It turns out that the third time is not the charm for the chronically-haunted Paranormal Activity chicks....
Paramount / 94 Minutes / 2011 / Rated R / Street Date: January 24, 2012
Paranormal Activity 3 brings us found footage in both a present- and past-tense capacity, lending the movie a creepy dramatic inevitability that almost allows the franchise to reinvent itself in a unique fashion. When the film opens, it's 2005, and Katie (Katie Featherston) is dropping off some old home movies at her sister Kristi's (Sprague Grayden's) house. Some kind of secret is contained on this collection of videotapes - keys to the identity of the spirits that mysteriously messed with the girls' lives in the first two films? - so PA3 plays out after this brief prologue as a journey through the VHS past.
We quickly learn that even as young girls, these chicks are seriously haunted: While their mom (Lauren Bittner) and her beau (Chris Smith) go through the motions of making copious amounts of home videos - the beau is a professional wedding photographer - we learn during one particularly erotically-charged moment (in which the adult couple decides to make a sex tape) that something strange may be happening in their home.
As the couple start to get it on with their clunky camera aimed right at them, an earthquake strikes, and upon rewatching the aborted porno clip, they (and we) see that there's something in the room with them. Through the rest of the film, the couple attempts to set up multiple cameras in the house in hopes that they can isolate and/or firmly capture evidence of the thing's shape and size, though things are inevitably jinxed from the get-go.
As was the case with the first film and its sequel, this third Paranormal Activity flick is able to deliver a solid two or three goose-bump shrieks in its viewers, and maybe that's all it really needs to do. There's nothing particularly savvy or compelling about the movie's construction - the surveillance-camera style it utilizes seems played-out and redundant - but PA has emerged as the horror franchise of the moment. Thankfully lacking Saw's grotesqueries and Final Destination's repetitive torture porn, Paranormal Activity 3 may beat a dead horse in a lot of ways, but it nonetheless makes for moderately creepy, somehow unnerving horror entertainment.