Normal atrocity

“I don’t want to grow up in a movie like this.”

“I don’t want to grow up in a movie like this.”

Rated 1.0

I think I’m starting to miss the Saw movies.

Don’t get me wrong. I never really met a Saw movie I liked. It’s just that these Paranormal Activity movies are trying to scare us with falling frying pans and rumpling sheets.

Come on! I drop frying pans whenever I try to fry an egg. There’s nothing scary about that sort of thing. It’s just annoying and inconvenient.

As I was typing this, and this is no lie, a suitcase that I had precariously placed on my washing machine fell down … ALL BY ITSELF! Can you believe that? It made a sudden crashing noise and everything, just like the disturbances the ghosts or demons or whatever they are have caused repeatedly in these films.

The suitcase falling in my laundry room was scarier than anything I saw in Paranormal Activity 3.

This time out, we journey back to the late ’80s, when Katie (Chloe Csengery) and Kristi Rey (Jessica Tyler Brown), the sisters in the first two films, are little ones. The youngest, Kristi Rey, has an imaginary friend that is really a ghost named Toby who likes to play around with her Teddy Ruxpin and knock lamps over.

Their stepdad, Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith), notices some funny bumps in the night. He’s a wedding videographer, so he sets up his cameras all over the house, just like they did in the first two films. A bit of a coincidence, don’t you think?

Dennis figures out something that the other cameramen in the other films didn’t. He puts a camera on an oscillating fan mechanism so it can constantly pan a room. So you sit and wait while the camera pans to the left, knowing full well that something will probably happen when it pans back to the right.

The first film in the series scared me a little, but that was before the formula became so obvious. That ending is still a classic, but 2 and 3 have worn that formula down to the nub.

Dennis stays in a house that is obviously haunted, putting his family in harm’s way. Also, he and his assistant manage to keep their cameras going while they are being haunted and terrorized. They run around while the ghost is physically attacking them, managing to keep things relatively smooth and in frame. Screw that—anybody getting scratched by a ghost thing would use that camera as a weapon, or drop it and head for the hills.

The two little girls are fine in the film, and are the ones primarily responsible for the few scares that work. Even so, that scary moment many of us have seen in the trailer when the girls play the Bloody Mary game in a bathroom, isn’t even in the film. It’s the best thing directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman filmed for their movie and they edited it out.

Joost and Schulman are the directing team responsible for Catfish, the online obsession documentary that may or may not have been true. I guess that makes them good choices for the whole “found footage” movie fad. The found footage movie fad has just become an excuse for poor camera work, shoddy production value, and nothing truly resembling a script.

The finale involves some sort of witchcraft element, or something like that. I’m not sure. I was still trying to regroup my senses after that ladle fell on the floor halfway into the movie. Yikes!

There will be more of these things. The opening weekend for Paranormal Activity 3 did monster business, and the franchise shows no signs of slowing down. I think they’ve done all they can with things falling down in the kitchen and the whole bed sheet thing. I predict pets will be flying around the room in the next one.