‘Paranormal Activity 3’ running on fumes

Article Published: Oct. 27, 2011 | Modified: Oct. 28, 2011
‘Paranormal Activity 3’ running on fumes

From left, Chloe Csengery and Jessica Tyler Brown star in ‘Paranormal Activity 3.’

This late in the game, they might as well rename the series “Normal Activity.”

We’ve seen it all before.

Apart from the occasionally clever camera angle and an efficient use of creepy kids, the “Paranormal Activity” series is running on fumes.

The latest entry, “Paranormal Activity 3,” offers a few startles and a welcome dose of humor, but its tired presentation and absurdly anticlimactic ending should mark the last time this series goes bump in the night.

But it probably won’t. It’s a financially successful series, and maybe producers can justify more sequels by saying, “Hey, at least we’re not releasing a remake.”

Like the second installment, the third chapter is another prequel, this time dating back to 1988, when the series’ troubled sisters, Katie (Katie Featherston, “Paranormal Activity”) and Kristi (Sprague Grayden, TV’s “24”) first start experiencing, well, paranormal activity.

Now played by a couple of precocious half-pints, Katie (Chloe Csengery) and Kristi (Jessica Tyler Brown) are growing up in California with mom Julie (Lauren Bittner, “Bride Wars”) and her new boyfriend, Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith, “Little Children”), who conveniently works as a wedding videographer.

When Kristi starts talking with an invisible friend she calls Toby, Dennis begins to notice strange noises occurring around the house, along with the occasional piece of moved furniture.

Convinced it’s something supernatural, he sets up cameras throughout the house to capture it on tape. Like in the previous installments, this ghost is far from camera-shy, knocking things over, shoving babysitters, throwing kitchenware and generally making a pest of itself. At one point, it even dons a white sheet to spook the aforementioned, probably underpaid babysitter.

“Paranormal Activity 3” has a broader sense of humor than its predecessors, a welcome departure from the contrived comic relief of the others’. This time, the filmmakers are poking fun at the series itself, and it’s admittedly refreshing.

Directing team Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (“Catfish”) also find one of the more creative, and surprisingly effective, camera angles of the series with a camera-mounted oscillating fan.

As viewers glimpse something unusual in one corner, the camera pans in the other direction, only for the anomaly to be missing upon the camera’s return. It’s a simple technique, but it’s one of the film’s highlights.

But “Paranormal Activity 3” is seldom scary. There are fake-out scares aplenty, one of which is wickedly funny, and a goose-bump inducing game of Bloody Mary that’s actually more suspenseful than the climax.

The increasingly popular – and increasingly lazy – found-footage horror movie is getting old fast, and “Paranormal Activity 3” is no exception. Joost and Schulman attempt to freshen the series by revealing their ghostly antagonist’s motive, but, in the process, ignore one of the essential rules of quality horror movies – what you don’t see is scarier than what you do see.

“Paranormal Activity 3,” rated R for some violence, language, brief sexuality and drug use, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, see page 12 or visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.

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