I never thought I’d miss the annual Halloween unveiling of the latest Saw movie, but after the third film in the obnoxious Paranormal Activity series, I am filled with Saw nostalgia in the extreme. If you are (blessedly) unfamiliar with these movies, they started back in 2007 when a guy named Oren Peli made a very low-rent video (without playing semantics involving film vs. video as a medium, there is nothing that can be generously called filmmaking going on here) in which some spooky doings in an ugly suburban home were caught on videotape. There were zero production values and not that many more scares, but it caught on. The second film was more of the same except that it used home security cameras, added the ultimate in terror with a haunted pool vacuum cleaner, had a slightly bigger payoff, and was actually the lead-in to the first film. With the third, you’re getting — guess what? — more of the same leading into the second film and an admittedly considerably bigger payoff. It’s everything you expect: bad writing, bad acting, bad direction, dull characters, and long stretches of boredom punctuated by sudden jolts. I suppose this one should get some credit for the stylistic breakthrough of strapping a camera to an oscillating fan, but given that it never captures anything more frightening than the series’ usual Satan-as-annoying-practical-joker bouts of “boogie boogie boogie!” loses that credit. There’s a rumor that this one concludes the series. Much as I might wish that was true, I can easily see this being dragged on and on, possibly ending with “found cave paintings.” (Throw in Werner Herzog, 3-D, some “albino crocodiles” and you might be onto something there.) Problem is this latest one threatens to be yet another hit on yet another small investment. I don’t see Paramount letting go of the franchise without a fight.
Director: Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman
Writer: Michael R. Perry and Oren Peli
Cast: Katie Featherston and Zayd Jaber