With the annual October installment of Saw out of its way this year (thanks in part to the massive $ucce$$ of the first two Paranormal Activity movies), the newest edition of the low-budget and high-profit found-footage franchise has a path to box office glory that’s clearer than ever. It seems like in this seasonal fright fight, prequel Paranormal Activity 3 won’t be challenged by a major contender… not even The Thing. But while I liked that prequel, Paranormal Activity 3 was a disappointment for reasons similar to those given by some critics who weren’t feeling last week’s The Thing: basically the same story as before. There’s a huge difference between the two prequels though; The Thing introduced its paranoid tale to an entirely new generation of moviegoers nearly three decades after John Carpenter’s version (which nobody on the MediaStinger staff was even alive for), while Paranormal Activity 3 re-introduces an all-too-familiar retread of stuff audiences experienced just last year… and the year before that.
After flexing their mockumentary muscle in the truly disturbing Catfish (one of the best films of 2010), Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman earned and share the Paranormal Activity 3 director’s spot for their first major movie. They mostly include elements vital to the series, like the long waiting for something to happen, the obligatory fake-outs, the occasional scares that’ll make you jump in your seat, the waiting in between events, the frustratingly stupid choices and actions of the characters involved, and oh, did I mention the waiting? Many of the clichés still work nevertheless, and the performances from the child actresses are impressive. I’m also glad that very few of the scenes featured in the trailers and TV spots actually made it into the final cut because seeing or hearing that Bloody Mary sequence for the twentieth time would’ve sucked.
So what you see in Paranormal Activity 3 is mostly new… but not really. It’s mostly the same old bag of tricks and treats. What got me to catch it opening weekend was the TV spot that blares a Harry Knowles quote saying “the last 15 minutes will mess you up for life.” FALSE. Either he’s a wuss or he must’ve been really stoned. Paranormal Activity 3 is a solid prequel that will satisfy fans, but for everyone else it’s a very short one-time watch for a nice little ride that you’ll forget by the time the inevitable fourth film comes around next Halloween. Paranormal Activity 3 gets 2.5 out of 5 stars or C+ or Okay.