Now Playing: Third ‘Paranormal’ Still Lacking in ‘Activity’

Why the ‘Paranormal Activity’ franchise has been such a big hit is beyond me. I get why ‘Saw’, ‘Final Destination’ and many of the horror movies of old went on to receive multiple sequels. They are (or were) build upon fresh, creative and original ideas. But none of the ‘Paranormal’ films has done anything new or exciting. The first one simply took an idea from ‘The Blair Witch Project’ and set it in a home with two annoying characters. Not only was it completely unoriginal, uninspired and unwatchable, now there are two more sequels just like it that don’t bring anything new to the already empty table. Why do these keep getting made, and (more importantly) why do audiences keep eating them up?

The first ‘Paranormal Activity‘ film documents a haunted house and shows the fate of its occupants. The girl gets possessed and kills the guy. The second one, a prequel, introduces us to the woman’s sister and the paranormal activity going on at her house (which for some reason is never mentioned in the first). While the purpose of a prequel is to shed light on an already-established story, ‘Paranormal Activity 2’ doesn’t. It serves no purpose – unless you consider setting us up for another worthless prequel a worthy purpose.

‘Paranormal Activity 3’ answers two questions that viewers might have. The first, which makes absolutely no sense, is: “Why was the family’s home broken into in the second movie?” (Because we all know that’s exactly what you’ve been wondering since last year.) The answer: Katie, the possessed girl in the first, stole the grandma’s box of home videos from the basement – the same VHS tapes of footage that we watch in ‘Paranormal Activity 3’. Wait. If it was stolen, how in the hell are we watching it? Who knows? Who cares?

The second question that ‘Paranormal Activity 3’ answers comes at the end of the film and is so lame that I’ll bet everyone predicted it during the first one, but dismissed it because of how silly it is. “Why is all of this paranormal activity happening in the first place?”

SPOILER ALERT!: Katie and her sister Kristi come from a family of witches. Huh. This really is another ‘Blair Witch’ movie. Before the big reveal is confirmed, it becomes absolutely obvious when a poster for ‘The Bad News Bears’ can be seen hanging in their creepy grandmother’s house. Only an evil witch would have a poster for that crap hanging on her wall.END SPOILER.

If you thought the filmmaking in the first two movies was annoying, wait until you get to watch the VHS-quality, herky-jerky handheld camera footage in ‘Paranormal Activity 3’ (courtesy of the makers of ‘Catfish‘). It’s worse than ever. ‘Paranormal Activity 3’ is like ‘Cloverfield‘, only the footage is from a VHS camera and you never get to see the monster. Honestly, how many times has this one family rigged their home with cameras trying to catch unexplainable events – and never shared the footage with the outside world?

None of these films ever offer anything scary. Loud banging, low frequency rumbles, repetitive long shots of someone standing in a doorway, flickering lights and opens drawers and cabinets are not scary. The third one tosses another jump-inducing element into the series: people jumping in front of the camera yelling “Boo!” I kept a tally of how many times we’re supposed to jump in ‘Paranormal Activity 3’. Of the four jump scenes, two are caused by actual paranormal activities, the other two by characters yelling “Boo!” A sheet moves, someone gets dragged across the floor by an invisible monster, things shake and non-possessed characters jump in front of the camera. Hardly scary at all.

If you plan to see a horror movie this Halloween season, please, for the good of mankind, go see the only other one that’s in theaters: ‘The Thing‘. That one not only deserves love, it’s more entertaining and worth your time.

While I’d love to give ‘Paranormal Activity 3’ zero stars, that fact that Katie and Kristi are only in it for a second earns the film one star. Thanks for doing us a solid a keeping them the hell out of it!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆


  1. EM

    Having seen the first two Paranormal Activity flicks and not become a fan, I’ve no interest in seeing the third. Nevertheless, I feel that the first film deserves a little defense.

    I disagree: I feel the original does offer a lot of scariness. The banging, the rumbles, the dark figure in the doorway, etc. do work for me, generally. The film provokes that hair-standing-on-the-back-of-your-neck feeling that I sometimes get when home alone(?) in the night. But the movie does have its problems. I generally don’t mind the Katie character, but I agree that Micah is tremendously annoying. (Why can’t he be killed off early in the film?) It also ends poorly. There are elements of both the standard and the alternate endings that I like, but both are ultimately dissatisfying. I think the film is good remake fodder: adjust the personalities, strengthen the ending, and rework a few of the paranormal elements in between (in particular, I thought the flaming ouija board was too over-the-top for this movie)—you could have a much better film.

    2 was one trip too many to the well—not just because it didn’t build well on the first film, but because it undermined it. As Luke said above, it’s not believable that 2’s “activity” went wholly unmentioned in the first film. Worse is that 2 actually changes the mythology behind the first film. It replaces implications—vague but spooky—with explanations that feel more mundane and contrived.

    As for the suggestion we see the new Thing for Halloween instead, sorry—even if I were interested in the retread, it’s too science-fictiony for my Halloween taste. I love The Thing From Another World and the 1982 Thing, but—scary monsters notwithstanding—they’re not Samhain-season viewing for me.

    • EM

      While I recall that the first film included mention of past paranormal experiences involving Katie’s sister, I also recall those as having occurred when both women were young girls, with Katie thinking that the experiences had followed Katie, not her sister, who didn’t seem to remember them much if at all. In the first film, when Katie would talk with her sister, no reports of current or recent unusual activity in her sister’s home seemed to be forthcoming.

  2. motorheadache

    What people find scary can oftentimes be just as subjective as comedy, so I get Hickman’s perspective. That being said, I thought the first Paranormal Activity was great– I am rarely truly frightened by a horror movie, but that one did the trick. The second movie was a dull retread of the first, which had fewer scares, and the ones that were there were mostly copied from the original movie.

    If the third is yet another rehash dishing out the same bag of tricks, then I’m out (okay, I’m sure I’ll end up netflixing it).

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