I have absolutely no qualms about really enjoying the first film, and really can’t remember much of what happened in its sequel. I do remember not liking the sequel, and was considering not going to see this because the trailers weren’t that exciting. Correction, the first trailer, singular, was kind of lame and I didn’t enjoy the direction that the franchise was headed. I told myself I wouldn’t watch any further trailers and then would wait to hear some reviews, but then when I went to see Drive, they played a trailer for this and it looked like it gave away EVERY FUCKING SCARE IN THE MOVIE. I was pretty pissed, and confirmed I wouldn’t see this movie. Luckily, it was revealed that basically all footage in the trailers was there just to throw people off, which redeemed my faith in the possibility that this could be entertaining, and luckily, I was right. Oh yeah, and there’s going to be spoilers all over the place, so if that’s not your thing, you might not want to go further.
Is this a scene from the movie? No, it’s just that scene from the trailer. I’ll try again next time.
Each previous movie focused on one of two sisters (Katie Featherstone and Sprague Grayden), and this installment starts with the realization that these sisters were filmed as children, but all of the VHS tapes of them went missing during the course of events in the second film. PA3 shows us what was contained on that footage. We see the sisters Katie and Kristi, played by Chloe Csengery and Jessica Tyler Brown, growing up with their mom and her boyfriend who makes a living videotaping weddings. Kristi is constantly talking about her imaginary friend named Toby who lives in the crawl space of her and Katie’s room. For some reason, which isn’t really made clear, weird things start happening, so the boyfriend begins videotaping the weird sounds that are happening in the house. From lightbulbs shattering to seeing objects move, things are getting weirder and weirder. The occurrences become so powerful that babysitters are being physically assaulted, large items are being moved great distances or destroyed, even Katie is lifted into the air by her ponytail, and the whole time Kristi is blaming this stuff on “Toby”. The boyfriend does research on demons and witches and shit, and sees a photo of some coven of witches wearing necklaces with a strange symbol. When this symbol is seen in the crawl space of the girls’ room, the family goes to stay at the grandmother’s house. That night, the two girls and their mom disappear into the house, and the boyfriend tries to find them. We can see him being followed by strange silhouettes, and when paintings are moved to the ground, we see strange symbols on the walls. Exploring the garage, the boyfriend sees a group of women in black robes and wearing the same strange necklaces as from the photo he found. The girls’ mom is then thrown at him from the top of the stairs, his body is contorted and broken by an unseen presence, Katie’s face flashes to that of what we saw at the end of the first movie, and the grandmother takes the children by the hand, while Kristi makes sure to invite Toby to come with them.
Is this a scene from the movie? Nope, guess again!
I really wanted to dislike this movie, probably because of how disappointed I was in the previous installment. The first film didn’t need any sort of background of mythology whatsoever, that I was annoyed with how they attempted to build upon that in the second. Something about a curse and a demon taking the firstborn male in the family or something? Yeah, no thanks. However, now that we can see how this “curse” started (kind of) and learned that the victims of the previous movies were subjected to this torture because their grandmother was a witch? Actually pretty cool. Before I say too much stuff that’s good, let’s say some things I didn’t like. The first big “scares” of the movie were scares involving people, where they built tension thinking a ghost or something would do something crazy, only to have a human jump out. Sure, it was fun to do once, but repeatedly? No thanks. The acting wasn’t all that strong, but that isn’t too big of a surprise when keeping the previous movies in mind, but the more characters that were brought in, the more you noticed it. The boyfriend takes a camera and attached it to an oscillating fan, and even though it was a clever idea, it was too predictable that ANY time you saw that shot, you knew something creepy was going to happen. Same goes for when Katie plays “Bloody Mary” with the person watching her, so it was just making it way too obvious to anticipate things to happen. Oh yeah, and there was a “sex scene” which seemed really arbitrary and pointless. Not necessarily complaining about what I saw, just seemed like an executive said, “Hey guys, sex it up a little bit!”
Look at how dramatic THIS is! This clearly must be in the film! BZZZT. WRONG.
What I really like about all of the movies in this franchise is the fact that you never, EVER see a “ghost”. You see objects, figures, and shapes, but they never resort to showing what the source of everything is, which is something most other films are all too quick to do. Nothing is as creepy as what we imagine “Toby” to look like, and I’m glad this franchise is keeping it that way. Whenever there was about to be something creepy happen, there was always a subtle, high-pitched sound that was made, implying the entity was causing that to happen. We’ve heard the ominous rumbling sounds, but I don’t think this effect was used in this way in the previous films. And although there were plenty of moments where there was obvious CGI, the practical effects that they did were pretty cool. I won’t get into detail about EVERY little twist and turn that happens in the movie, but if you know these movies, you can just imagine some things that they do. The way they can make objects appear, disappear, and the way Toby manifests himself are all pretty cool camera tricks.
Wait a second….HOLY SHIT, THIS REALLY IS FROM THE MOVIE! THIS IS A PICTURE OF THE MOVIE! FOR REAL!
Quite a few more good things than bad things, huh? So why isn’t this getting a better rating? Well, I know this movie stands on its own, especially considering it’s a prequel, and that it shouldn’t rely too heavily on the two previous films. That might be all well and good, but do you remember how pointless Paranormal Activity 2 is? Let’s think about it; the first film didn’t really establish any mythology at all, other than Katie has had issues with “ghosts” before, which resulted in her house burning down. Does anyone care? No. They liked seeing doors open and close and footsteps. The second film reveals that there is some sort of blood curse, but this curse is pursuing a different family member who viewers don’t really care about. It gave a little bit more information, but not that much. Now that we’re on our third film, the one that establishes curses and witches and demons, and maybe it’s because I have a soft spot for all of that stuff, I really liked where it went. The franchise changed from being afraid of this demon to instead being afraid of the witches who summoned this demon, and whether it be Rosemary’s Baby or The Last Exorcism, I will always be more creeped out by the calm individuals who are unassuming, but summon demons in their free time. I think that maybe had this film been delayed a little bit and Paranormal Activity 2 never existed, you’d have a very solid franchise on your hands, with just enough information being given and just enough mysteries for the viewers. Instead, we’ll probably get a fourth installment that won’t make any sense because we already know how the original victims got involved in these terrible things in the first place. I was really hoping this one would end in a giant fire like the one they talk about in the two previous movies, but they’re probably saving that for part 5 or something. Oh yeah, and that movie Catfish was probably fake. Dammit.
Wolfman Moon Scale