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Paranormal Activity 3

A movie directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman

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Things Just Got Scary Again

  • Oct 22, 2011
Star Rating:

The first movie scared the living hell out of me. The second movie, not so much. We’ve now reached the third movie, and while I maintain that horror movies should be judged by their ability to frighten and not by their status as franchise pushers, I have to admit that some of my faith has been restored. Although Paranormal Activity 3 is in many ways as clichéd as its predecessor, and although a few of the much publicized explanations are a bit obscure, it’s smoother, tenser, and pretty damn scary. On more than one occasion, you will jump out of your seat. The rest of the time, you will be clinging to your armrest (or perhaps the arm of your date) in sheer suspense. The previous film, which suffered from a repetitious formula and typecast characters, lacked that kind of power.
Yes, this movie is an improvement. It is not, however, up to par with the original Paranormal Activity, the most inventive and frightening horror film since The Blair Witch Project. This is to be expected, considering how high the bar was set. A year ago, this led to me to question why filmmakers push for sequels and/or prequels when one film is all it takes. I’m still asking myself this today. This movie works as a standalone horror film, but as a part of a franchise, it’s unnecessary. In one crucial way, it’s also unwanted. The tagline is, “Discover how the activity began”; my problem is that I never wanted to make this discovery. I found the first film so terrifying in large part because no explanation was given. We had a man, a woman, a surveillance camera, a haunted house, and nothing more. It didn’t matter why – it only mattered that it was happening.

Like the previous films, the subjects are sisters Katie and Kristi, and their story unfolds in the form of recovered home video footage. This time, however, we see them as young children in September of 1988, living at home with their mother, Julie (Lauren Bittner), and her boyfriend, Dennis (Christopher Nicholas), who so happens to have his own business as a wedding videographer. This means, of course, that he conveniently has access to video editing equipment, which will come in handy as the activity becomes worse. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Dennis’ attempt at making a sex tape with Julie is interrupted by an earthquake; as they rush to check on the girls, the still-rolling camera captures dust falling onto an invisible presence. This footage prompts Dennis to set up cameras in strategic areas of the house. Sure enough, strange events are starting to happen, and it’s all being captured on film.
Perhaps coincidentally, these events began at the same time Kristi (Jessica Tyler Brown) started interacting with an imaginary friend named Toby. Her mother is convinced it’s just a phase. Dennis, who isn’t sharing the footage with his wife, seems to believe otherwise. Needless to say, this is but one of many instances of disturbed nights, highlighted by unnerving subtleties such as phantom noises and objects that move on their own. As the film progresses, the activity becomes less subtle, and of that, I will say no more. One of the film’s most effective techniques is the placing of a camera on the motor of an oscillating fan; numerous scenes show one continuous shot panning back and forth, revealing first the living room then the kitchen. This makes for some surprisingly effective scares. One in particular, which I will not spoil for you, had everyone in the theater screaming.

The final scene, though technically masterful and undeniably frightening, raises some serious questions about Katie and Kristi as adults. Let’s just say that, on the basis of what the last shot reveals, I’m not convinced either girl would grow up to be as well adjusted as they initially turned out. It’s almost as if they forgot an entire chapter of their lives – or, at least, a significant chunk of it. Such scenes make me wish that Paranormal Activity hadn’t spawned two prequels, that it had been allowed to stand on its own. Paranormal Activity 3 works reasonably well, but it would be nice if the filmmakers heeded this piece of advice: When bad things happen, the greatest terror lies in not knowing why.
Now here’s an interesting side note. The film was directed by Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost, the same men that helmed the 2010 documentary Catfish. I enjoyed that film, but like a lot of viewers, I found myself questioning its authenticity. Was it truly a documentary about a suspicious internet romance, or was it a hoax? The fact that their follow-up project was a fictional film made to resemble a documentary only adds fuel to the fire. Amazing, how moviegoers – and filmmakers – have blurred the line between reality and fantasy. When my review for Paranormal Activity was posted in 2009, I received a number of comments from readers. Many were facetious, but a select few seemed convinced that the footage in the movie was real. One person even asked me where more information on the case of Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat could be found. Too bad we now know they’re just movies.


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March 21, 2012
Alright, so I finally saw this; and it wasn't too bad. But I still didn't like it. I can respect the film but it didn't have a very strong balance of jump scares and suspense; guess which one was dominant. Although I did really like the ending, I still don't think it qualifies as good; but that's just my opinion. Better than Pt. 2, at least.
March 24, 2012
All I can think to say is a repeat of the comment I provided below. That pretty much sums up how I feel about this movie.
February 18, 2012
I don't know. I will definitely see this, but I haven't got particularly high hopes, after the second one.
February 18, 2012
Yes, the second movie was disappointing. Truth be told, I gave the film three stars as a standalone horror film. As a continuation of the story, however, it's unnecessary. Part of the reason I loved the first film was because there was no explanation for any of the events. These prequels have been ruining the mystery for me.
October 24, 2011
I didn't even know that there was a second one!
October 24, 2011
Really? With all the hype surrounding it a year ago? Huh. I'd tell you to skip it, but you'd be missing out on significant plot points.
October 24, 2011
Yeah... I didn't watch the first one! Something tells me I should have a Halloween marathon and start with the first one :)
October 24, 2011
That could be fun. That being said, my suggestion would be to forget about parts two and three and just see the original.
October 24, 2011
Cool, thanks for the suggestion!
October 24, 2011
I'll say the same as I did in William's review; I'm shocked this is so popular! You mentioned The Blair Witch Project, but I thought that movie was boring as all hell - is it a different taste in movies or am I actually missing something here? LOL Nice review btw...
October 24, 2011
I think it's just different taste. I find slow buildups in horror movies incredibly frightening. Only when things are slow can we sit in suspense, wondering what's going to happen next.
October 25, 2011
I agree with you on that one - I guess for me maybe it's the "home movie" feel that turns me away and bores me - it just feels different as far as atmosphere. Thanks Chris!!
October 24, 2011
The theme is popular as are the pictures.
October 24, 2011
If by "theme" you mean found footage, then yes, it is popular.
October 24, 2011
I liked this movie quite a bit. I have to say I thought it was better than the first sequel. Funny you mentioned how some folks thought that the original film was all about 'real footage'. I too got that kind of reaction before, and a friend even refused to go home after seeing it so she slept over.
October 24, 2011
Geez Woo; ya don't have to make excuses as to why a girl slept over..LMAO
October 24, 2011
I didn't make the excuse....she did. :)
More Paranormal Activity 3 (2011 fi... reviews
review by . October 22, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
The original “Paranormal Activity” was honestly one of the best execution of POV style cinematography I’ve seen. I admit that it had its rough spots, but for a measly $ 15,000, you have to acknowledge the genius of the filmmakers for coming up with such a creation that generated a $ 85 million box-office take. The second movie, while I liked it, abandoned the raw and rough atmosphere of looking like ‘actual footage’. It  felt more like a polished movie with …
review by . March 21, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
** out of ****    Oren Peli's majorly successful "Paranormal Activity" was a found-footage horror movie about a young LA couple - Mica and Katie - who set up cameras all over their house in an attempt to capture what the lady suspects might be ghostly activity. They learned that there was indeed a spirit (and they learned that the hard way), although it wasn't specific to the house; it seemed to follow Katie wherever she went, and we're told that she started having these experiences …
About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #5
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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About this movie



Genre: Horror, Mystery
Release Date: 21 October 2011 (USA)
Screen Writer: Oren Peli, Michael R. Perry
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