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Theatrical Review: Paranormal Activity 3

ByDarren Goodhart

Oct 23, 2011

Paramount Pictures certainly knows when they have a good thing.  Two years ago, the first Paranormal Activity took audiences by storm and the studio was quick to follow it up with last year’s terrific Paranormal Activity 2, which also did quite well.  So of course it was clear, a third was going to be made and I suspect a fourth will be coming as well.

The one bad part about this is that Paranormal Activity 3 is (just like the second one) strictly for those that have followed this series. If you’re planning to see this without seeing the other two movies, then you’ll probably be lost.

In it’s promotion, this has been pretty clearly set up to be a prequel to both films.  It certainly is that.  I’m only going to describe what this is about in the broadest of ways, which is to say that this is about the origins of why the sisters Katie and Kristi have all of this weirdness that affects them.

After a quick introduction seeing the adult Katie and Kristi discovering a bunch of of video tapes taken of them in their childhood, the rest of the action of the film moves to 1988.  Katie and Kristi are small children living with their mom and her boyfriend, who just happens to be a videographer.  Dennis, the boyfriend is making a sex tape of himself and the girl’s mother, Julie, when a supposed earthquake hits.  After this has happened, Dennis reviews the tape and thinks that he sees a figure amidst the dust.  He’s naturally curious and now wants to investigate this further.  He does this by first setting up two video cameras in the house and eventually adds a third, and of course, hi-jinks ensue.

Like the previous films in the series, this uses “found footage” with this footage being entirely on videotape.  While all of the films use handheld footage, the discoveries are mostly confined to the footage used with stationary cameras.  With the first film, it was with one camera.  With the second, we had six cameras.  Paranormal Activity 3 uses three cameras and one of them is very inventive.  Dennis decides that the stationary footage from his first two cameras (both positioned in bedrooms) isn’t enough and so he adds a third.  He has the novel idea of using the base of an oscillating fan, mounting a camera on top of that and positioning it between the kitchen and the living room.  This is an absolutely terrific idea and many of the films best moments comes from the slow reveal of something happening in one room, then panning to the other.  The thing that all three of the movies do extremely well with this technique is that they make you examine the entire screen and always make you think you’re seeing something out of the corner of your eye.

I really enjoyed Paranormal Activity 3 though there are a few inconsistencies with things said in the first two movies.  Now by the end of this movie, some of these inconsistencies can be explained away, but that comes more from the viewer than it does the film.  This is a slight nitpick, but while this is set in 1988, there’s a couple of things that are said that would be more in line with what someone would say today.  It’s not a big deal, just a little observation.

Paranormal Activity 3 is very well made.  It’s paced the same as the others with escalating build-ups to a big finale that just doesn’t let up.  The visual effects are subtle and seamless.  All of the performances are terrific, in particular that of young Jessica Tyler Brown who plays the young Kristi.  Lauren Bittner (Julie), Christopher Nicholas Smith (Dennis) and Chloe Csengery (the young Katie) all do fine work as well and certainly keep this moving.  Keeping continuity with the other films, Katie Featherston, Sprague Grayden and Brian Boland all reprise their roles during the introduction as the adult Katie and Kristi and Kristi’s husband, Daniel.

One thing that I’ve seen a few complain about is that none of the footage of the trailer actually shows up in the movie.  I applaud this for this type of film.  Everything that’s shown in the trailer still plays to what you can expect in the film regarding it’s overall flavor, but everything else is a big surprise.  When you see so many trailers that actually ruin things for some movies, this sort of marketing (for this type of film) is certainly welcome.

Paranormal Activity 3 is quite a bit of fun, and just falls a little short of the other two movies due to a few story inconsistencies.  Even though those can be explained away, it would’ve been better had they actually done so in the film itself rather than me coming up with my own solution.  Now I don’t necessarily think coming to my own reasons for this is necessarily a bad thing, but because of the matter of fact nature this uses with it’s found footage, it would certainly be more in line if those explanations were right there on-screen.  Regardless of that, Paranormal Activity 3 still succeeds at being quite the effective horror film and it’s ending is absolutely terrific.  Highly recommend, but only if you’ve seen the first two movies.

Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

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