments. The feeling of disappointment would settle in every time the tension would build just to be followed by a scene of completely average caliber. Yeah. So some pots and pans fell from the kitchen ceiling and a sheet managed to suspend itself in midair for a few seconds. Some chairs get mysteriously thrown around a room and the entire film looks like it’s shot on a camera phone. Creepy? Sure. Maybe a little. Pretentious and gimmicky? That sounds more accurate.
The story follows a family, particularly two young sisters, Katie and Kristi, who begin a relationship with Katie’s “imaginary friend,” Toby in 1988. Katie and her husband were tormented by a demon in the first film, while Kristi and her family had their own haunting experience in Paranormal Activity 2. One would think that by going back to their youth and mixing childhood innocence with otherworldly evil, we’d have ourselves a horror film worth watching. But then we have to remember…we already have that. It’s called “Poltergeist.” And “The Shining.” And even the camcorder viewpoint was already made famous by “The Blair Witch Project.” So, really, what new concept is this bringing to the table, here? A whole lot of waiting around for something to happen just to be let down. And that’s a concept that I really wish they’d left on the drafting table.
Don’t base your preconceptions of the movie on the previews you’ve seen of these girls in the bathroom playing “Bloody Mary,” because it’s just one of the many scenes shot entirely for promotional purposes that never actually ended up in the final movie. I don’t know about you, but I wanted to see Mary come and raise some hell with that scene; it was what made me decide to sit down and watch it to begin with. I wanted to see some gore. Some panic. But, then again, maybe I’m just sick and wanted some actual terror in a horror film that I paid $8.50 to see.
The movie wasn’t all bad; Chloe Cserngey, who played Katie, the younger of the two who communicated with her not-so-imaginary friend gave the best performance of the film, despite being the youngest actor on set. She was the only character who came off as completely believable, and considering that she was the one acting like she was talking to a force of evil while everyone else just ran around pretending to be frightened, that’s saying a lot. On the other hand, her mother’s boyfriend, Dennis, who’s played by Christopher Nicholas Smith came across as an amateur actor, not as a man trying to videotape the supernatural elements running amok in his house. His fear was visibly artificial and his lines were delivered like a man reading from a poorly written script, not a would-be cameraman. Dennis’ pal Randy, played by Dustin Ingram gave an equally unconvincing performance; he struck me as someone who was just trying way too hard to be the amusing foil character, and when that translates into the character he’s playing, it’s never a good thing.
All in all, save yourself the money and the 81 minutes of your life by skipping the snooze-fest that is Paranormal Activity 3. The last 15 minutes was the only portion of the film that was even remotely frightening…but trust me, it’s not worth sitting through the first 66 to get there.