October Horrorshow: Paranormal Activity 3

The only way to kill a movie franchise is to look away. The business model of the film industry necessarily requires that films display a certain amount of histrionic personality disorder (after all, if it ain’t worth looking at, it ain’t gonna make money), but eventually all franchises end up wearing out their welcomes. Narcissism, egocentricity, etc.; a person could have a field day going through the DSM looking up conditions that apply to the film industry, but it all gets back to money.

The Paranormal Activity franchise is a cash machine of unheard of proportions in Hollywood. To date, budgetary expenditures of around thirteen million bucks have resulted in three-quarters of a billion dollars in box office receipts. Holy shit. That’s actually quite amazing. And as long as people keep showing a willingness to go see the same movie over and over again, Oren Peli and company would be fools to stop satisfying the desires of the moviegoing public.

None of this means the movies have to be any good, of course.

Paranormal Activity 3 is the most recent of the series that I’ve seen, and truth be told, there is little different about this film than the first two, and probably the fourth, as well, which I have not seen. Writing a review for this film is a bit of an exercise in futility. Like the film, it would be mostly interchangeable with any review of the earlier films. I could write a brief summary of characters and plot, but in considering doing so, I’m being confronted by a strange feeling of hopelessness.

It’s hard to describe, but by this point in the franchise, any Paranormal Activity film seems to defy commentary or analysis. These are less films than they are cobbled-together pastiches of movable furniture and swinging light-fixtures. They are a collection of simple funhouse tricks that are inexplicably more successful than they should ever be. Are these films boring? Are they scary? I honestly don’t know. All I do know is that I feel silly at the end of every one of these flicks, the third in the series included.

Maybe, then, what audiences are being subjected to is film hucksterism elevated to its own level of art. There is no plausible reason these films continue to be such successes, unless there really is an undying adolescent in all of us that still jumps at every creak and pop in the night, and still finds comfort and safety under the total enclosure of a fleece blanket. How does this childhood nonsense still hold such a pull over enough of us to make these films such blockbusters?

The ‘whys’ are probably pointless. I doubt any of the filmmakers know. What they do know is how to tap into an unsettled reserve of human emotion that other filmmakers missed, and that’s why the franchise is a success.