First, I must admit, I’m not a particular fan of the Paranormal Activity franchise. I hated the first film, primarily because both Micah and Katie were so obnoxious, I couldn’t stand listening to them whine for 85 minutes. By the end, I was so eager for them both to die, and anxious for anything to happen, that the three minutes of action felt like much too little, wayyyy too late. Paranormal Activity 2 remedied both complaints fairly well; neither Micah nor Katie had significant screen time and, while there were lulls in the story, there were many more happenings throughout, not just within the last few minutes. And the last several minutes were heavy with activity, appropriately climactic for all the anxiety-ridden build-up. And an attempt was even made to explain the paranormal happenings, which added some depth to an otherwise superficial plot. A solid 3.5 out of 5 stars, in my opinion. I wasn’t blown away, but I did mostly enjoy it. Which made me hopeful for the third installment of this sure-to-be-back series. Paranormal Activity 3, technically a prequel, recently graced theaters and the previews led me to high aspirations. Truth be told, they were only partially met.
I won’t dwell on the plot or particulars of the story because…well, if you’ve seen either of the first two films or previews for any of them, you get the idea. This one tells another piece of the story revolving around sisters Katie and Kristi. Set in 1988, the girls aging in single digits and living with their mom, Julie, and her boyfriend, Dennis. All seems well until young Kristi starts talking to her imaginary friend, Toby, more than what seems normal, even waking during the night to have conversations with him. It appears he lives in the cubby-like closet in the girls’ shared bedroom. Like the 2nd of these movies, there is enough activity throughout to keep you from getting bored but not so much that it loses its edge. You’re anxious, tense, waiting uneasily for the next supernatural event. Which is, by the way, the part I love. In this, the movie is successful.
Where it lacks is in the plot’s details. It’s been some time since I’ve seen the first two, but didn’t someone say (I think in the first movie) that the girls’ home burned down when they were young? If it did burn, that was left on the cutting room floor. Another inconsistency: in PA2, adult Kristi asks big sis Katie if she remembered the weird stuff that happened to them when they were kids. Katie doesn’t want to talk about it and says something about her memories involving Kristi crying all the time and that she (Katie) had to take care of her (Kristi). In the prequel, Kristi is the only calm one, since she and the supernatural Toby are chums, and Katie mostly sobs and cries for her mommy. Not at all what we were led to believe took place. Also, major spoiler alert: both the girls’ mother and her boyfriend are murdered by the end of this movie and it’s implied that their grandmother takes them in afterward. Shouldn’t that have been mentioned in one or both of the two earlier films? It seemed like a big deal to me. Of course, if the screenplay for this third movie weren’t written yet, the writer (Christopher B. Landon, who also co-wrote PA2) had nothing to go by. But to put something as huge as the deaths of the main characters’ mother and father-figure into a prequel with no mention of it in the two previous installments feels forced and inconsistent. Especially since in both PA and PA2, the girls’ childhood was referenced. Losing your mom before you’re 10 would and should come up. Obviously, Landon couldn’t go back and insert that dialogue into the previous flicks, but he should have been creative enough to find an alternate (but equally chilling) ending.
I give PA3 a 3 out of 5 stars rating. It made me jump (repeatedly). It entertained me. Every actor, including the very young female leads, gave an adequate performance and the paranormal happenings were creepy and effective. The attempts to further explain the origin of the malicious, stalker, other-worldly being coincided with references in the film’s predecessors and felt organic to the plot. But Landon should have paid more attention to the details of the overall story referenced in both the first and second films and kept it consistent. Bottom-line: if you’re a fan of films of a scary/supernatural nature, give it a shot. Just be sure to disregard anything you remember from the first Paranormal Activity‘s.