Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Film Review - PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 (2011)

It's called PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3, but it's the second prequel... I could spend a paragraph on that whole strange concept, but it makes my head hurt.

I liked PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3.  I did.  I'd even call it the best of the three and definitely, infinitely scarrier than torture porn and slasher flicks.  What makes the PA movies work so well is the tense "nothing" space.  The anticipation of dread is beyond palpable at times.  I love how the the creepiness and stillness breathes in each scene, and yet it can be suffocating.  The lack of a musical score and musical queues forces you to live in this world, forces you to be at the mercy of the malevolence.  It's a welcome uneasiness that seems to have been perfected since the first two movies.  More after the break...

This is the first Paranormal Activity movie, to my recollection, that used the idea of putting a camera on an oscillating fan motor.  It's a rather ingenious idea that gives new ways to provide scares... but I knew immediately how it would be used.  Camera pans one way to nothing, camera pans back to show something creepy, camera pans away again.  They did this more than a couple times, but I didn't expect that slow pan over to be so excruciating at times.  I think it was used extremely well.

The characters are more likable, and it seemed like there was a concerted effort to show that there is a loving family dynamic.  It makes the shock and experiences they go through all the more disturbing.  In the first movie, they just always seemed pissed at each other, so when she killed him, it didn't bother me so much.  The dude in the first film was kind of a dick.

Some of the ads claimed "The last 15 minutes will mess you up for life."  That's not true.  It was a good last 15 minutes, sure... but there was nothing truly innovative nor unique.  Effective?  Sure.  Permanently disturbing?  No.   SPOILER alert... the lead dude finds that his mother in law is a witch, and her coven has made some sort of pact with a demon.  It tries to tie in with the established mythology about a demon wanting a male firstborn or something... Even after reading this, I still don't really get it.
Sidenote: What I've never liked about these movies is the lazy backstory... I'd much preferred if evil things just happen.  No pacts with demons for financial gain nor witches' covens to help rear a son.  None of that stuff.  Or at least, if you go that route, you try to explain it better and not just briefly mention it.  Otherwise, it just seems like a forced explanation.  I've read that all this may be a slow burn to get to the next sequel (or prequel?) and more of the story being revealed... but that's kind of lame.  This ain't LOST.  Yall remember that movie, THE STRANGERS?  Not a great movie.  It's basically two hours of watching a couple get tortured and murdered.  Creepy moments.  Creepy visuals... but it's not really a movie.  The best and most memorable exchange:
A :Why are you doing this to us?
B: Because you were home.
There is something much scarrier about that than grandma participating in a witches coven.  I think this movie needs a story, but something more focused.  Also, it seems awfully convenient that the public library has books on the occult that deal with the specific things you're dealing with... Each movie has that, and it always seems so forced.

Anyways back to the spoiler... homeboy discovers that his mother in law is a witch, and I'm assuming they summoned a demon to haunt the family for some reason... It's all really muddled and unexplained.  The coven meets in the garage, and there's a great scene where the dude happens upon them, and they slowly (slowly is soooo much better than quickly) stalk him back to the house.  That was good and mighty creepy.  More stuff happens that involves banging doors, and then both parents are dead, and it's kind of implied that the children took part in the murder... and we're to believe that their minds are erased in the future... That's it.  It all comes back to "why?"  Why'd this happen?  Why now?  What was the point?  Why is the demon working with grandma?  Meh.  It was very unsatisfying in the "story" department.

I thought the effects were excellent.  It seemed like they were all practical effects (as opposed to CGI), and they legitimately left me wondering how they did that.  As someone who takes pride in correctly guessing that kinda stuff, I was very pleased with not knowing.

Because the third movie in the series is another prequel, we're subjected to seeing events unfold in late 80s.  The 80s are remembered for a lot of things, but scariness isn't one of them.  There are moments that the filmmakers needlessly try to remind us about the time period, but it seemed so awkward.  There main characters seem very contemporary.  There's a babysitter who just screams 80s stereotype.  The conversations are forced into discussing 80s topics (whether Back to the Future is appropriately named)... I was surprised that a rubik's cube didn't show up... Oh, but then the dude's best friend rocks a Bieber haircut. I didn't get that.  The setting was a necessary and stylistic choice, but it distracted.  Go full ass or not at all.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 was a good horror movie, and I'm glad it did well because I am kind of interested in where the story goes next.  But at the moment, the story isn't the strong part.  I just hope they get that focused or have a plan soon because it seems like they're running out of spooky ideas.  (Doors slamming, people getting dragged... all been done.)  In conclusion, don't go for the story.  Go for a fun, scary experience that you don't get with the modern horror film.  I give it 7 out of 10 Broken Eggs.

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