Just last week in my review for the remake of The Thing, I mentioned that when it comes to prequels, you either have a checklist of unexplained events to answer for or you can have some fun and build upon what’s already been laid out. The new Thing did this extremely well. When it comes to this weekend’s horror entry, Paranormal Activity 3, not so much. Paramount Pictures obviously wants film after film of groundwork laid, but this is becoming an alarmingly weak foundation.
I have to admit, when Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman were announced as directors of the series’ second prequel, I breathed a sigh of relief. Here are directors who know the genre all too well. Their extraordinary Catfish was a work of sheer genius. How much of their documentary was fake, who knows. And who cares? It was a great thrill ride featuring one of the best twist finales in years. It also featured a few horror elements sprinkled in a couple of scenes which is no doubt how Joost and Schulman scored this gig.
Unfortunately, they’re also straddled with the screenplay courtesy of Christopher B. Landon. From the mind who gave us both Disturbia (fun) and Blood and Chocolate (atrocious), he also was partially responsible for Paranormal Activity 2. Given that both “sequels” are prequels, I can only imagine that this format to the series is mostly his. And it’s a nice twist on the standard genre trend. Why not keep going backwards to root out “how the activity began,” as the film’s tagline reads? I’ll tell you why not, because none of it makes a lick of sense.
If you watched these three films chronologically, they’d function the same way most horror series do. If 3 came first it could be heralded as fantastic in comparison to 2 and 1, which would come off as being standardized sequels. This theory actually makes sense as the end of the original Paranormal Activity was the worst thing ever sprung from the mind of Steven Spielberg. People may pick on Hook or The Lost World, but we all know by now that the first Paranormal ending was his idea, and what a horrible idea if there ever was one. What worked marginally well for a good 85 minutes has the final minute completely obliterate any sense of fun.