On Friday, Ryan and I ventured to see Paranormal Activity 3 at the V.I.P. theatre in Oakville. I think that for every movie I really want to see badly, I will see it in this theatre – there’s absolutely no annoying people ever, so I can actually enjoy the film. I would’ve had this review up Saturday, but on Saturday group of friends and I went to Hallowe’en Haunt at Canada’s Wonderland (a theme park in Toronto). I really enjoyed it by the way – so if anyone is in Toronto area in October, and likes haunted houses as well as roller coasters, definitely check it out. Just try to go earlier in October and maybe not on a Saturday (it was killer busy when we went, but we still had fun). So enough with my rambling, on to my review!:
Generally I give up on a horror movie franchise by the second film – I’m a bit bitter towards sequels, especially with this genre in particular. It seems to me that Hollywood now more than ever is just after a quick, easy buck. Which of course makes sense, they are a business after all. But that doesn’t mean that the product they are selling should be inferior or poorly produced, and Hollywood seems to have lost this concept. Sequels, trilogies and never-ending series (like the Saw or Final Destination franchises, which should have been buried long ago) are examples of Hollywood’s focus on just the money rather than the product. However, on occasion I have been surprised by sequels, and I was surprised with Paranormal Activity 3 – but in both a good and a bad way.
I went in thinking that it would be entertaining, yes, but good – of course not. With that in mind, I was surprised to find a film that seemed to go back to the “roots” of the series. The second film, though I enjoyed it, found that it had ventured more towards the easy scares and played to what the audience expected. The third in the series while still containing more “scares” and just overall more action for the attention deficit movie goer, went back to what I loved about the first film: the suspense.
Keep in mind, I may be spoiling major plot points of this film in the future paragraphs, and if you do not want to be spoiled, I’d advise you to either stop reading, or jump down to my last paragraph for my final thoughts on the film.
This film is set before the events of the second film (which in turn was set before the events of the first film). So it’s a preprequel I guess. This film focuses on Katie and Kristi when they were little girls in the late 80s. Instead of me spending the entire review explain all the little details of the film, I’m going to go just into what I liked about it, and what I didn’t like about the film.
The movie itself was well made, there was a bigger budget for this film, but it didn’t look like it wasn’t “authentic” so to speak, they put a lot of effort into making it look like a home video from the late 80s which I enjoyed. Part of the second one that I didn’t enjoy as much was that it was very crisp and clear, and to me it lost the element of realism that the first one had. It felt like I was watching a movie trying to look like real footage, where as the first and third one had the look and feel of “real footage”.
With the added budget though, they had a lot of cool new scares that I really enjoyed. The use of the oscillating fan/camera hybrid that the character Dennis (the girls’ mother’s boyfriend) makeshifts helps with a lot of the suspense – there’s a lot of tension built when the camera pans away from something happening, it makes it unsettling for the audience. My favourite little scare was with this camera in particular. There’s a babysitter in the dining room, doing homework – the camera pans away to the living room to show a figure in a sheet, about the size of one of the two girls. The camera pans back to the babysitter, and when the camera makes its way back to the living room, and there’s nothing there. Back to the babysitter, and the figure is standing behind her. Just as she turns around, the sheet collapses, and there’s nothing underneath it. It didn’t make me jump or scream, but the effect itself was very good, and it really helped build the tension of the scene. Stuff like this mixed with an “old school” look as well as more of an emphasis on building tension I think helped merge the first and two films together, so more people could enjoy it. I know some people didn’t like the first one because they thought it was boring – whereas people like me enjoyed it because it was more about what didn’t happen, and what you didn’t see. The second film to me felt like it had less suspense and more jump scares. I felt like the third one was a nice balance between both of these.
Another thing I enjoyed with this film is the characters. There were more people in the movie, which I feel helped it a bit. The first film only had four people in it – Katie, Micah, Katie’s friend and the priest. Though it helped focus the story and events on the two main characters, I felt that it was a tiring, because to me the couple had very little chemistry (even before the weird stuff really started to happen). The second film was a bit more of an improvement, but it was still a bit annoying (for me at least). This film had a really good couple to play off of, the characters Julie and Dennis. Julie is Kristi and Katie’s mother, and I felt that her character fit in well with the established series. I really enjoyed her relationship with Dennis because even with all the weird stuff happening, it never felt like their relationship was “falling apart” like in the other films, that they still cared for each other even when they were upset, tired, or angry at each other. I felt it added a level of believability, and it made me just really enjoy their characters. The young Katie and Kristi were very good as well, especially Kristi because she was more of the focus of the demon’s haunting (because she was younger I suppose). For young children actors, they did a good job making me believe they were scared. Another character I felt was a good addition was Dennis’ friend Randy. He was more of just a comic relief I suppose, but I enjoyed it. Overall, I think the more characters in the film helped make it feel more real – because in reality, I see a lot of people all the time, so it feels right that there’d be more people being involved with what’s happening. It just feels a bit more genuine I suppose.
