It has sadly come to the point in the simple yet horrifying Paranormal Activity franchise where what we expect to happen, and secretly hope, does not and it is our own imagination that offers the scariest sights. The third installment in a serial that reinvigorated horror movies does in fact offer a couple novelties to the series, including a paranoia-inducing moving camera, but the filmmakers seem quite content in letting the audience freak themselves out instead of actually of actually freaking them out.
Granted, it is difficult to keep audiences on their toes when they have been exposed to the tricks twice over, but PA3 certainly leaves some scares on the table. The aforementioned moving camera, one places affixed atop the base of a former fan, offers the scariest moments in the movie, but not the scariest moments possible.
Ever so slowly moving laterally from the kitchen to the living room, with of course a pillar in the middle to disrupt your line of sight, the very clever and welcome scare tactic provides more stress in waiting for something to appear than what actually does appear. The cinematic device is ripe with potential, but sadly not fulfilled.
Another panic stricken scene shows a young girl chanting ‘bloody mary’ into the bathroom mirror, and she, her frightened babysitter, and the audience eagerly await a demon.
Other tricks that were creepy in the first movie have grown more tired and unnerving, though the cinematic experience of watching the film in a darkened theatre will surround sound helps mightily. In a theatre there is little room to looks away, and no escape from the loud bumps, scoffs, and screams.
In typical Paranormal Activity fashion, the movie concludes with a flurry of camera activity, darkened hallways, faraway screams, quick deaths, and possessed family members. The shock of the first movie was so powerful that it carried over adequately to the second installment, but the third time around it is diluted.
It isn’t entirely the fault of the filmmakers. Unlike other genres, horror movies are far less interesting to experience the second time around, and when you see a sequel that is so similar to others in the series, especially one that doesn’t fall into the ‘slasher’ category, it is hard to enjoy. The anxiety and horror that overcome one during PA3 is caused less by the movie itself than it is the desire and hope to be effectively terrified.
PA3 leaves your tense during the film, and some of it is due to the scattered scary moments, but it is also partly due to the theatre atmosphere and mostly because you want to be scared. The power of a good horror movie is not simply measured in how many times you are startled in the theatre, but how long it stays with you once you leave. You will jump, but the third does not leave you with any burning images in your mind or any sound that stays in your head.
Alas, perhaps the fourth will offer some truly terrifying.