In 2004, Saw took horror fans by surprise with a cleverly crafted murder mystery wrapped in a thriller. Its success was so great and its conceits so notorious that it would spawn six annual sequels, concluding with 2010’s Saw 3D. As the Saw franchise was winding down, a new surprise showed up on the scene in the form of Paranormal Activity, a found footage horror film in the vein of The Blair Witch Project, but much more effectively frightening than the 1999 classic. With Saw leaving the annual Halloween event stage, something had to take its place, and Paranormal Activity became the heir apparent.
Paranormal Activity works because it is an intimately creepy film about a believable young couple thrust into increasingly terrible situations in a constantly mundane and relatable setting. The nature of the haunting never is explained, and the viewer is left with the feeling that this crazy stuff could happen at random to pretty much everyone. Paranormal Activity 2 came along in 2010 and ruined the whole concept by franchising what had been an awesome little indie movie and pulling the curtain back on the mystery to reveal that the haunting is not as random and mysterious as we originally believed.
Now Paranormal Activity 3 is scheduled to hit theaters on October 21, 2011, and the trailer has just arrived at iTunes. One would hope the filmmakers would learn that a little mystery goes a long way and that not knowing the nature of the evil is far more effective than having everything spelled out. So the new movie would be about a totally new person or couple in an unrelated but equally terrifying circumstance, right? Wrong. It turns out that PA3 will take us back to the ’80s for a prequel that promises we will “learn the secret behind the activity” by showing us exactly how the sisters from the previous two movies got tangled up in their increasingly lame web of demonic activity. And, if the trailer is any indication (which it probably is, given that the trailers for the first two movies spoiled the endings of both movies), it’ll have something to do with playing a round of “Bloody Mary” in the bathroom mirror.
It’s unfortunate when a sequel is bad, but it’s downright tragic when it makes its much better predecessors worse. That’s what Paranormal Activity 2 did for me with the original, and it already looks like the third installment will obliterate even more of the creepy wonder that made the first movie so special.
If you’re inclined to check out the new trailer for Paranormal Activity 3, you can find it online at iTunes.