What to say... what to say... there are only TWO horror movies playing in town for Halloween weekend, the other being THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2. So you get your choice of a scare-free grossout festival OR a goreless "boo" movie. Hey, if it's scary/spooky you want, the choice is clear, mainstream or not.
Perhaps the most interesting thing I can tell you about PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 (if you haven't seen it already) is that the trailer that drove me bananas for months by showing up before virtually every other movie consists primarily of scenes that DO NOT APPEAR IN THE FILM (most notably the two little girls playing "Bloody Mary" at the mirror). It's obvious that the filmmakers went in a dozen different directions while they were shooting and decided which permutation of the story to actually follow at the last minute.
This time we're dealing with a box of VHS tapes that they forgot to mention in PA2, so we start off with an "outtake" from the previous film in which it's said out loud that the box of tapes was the "only thing missing" after the apparent burglary/ransacking. Then we get to watch highlights from the old tapes themselves--we get to see what happened to the sisters (and their parents) before their memories were purged...
The backstory is par for the course, but the film doesn't really offer anything that THE LAST EXORCISM didn't do better. You DO, however, get a generous helping of satisfying jumps and (even better) subtle, unexpected highlights (I especially liked the follow-up to the babysitter who dressed up as a "sheet" ghost to play with her charges).
Perhaps the best innovation here involves how the father jury-rigs an electric fan base to serve as a swivel for one of his constantly-running cameras... long sequences in which the camera steadily pans back and forth between the front room and the kitchen build some decent tension (except for one unfortunate moment in which I could clearly see the dissolve I wasn't supposed to notice, tipping me off immediately that "something" was going to happen in the very next sweep).
What made the movie more enjoyable for me, personally, was the fact that I brought my twelve-year-old son to see it per his fervent request. And much as my father must have enjoyed seeing me paralyzed by the original HALLOWEEN way back when, I thought I might have to scrape Cameron from the ceiling for much of the running time of PA3. Even better (and much to his credit), he studied ME for "tells," hoping that my seasoned reactions to the goings-on on screen would tip him off when a "jump" was imminent. So I had to play it as a professional poker player, especially when our protagonist is urged to look inside a closet and opens the door very... slowly... Hey, YOU know what's going to happen, I know what's going to happen, but why spoil it for him?
At its base level, PA3 manages to deliver what it promises. And now that it's all been spelled out, they won't make any more of them, right?
Hey, I know it's Halloween and not Christmas, but I still have to say "Ho ho ho!"
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