Paranormal Activity 3 (2011) R

This "spooky" franchise obviously isn't going anywhere anytime soon, so we can choose to ignore it or perhaps embrace it. I, however, take these films for what they are: scare-less, oft-comical, head-scratching, disappointing and genuinely entertaining genre films. I was mildly freaked out (as much as a 22-year old watching a stupid documentary style horror film can be) at the first edition. However, the second film was insanely boring, unfunny, unoriginal and anti-climatic. I went into this one having little to no expectations. You do not want to set any sort of bar heading into a Paranormal film, because you will then be disappointed in every aspect; trust me.

The team behind the genius "documentary" Catfish got the call to film a third and not final Paranormal Activity. They accepted, obviously strictly based on the paycheck, because these films make a ton of money. Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman didn't drop the ball though, they re-livened up the script and used some not half-bad camera angles to recreate some of the dread from the first film. Believe me when I tell you this; this film is not scary, not in the least. But you're more often than not glued to the screen to see what kind of shenanigans this ghost has in store for these poor wretched souls. The filmmakers attempt to make us jump, but look, we all know when the next "scare" is coming, they come from a mile away. Only a 12-year-old could sit through one of these films and not anticipate someone jumping out of a closet or some dishes falling off the shelf. With all that said, let's get down to business; shall we?

Once again, none of these actors have ever made an appearance in anything significant to this point, but I will reluctantly give them credit by naming names. This third installment follows the handsome and cool Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith), his new wife Julie (Lauren Bittner), as well as his inherited step-daughters Katie (Chloe Csengery) and Kristi Rey (Jessica Tyler Brown). The Katie and Kristi Rey characters you'll certainly remember from the last two films, but this is a prequel, so they're just kids. Dennis is the new step-dad, who the kids adore and Julie likes to look at. They're a seemingly normal family adjusting to a new outlook on life. Everything has been going great until some ghost decides to dip his pen in the company ink, if you catch my drift.

As all the films do, this one gets off to a slow start as we have the privilege to watch a random family eat breakfast, play with toys, talk about money (or lack thereof) and talk to pissed off ghosts. The whole downfall starts with little Kristi Rey and her ability to communicate with the paranormal. She makes an "imaginary" friend named Toby. Toby is one pissed off son of a bitch, but he's playing nice for now I guess with tea-parties, stuffed animals and candy kisses. Dennis and Julie start to catch onto Kristi Rey's odd relationship with her imaginary new best friend. Dennis apparently thinks it's rare to have an imaginary friend when you're six years old; which is just plain stupid, but it turns out he's right when it's all said and done. Not to self: if I have a kid, DO NOT let him/her talk to an "imaginary" friend. Because nine times out of ten it's a crazy ghost dude with sharp, pointy teeth!

Dennis starts to notice odd noises, misplaced family keepsakes and a new sense of dread in this Godforsaken household. So, he does what any sane man would do: start filming these strange occurrences. He practically puts a camera in every orifice of the house. The main three cameras are in the master bedroom, Katie and Kristi Rey's room and in the living room/kitchen. The one in the living room and the kitchen area is attached to a fan, so it scans back and forth across the room, over and over again. A nice touch by the writer; a very effective idea.

If you know anything about ghosts, they hate attention. The more attention you give these sick bastards, the more they're going to play with your head and eventually brutally murder you and your entire family in a ritualistic manner. Everyone knows that! Gall! This Dennis guy obviously hasn't seen Paranormal Activity 1 and 2, otherwise he would know ignore Toby or simply embrace his madness. That Katie chick embraced the madness, joined the legion of the ghost-people and she seems to be doing alright. She had to murder her fiance, her sister and what not, but hey, you have to adapt. Am I right?

Alright, enough of my attempts at humor, let's dive back into the material. So, as I stated earlier, Dennis is getting a raging hard-on with all this ghost stuff. He thrives on the possibility of his daughters getting ghost-raped. On a side note: see Paranormal Entity if you like seeing people getting ghost-raped, lots and lots of ghost-raping in that horrendous rip-off of a film. Once Dennis begins to ask questions about this Toby character, Kristi Rey becomes guarded and Toby amps up his chaotic rage. He locks Kristi Rey in a closet, makes an appearance while Dennis and Julie are trying to become intimate, haunts the baby-sitter, lures Kristi Rey into Mom and Pops bedroom to stare at them for a good four hours. You know, the usual.

Dennis who's an amateur filmmaker who usually shoots wedding videos, calls up his buddy Randy (Dustin Ingram) to help with the ghost-hunting. Randy is the comic relief in the film, and he definitely helps bring tiny smiles to our faces while Toby haunts the house with his demonic presence.

One afternoon, Toby goes off crazier than usual and cuts Katie pretty deep for no reason. Randy now has to watch little Kristi Rey. Sounds like a blasty blast, doesn't it folks? Just for kicks, they decide to play Bloody Mary (duh! who wouldn't in a haunted house?), which is always a good idea when Mary's cousin Toby is in town. They do the whole Bloody Mary thing and nothing quite seems to happen, so they try it again. This time around, Randy gets scratched awfully hard by Toby's ghost-hand. Randy doesn't want to play anymore, but also doesn't want to frighten Kristi Rey. So, they try to leave the bathroom, but Toby starts tossing things around the room like he's imitating Dewey Cox. When Dennis and the family are back from Hospital, Randy storms out of the house, and vows never to return. That's weird, Dennis thinks to himself. Hmm...

Things are starting to get pretty real for this quiet, suburban family. I'm not going to give away all the fun, even though it would save some of you a trip to the Redbox and back. They decide to stick it out a few days longer, but when things continue to worsen they book it to Julie's extremely creepy Mother's house. From here things snowball, and eventually lead to a shocking ending that will leave you scratching your cranium and possibly feeling suicidal (only kidding...maybe). It's my job to warn you from getting any expectations and thinking this film will be anything but a mildly entertaining horror mockumentary.

The cinematography (Megdalena Gorka), the script (Christopher Landon) and the editing (Gregory Plotkin) is much better compared to the last two films, so that's something. This was a huge improvement on the last film, and should please the loyal fan base. I could easily tell that people were once again annoyed in the audience by yet another displeasing final scene, but you can't honestly expect to actually see this "Toby" character. Don't you wish we didn't get to see Darth Maul's brother Barth Maul in Insidious? It kind of ruined the film didn't it? Yeah, that's what I thought. If you're looking for a short, comical and entertaining hour and half, then give this one a shot. If you're looking for a scary, nasty horror film then rent Sex and the City 2 or something.
B-

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