Time for an unplanned detour on the Halloween Spectacular; I’m going to rant angrily. Luckily it fits the context of Halloween as I’ll be ranting about a horror movie. Not just any horror movie, but the #1 movie in America, Paranormal Activity 3. So, here’s your warning, this rant contains Paranormal Activity 3 spoilers, so stop now if you’re planning on seeing it…
Alright, how about we start with the trailer?
Just in case any of you people wary of spoilers have stuck around, don’t fear, you can watch that trailer without worry, because 90% of what you see isn’t in the film. That’s not an exaggeration, none of those action scenes are in the film, at all, and thus, we have a problem. See, when I watch a trailer for a movie, I get an idea of what the film is about. For a franchise like Paranormal Activity, I already know the general idea of “ghost torments family” so the trailer just adds some specifics. Yes, the family shown is the family you see in the film, but that’s about the only specific detail you can gleam from that trailer. Now, I completely understand the idea of not wanting to give away too much in a trailer, especially in a horror movie. You can’t show off all your big scares, or they’ll lose their impact in the film. A logical solution to that would be to showcase some of your smaller scares, and keep the big ones under wraps. An illogical solution would be to create a trailer full of scares that don’t take place at all in the film.
Going the illogical route creates unrealistic explanations. I saw that trailer and I’m went to the film looking forward to seeing the psychic/demonologist/medium character they bring to the house get completely messed up by the ghost. I was excited to see how those scare scenes work in the context of the film, I was excited to see what else might happen to that character. Would you like to know what happens to that character? Nothing. He doesn’t appear in the film, at all and only exists in the trailer. I could have let that go and accepted that maybe the character just ultimately didn’t make the final cut. Granted, I’d still be confused as to why they would include him in promotional material for the film, but I wouldn’t be as annoyed if that was the only instance of that happening.
It’s not the only instance however, and nearly every other action scene you see in that trailer doesn’t exist in the film. The knocking game? Nope. How about the terrified mother being pulled backwards into the bedroom as the doors slam shut? Nah, not in this film. Well, what about that really cool scene where the girl throws water at the ghost and you see a silhouette before it starts knocking over everything in the room? Sorry, no, but maybe it’ll be a deleted scene on the DVD. You’re promoting a different movie than the one you’re giving me. Yes, the family is getting terrorized by a ghost, but in none of the ways you have led me to believe would happen.
Now, I could forgive all of that if the film blew me away with what it did have to show me, and made me forget all about the trailer. Since you’re reading this, you can probably guess that that didn’t happen. What I got was a film that was touted as one that answers a lot of questions and adds so much to the franchise’s mythology. I should have had greater suspicions about the film after hearing such things, because it seems really implausible that an 84 minute film that relies on long, drawn out periods of tension would be able to accomplish that. My experience with Paranormal Activity 3 left me with far more questions than answers, and new ideas that contradicted the franchise mythology far more than it expanded it.
Here’s my brief summary of the explanation for the events of the first two films. My understanding is that the “ghost” was actually a demon once summoned by the girl’s grandmother. The grandmother made a deal with the demon and in exchange for wealth, she would offer the family’s first born son. The first son in the family Kristi’s son, Hunter and after he was born, the demon came to claim him. Kristi’s husband used a ritual to push the demon onto Kristi’s sister Katie, who became possessed by the demon, killed her boyfriend, then killed Kristi and her husband, then took Hunter and their whereabouts are currently unknown. Now, it was hinted that the paranormal happenings the girls were experiencing had also happened to them when they were children. So naturally, you would think the 3rd film which focuses on them as children, would tie up a lot of loose ends. Sadly, it does not.
The demon gets named Toby and is treated as Kristi’s imaginary friend. His link to Kristi is never explained, nor is it explained why he’s so pissed off in the first place. We’re introduced briefly to the girls’ grandmother, who does appear to be pretty well off financially, but her possible ties to the demon are never really touched upon until the end of the film, which I’ll get to in a moment. The only explanation we’re given to any of the activity is a very brief mention of a coven of witches that brainwashed girls into having sons and then made them forget about it. It’s a cumbersome explanation that gets touched upon quickly and is never really explained further. The film ends with the family retreating to the grandmother’s house after the activity in their home proves to be too much for them. It’s here that the apparent coven of witches is discovered, and they quickly use Toby to dispose of the parents and take the girls with them for what I assume is a ritual. The film doesn’t explain and ends there.
That ending doesn’t answer any questions and while it certainly adds new elements to the franchise’s mythology, the additions don’t seem necessary and don’t line up with what we already know. I’m really not a fan of introducing a bunch of witches into things, as the monster of the franchise has always been the demon. I’d really hate to see it reduced to some sort of lap dog for a group of witches. The first two films put together a history that I was excited to see explained, and the third film came along and made things convoluted. What’s also never touched upon in the 3rd film is the fire that burned down the girl’s childhood home. It’s mentioned in both of the previous films, and we don’t see it at all in this one. Care to guess where we do see it? Why the trailer of course!
Before the third film’s release, I’d been advocating the idea that, if the story really was wrapped up and the loose ends explained, then it was time to move on to another family and another story for the 4th film. Instead, it feels like they did that for the 3rd film, and the characters just happen to share the same names. For me, the connection the previous films isn’t there, outside of the first two minutes featuring footage from PA2. The events of the third film just don’t line up with the story we know of the previous two films, and it’s a real shame. I’m worried this is going to open the door for the addition of more unnecessary plot elements and the franchise with become as directionless and bloated as every other horror franchise.
I wanted to like Paranormal Activity 3, because I loved the first two, but it just didn’t work for me. The trailer has scenes that look far more exciting and frightening than anything the actual film has to offer. If you’re looking for a fun horror film to see this Halloween, it will certainly do the trick; it’s got good moments of tension and some fun scares. If you’re a fan of the franchise however, you may not be as pleased. Paranormal Activity 3 didn’t leave me wanting more, it just left me wanting what I was promised.