Paranormal Activity 3 takes us back to 80s - and big hair isn't the only thing to fear. The directors have a lot more in store, but in a very peculiar case...also a lot less. A whopping eight scenes from PA3's theatrical trailer don't appear in the film itself. Artistic misdirection or a dirty marketing ploy?
Ask anyone I know. Based on the guttural reactions I made whenever I saw the trailers for Paranormal Activity 3, I was probably more excited for this movie than anyone else in the world. A lot of folks felt betrayed by the second film's supposed lack of scares (I disagree), but this year's model looked to be a game-changer. Subtlety be gone, it's time to scare the shit out of everyone! What could possibly go wrong? The directing duo of Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman - notable for their "is it real or fake?" film Catfish - take the helm of Paranormal Activity 3, and for the most part seem very capable.
I couldn't help feeling a little uneasy upon leaving the theater, though. Usually this would be a good thing for a horror movie - only now I was annoyed. We all know that movie trailers are often pieced together with footage that won't make it into the final cut. That's fine, and there are usually good reasons for it. I must take issue with Paranormal Activity 3, however. Mild Spoiler Alert, I guess: The full theatrical trailer contains eight scenes that don't appear in the actual film. EIGHT. To give you some perspective, there are only 10 scenes in the trailer total. Even more troublesome is that these looked like some great moments. Behold, the 80% you won't see if you pay $12+ for a ticket:
Sorta-Stepdad Dennis (aka ProtoMicka) asks Kristi to demonstrate "The Knocking Game". She knocks three times on her mirrored closet door, only to have something respond in kind from inside. When he checks afterwards, nothing's there of course. And this happens in broad daylight.
There's definitely something scary about kids in peril. Mom Julie watches a tape in horror as Kristi jumps from the ledge of the girls' second floor bedroom, only to run right up the stairs unhurt (and giggling).
Julie freaks out when Kristi - who says that her "imaginary friend" Toby is right next to her - throws a cup of water into the air...only to have the liquid land on a giant, unseen shape. More daylight trauma!
We see a presumed demonologist checking out the crawlspace in Katie & Kristi's room - finding the walls scratched with symbols, a very creepy drawing, and the name "Hunter" written backwards. In case you forgot, Hunter is what grown-up Kristi names her family's first born son in PA2.
The demonologist tells Julie and Dennis that the phenomenon is definitely linked to Julie's whole family, and that it knows he's...BAM BAM BAM! Evil Invisible Toby (EIT) begins violently slamming Dr. Demon's head against the table.
As the trailer builds towards a climax, we see a shot of a house completely ablaze. Is this the house fire that Katie and Kristi both mentioned in parts one and two?
Julie finally suggests that they get in the car and drive away, only to have EIT pull her backwards down the hallway and into her bedroom, where the doors slam shut.
Katie & Kristi play Bloody Mary in their bathroom, but apparently nothing happens. They exit the bathroom, not seeing the UBER-CREEPY shadowy figure that's left behind. While a version of the Bloody Mary game is featured in the film, this much more effective scene only appears in the original teaser trailer (note that the time code is different than the previous scenes).
Despite omitting these arguably important scenes, there are still scares to be had. Everything you loved about the first two movies is here, in a sort of amped up, greatest-hits-on-crack kind of way. Setting PA3 in 1988 is probably the most original part of the proceedings, and that's fine. The 80s were a golden age for horror cinema, so there's almost something comforting about the decor, the fashion and even the hair. I'll probably always associate a side ponytail with sheer terror - and really, shouldn't we all?
I also absolutely must give the filmmakers credit for devising a really clever, incredibly effective way of adding suspense to the "found footage": The precise, clockwork panning of a camera oscillating between the living room and kitchen on a table fan became so unnerving I almost had to look away.
Ultimately, though? I feel duped. I've been had. Joost & Schulman have been given a lot of credit for tricking moviegoers with Catfish, but I feel a bit rubbed the wrong way by this tactic with PA3. Some people are now saying the trailer was meant to be purposely misleading, as to keep people on their toes. If this is true, I call bullshit. Show people what they think they're paying to see, based on the information that's been given. I'm all for plot twists (and hate when a trailer shows too much), but in this case I feel cheated. Here's hoping the inevitable "Unrated Directors' Cut" will show the whole movie when it comes to DVD. And maybe they could so something about that ending...