It’s amazing how much you can get away with when you shoot for the whole “faux found footage” style of filmmaking. The people behind the original Paranormal Activity invested a mere $15,000 (which wouldn’t even cover the catering bill on a low-budget Hollywood flick) into their 2007 shocker and wound up with a gold mine. Some of you may recall another no-budget horror flick from 1999 called The Blair Witch Project that also relayed its tale via “faux found footage” — a gimmick inspired (and sometimes stolen) from cult classics such as The Last Broadcast and Ruggero Deodato’s infamous Cannibal Holocaust.
In case you’re just joining the world of modern cinema, the “found footage” approach involves utilizing footage you found (duh) or purchased for the means of assembling a documentary, et al. A “faux found footage” flick, on the other hand, is the kind of moving picture manufactured by some yayhoo who did nothing more than set up an old camcorder and press the red button. Unfortunately, the “moving” part of “moving picture” does not always happen, as, such as in the instance of Paranormal Activity 3, the action is virtually nonexistent.
Much like many modern horror movie franchises, the third time does not succeed in being the charm. This prequel to Paranormal Activity 2 — itself a prequel — opens with the sisters from the earlier entries, Katie and Kristi (played respectively by actresses Katie Featherston and Sprague Grayden, who seem quite content with returning film after film — something horror movie heroines rarely do), who appear long enough to bring in an old box of home movies that is subsequently stolen by persons or phantoms unknown (setting up Part 4, no doubt). From there, we take a trip back in time to the late ‘80s, wherein young Katie (Chloe Csengery) and Kristi (Jessica Tyler Brown) are introduced to the evil demonic presence that haunts them later in life.
The girls move into a home with their mum, Julie (Lauren Bittner), and her live-in boyfriend, Dennis (Chris Smith), who is a wedding videographer and loves to record everything. His passion for videotaping day and night, however, leads him to a startling discovery: boredom. Pure, unadulterated boredom that only a movie like this can bring on. It doesn’t matter if you have the sound all the way up and just snorted a dimebag of cocaine, or you’ve turned the volume all the way down and are instead listening to thrash metal as this ode to ennui plays out — you’ll still be bored.
And as for the patented thrills, chills, and spills this series has become so well known for? Ick. This is more like Red Herring: The Motion Picture. What’s sad is that this feature (co-produced by Akiva Goldsman, the most overpaid script-scribbling hack in Hollywood) had the highest budget of all, too, at five-million buckaroos. You’d think that after making $370 million dollars in the US alone off of the first two movies, they could have at least hired an actual writer (although we should give praise that Goldsman didn’t write the script — it could have been much worse, as hard as that is to believe), but no: we get something that raises more questions than it answers — mainly “Why, dammit, why?”
To make matters worse, Paramount’s Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copies combo of this literal sleeper movie sports not only the 84-minute theatrical cut of the flick, but an extended unrated version as well that clocks in at 94 minutes (which only seem like hours). In terms of special features, this set only offers some more “found footage” of Dennis scaring Julie, and a commercial for Dennis’ video service. Big whoop. The only frightening aspect of Paranormal Activity 3 is that Paramount went to the trouble of making a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copies combo for it.
Here’s hoping the next movie is at least interesting enough to stay awake through (and doesn’t have Akiva Goldsman’s name attached to it).