'Paranormal Activity 3' is missing something important: scary moments

I'm starting to miss the Saw movies.

I never really met a Saw movie I liked ... but these Paranormal Activity movies are trying to scare us with falling frying pans and rumpling sheets. Come on! I drop frying pans whenever I attempt to fry an egg. There's nothing scary about that sort of thing. It's annoying and inconvenient, but it's not scary.

As I was typing this—and this is no lie—a suitcase I'd 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 by the ghosts or demons or whatever in these films.

That 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, where Katie (Chloe Csengery) and Kristi Rey (Jessica Tyler Brown), the sisters we saw in the first two films, are little ones. Kristi Rey has an imaginary friend who is really a ghost named Toby; he likes to play around with her Teddy Ruxpin and knock over lamps.

Their stepdad, Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith), is noticing some funny bumps in the night. He is 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 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 out of sight 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. However, the second and third films have worn that formula down to the nub.

Dennis stays in a house that is obviously haunted, putting his family in harm's way. 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—yet they manage to keep things relatively smooth and in-frame. Screw that! Anybody getting scratched by a ghost would use that camera as a weapon, or drop it and head for the hills.

The two little girls in the film are OK, and they are primarily responsible for the few scares that work. Even so, the scary moment that many of us saw in a trailer for the film—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 Internet-obsession documentary that may or may not have been true. I guess that makes them good choices for the whole "found-footage" movie fad. Sadly, the found-footage movie fad has just become an excuse for poor camera work, shoddy production values and nothing resembling a script.

The finale involves some sort of witchcraft element, or something like that.

Surely 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.

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