There are some things about this film I didn’t enjoy though, or at least feel detracted from what was done right. One obvious thing is the trailer. In every trailer or tv spot there are scenes shown that were never in the film. The most obvious one is a priest being present. I’m almost positive they tested this with an audience and changed the ending, which makes me really curious to see how it was going to end or where the film was originally going to go. From the trailer, I was expecting the house to burn down, like Katie had mentioned in the first film. Maybe it’s good that the film went in a very different direction than I expected, however, this left a lot of holes and questions asked. The biggest one I had during the film is what happened to the girl’s father? I believe he was mentioned once in the film, the grandmother had mentioned that they missed their father. Did he die? Did they divorce? My questioning mind wonders if perhaps something supernatural happened to him, especially considering he was credited on IMDB as a character. I also wonder about continuity – at the end of the film, it appears that both Julie and Dennis meet an unfortunate fate, and I can’t recall in the other previous films if it was mentioned that they lived with their grandmother or not. Stuff like that just gets on my nerves a lot, maybe I’m nitpicking, but it does bother me. But seriously, pretty much nothing from the trailer was in the film – that’s just…unexpected.
Another thing I am still not sure about is the ending. I can’t really explain why it bothers me unless I explain it, so I apologize for being wordy. But here is my description:
The family ends up going to Julie’s mother’s house after them getting scared about everything happening. Before this decision is made, it shows the demon attacking Katie, and Kristi pleading for it to let her go. She tells Toby (the name she gives the demon in the film) that she’ll “do it” if he lets her sister go. After they are at the grandmothers’ house, during the evening Dennis wakes up hearing something that sounds like car doors shutting. Julie goes to investigate, but doesn’t come back. He grabs the camera and tries to find her. He checks in on the girls and they are gone. He sees a strange shadow in the living room, and investigates. Inside he sees pagan markings on the wall, similar to ones mentioned earlier in the film. He continues looking for Julie and the girls, and walks in on a bunch of women dressed in black, in the middle of some sort of ritual, he retreats as they follow him. Locking the doors into the house, he tries to find Julie and the two girls. He sees Julie propped awkwardly at the top of the stairs, levitating of the ground. Attempting to grab her, she is flung at him down the stairs, landing hard at the bottom. It wasn’t very clear if she survived or not, but I’m guessing not. Kristi appears in the next room, scared, he grabs her and they hide in the closet. Something starts attacking the door; after a few moments of silence, he opens the door to find Katie at the stairs, crying. Apprehensively, he approaches, and just as he reaches her, she turns and screams at him – sounding like the demon “Toby”, and is flung backwards, sending the camera crashing. He crawls forward, clearly injured, and the girls’ grandmother appears. She looks at Dennis, and then he is lifted awkwardly, his back is snapped. She calls over Kristi, and takes both girls’ hands and heads up stairs. As the ascend, Kristi happily says “come on Toby!”. This is where the film leaves us.
This bother’s me a bit for a few reasons. For one, it was established in the first film that the entity was a demon, so no problems there. But in the second one, it is then established that on occasion a human can make a deal with a demon for wealth or power by forfeiting the life of the first-born son, and that no sons had been born in their family since their great-great-grandmother. I realize that this isn’t “hard facts” in the series, that this is all speculative, but I don’t understand the motivation for this coven of witches, or whatever they were, to forfeit the first-born son. What are they gaining from it? Why do they offer this to this entity? It wasn’t a bad ending by any means, but I felt it left too many questions, too many things open-ended. I was hoping this would be the final film in the series, and that this film would answer the questions the other films had left – the biggest being was the why. And though there was a sort of answer, I don’t feel that sort-of is really enough for me.
Again, this series has left me feeling torn. I enjoyed the film a lot – but was it as good as the first? Of course not. Though the first was not the first type of “found footage” horror film ever, and this new one will not be the last – but the first film was a gamble for the filmmaker. With less budget, I felt like they put a lot more into it, just a lot more of themselves. Without a huge budget, the effectively told a good story, and made it genuinely scary. The third film is also a good film, but I find that as more is told about this family and their plight with the supernatural, there is less given to the audience. For every question answered, two more questions are asked. The first film left you wondering what happened, but it was satisfying not knowing, because it was an experience in itself. The second film asked more questions, leaving me feeling a bit “empty” so to speak, and this third film to me felt like it cheapened out on giving me the answers I feel as a fan of the series that I deserve. But despite that, I think the third film is overall an improvement on the second film. It had a much stronger cast of characters, it was well acted, and there was some really cool scares. Though I was a bit mixed about the ending, it is still a good ending. Maybe it’s good that it didn’t meet my expectations, it was a lot more surprising for sure. I think fans of the series will enjoy it. If you didn’t like the first or second film, I don’t think the third one will win you over.
ScareMeter: 4/5 “Clutching your best friends hand throughout the film scary” (though for me, it was probably more of a 3/5 – it had its moments, but I’m quite desensitized to the horror genre now).
Overall Movie Rating: 3.5/5
I love the site Thatguywiththeglasses.com, so I thought I’d share the Bum Review with you guys if you were interested. Just click here, and underneath the Bum Review is Doug’s actual thoughts on the film. I disagree with him on some parts, but it is interesting to hear his thoughts on it. He liked the second one better, while I think I like this one better. However, maybe if I rewatch the second one I’ll feel different. I think what I most remember from that film is the bad theatre experience, if I rewatch it and change my mind, I’ll let you guys know..