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Monday, November 07, 2011

Movie Watch: Paranormal Activity 3

I've generally been a pretty big fan of the Paranormal Activity franchise.  I got some friends to re-watch the first two prior to heading out to see the third.  I think one of the most positive things about this series is its ability to dig deeper into the history of the story with every installment without feeling overly forced.

By itself, Paranormal Activity 3 holds its own against the first two movies.  There is still the methodic observations on everyday life and scenes where nothing goes on at all just to set that creepy baseline for the viewer.  There is still the judicial use of sound of effects to warn the viewer that something is about to jump above that baseline.

And there is still what I like to refer to as excellent Hollywood magic tricks.  I simply refuse to point to an example because the less you know about what happens in the film, the better, but while the series has special effects - they're extremely subtle and you could almost imagine most of the events of the film happening on a stage in front of you, not something which simply must be pumped through a high end computer to generate.

End the spoiler free section of it.  If you liked either of the first two, highly recommended.  If you haven't, and now that we are in the post-Halloweeen season, I'd probably recommend snagging the first one at least and watch all the films.  But Paranormal Activity 3 is certainly a fun spookfest on its own right.

Is the plot unraveling?
If there's any complaints about the third movie - it's that it raises some interesting inconsistencies with the first two movies.


Got that?  Is the bold and all caps clear enough? Ok, then.

First problem that the movie gets itself into is the dubious use of images in the various trailers.  The trailers seem to be sections of the film which were mostly not used in the long run, which is relatively legitimate but can get a little confusing.

This is especially true since one of the key plot points mentioned in the first two films is the girls' house being burned down, which is apparently shown only in one of the trailers (I've seen it, but never caught it on TV).  The timestamp of the trailer, however, points to the house fire happening after the events of the film and my guess is that the makers wanted to keep the "final shock scene" which has been the trademark of the first two films instead of any kind of explanatory epilogue.

Also confusing the references to the girls' mom in the first two films.  Micah makes a crack about not inviting her over in the first film, and the girls talk about her briefly in the second with references not shown in the third film (namely people coming over and their mom crying a lot).

There are two defense for the mentions in the second film.  One is that their mom may have been crying more than we saw in the first film, especially considering the overall discord in the house towards the end ... and perhaps "people" included Dennis' friend.

Or, and this goes for Micah's reference in the first film - "mom" refers to their adoptive mother.  We don't really know what the girls remember or think happened after grandmother walks them upstairs, after all.

Still, this shows a danger of a story being told in a chain of prequels.  You can't expect viewers to try and piece together all these minor aspects - it should be part of the fun.  I don't think the third film necessarily violates anything plot-wise of the first two movies, but the filmmakers should be on notice: Paranormal Activity fans are taking notes.  And any future movies will be judged with those notes in the margin.

Paranormal Activity 4?
When walking out of the theater, I had thought that perhaps this would be swan song of the series.  After all, we have a pretty complete picture of the story in general.  And if they do another prequel, they would probably have to drop the found film aspect or go to reel to reel or something like that.  Neither sounds like a good idea.

But money is money - and Paranormal Activity 3 made a metric ton of it.  A fourth film is almost assured.  Those note taking fans have noted there is a "1992" tape shown in the box Katie brings over ... which possibly indicates they'll advance the story a few years after the events of the third film and perhaps explain the house fire, the adoptive mother, etc.

Another good possibility is having a movie which takes place after the events of PA2.  The makers have clearly made an effort to keep in touch with the original cast members, perhaps to make sure Katie Featherston would be around to portray her more demonic side in what would probably need to be the series finale.

So far the producers, directors and writers have done a good job keeping to the spirit (no pun intended) of the first film, so I'm still confident they can keep the quality up.

First trailer which reminds me of Blair Witch 2, however - and I am so not confident....