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The Independent Critic

Katie Featherston, Chris Smith, Chloe Csengery, Sprague Grayden
Henry Joost, Ariel Schulmani
Oren Peli, Christopher B. Landon
Rated R
84 Mins.
Paramount Pictures

 "Paranormal Activity 3" Review 
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It was to be expected that Paranormal Activity 3 would open atop the box-office, though it has been more than a bit disconcerting that the film has garnered so much critical praise from critics who are either just grateful that the film is better than its predecessor (it is!) or, perhaps, they were hoping that their praise would doom the film's box-office as horror fans seldom give one iota what a film critic thinks about a film.

Having been attending Indy's Heartland Film Festival for the past week or so, I'm only now getting around to reviewing this weekend's mediocre movie wonderland and, as I expected, Paranormal Activity 3 opened comfortably at the top of the box-office and, in fact, broke records with the top opening weekend gross for a horror flick ever. EVER.

Have our standards really dipped this low?

Paranormal Activity 3 isn't a bad film, but neither is it a film worthy of box-office records, critical acclaim or, for that matter, your hard earned dollars. A prequel to the first two films, Paranormal Activity 3 follows the same formula with only slightly better results largely owing to an influx of creativity courtesy of Catfish co-directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulmani.

If you've never heard of Catfish, you're most certainly not alone. A good portion of critical America fell in love with the faux doc last year, this critic not included. Catfish felt like a gimmick film to me, and Paranormal Activity 3 only lends credibility to the idea that Joost and Schulmani are gimmick directors rather than actual original voices for the cinematic world.

The film follows Katie (Katie Featherston) and Kristie (Sprague Grayden) in the 1980's (played by Chloe Csengery and Jessica Tyler Brown) during their first encounter with this evil Manifestation when they lived with their mother (Julie Bittner) and her boyfriend (Chris Smith), a ludicrously written shmuck who seems more invested in lugging around his big ole' camera and catching eerie footage than he does in actually doing anything that might benefit or protect the family or these children. Believable? Perhaps...there are, after all, quite a few shmuck boyfriends in the world. However, it's so instantly suspicious and outrageous that it's difficult to watch without letting out a giggle.

Paranormal Activity 3 certainly has a few shocks and jumps along the way, but they're predictable ones. The only truly visually interesting addition is a camera attached to an oscillating fan, a sort of slow-building chill that allows for that sense of having to wait for the next scare to come around. The anxiety alone makes you jump, though more than once the anxiety leads to a false start.

False start, in fact, seems to be a great way to describe this third film in the series that serves as the background story for the entire series. I'd say trilogy but, after seeing this film's opening box-office, it's almost guaranteed that we'll see a fourth flick. We get the back story for Katie and Kristie, but as has been true all along it's a flimsy and transparent story that doesn't hold up to even the most shallow of examinations. Only Toby, the not so inventively named Manifestation that seems to have a lifelong relationship with these two girls, is even remotely interesting and even that's for almost all of the wrong reasons.

Unfortunately, Paranormal Activity 3 experienced out-of-this-world box-office on its opening weekend and the result will no doubt be a fourth film in the series. What's next? Paranormal Activity 4: In the Womb?

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic