Updated: Check out the Official Paranormal Activity 3 Review.
Starring Katie Featherston, Sprague Grayden, Mark Fredrichs, Lauren Bittner
Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman
In a classic case of dramatic irony, the audience witnessing the first ever unveiling of Paramount’s Paranormal Activity 3 at a midnight screening tonight at Fantastic Fest knew exactly what was in store for the cursed family of the last two installments. After the phenomenon of the first film and the continued success of its sequel, we know the formula much better than the unsuspecting mother and father of Katie and Kristi Rey, the two daughters that have been plagued by a demonic spirit since childhood.
Going back in time, the third entry lands confidently in the era of VHS and camcorders, adding a sense of nostalgia to a growing mythology centered around a terrorized family. Katie Featherston and Sprague Grayden briefly reprise their roles as the sisters from the first two entries, but it’s their younger counterparts that have the spotlight this time around.
Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (Catfish) quickly establish the suspension of disbelief needed when you’re the third film of a franchise that depends on someone constantly filming even when they should probably be running for the exit. Katie and Kristi Rey’s father is a video editor who begins to set up cameras after hearing strange bumps in the night – and he’s justified in doing so, especially when Kristi Rey wakes up at night talking cryptically to a being she calls Tobey. One camera is set up in the kids’ bedroom, the other in Mommy and Daddy’s, and in a stroke of genius, another camera is positioned on top of a rigged oscillating fan moving from the kitchen into the living room and back …
The suspense built up as the camera slowly pans back and forth pays off beautifully in a scene involving a bow head babysitter who probably won’t be coming over to watch the kids anytime soon.
The fun family moments get taken away little by little – as we’ve seen before – until the proceedings ramp up to the point where Katie is constantly abused, a toy closet becomes a lair where demons lurk, and an innocent game of Bloody Mary turns into a frightening wake-up call.
Needless to say, the family is convinced, but they remain unaware of the deeper evil at work here. Just as the second film expanded on the haunted world of Paranormal Activity, this third entry twists and turns down a road few are likely to see coming. Without delving any further, the fabric of this story is woven much much deeper than you might imagine, staying focused on the devil we know while opening up the series to further possibilities.
Once the familiar road is trafficked and things start picking up, Paranormal Activity 3 reminds you why you’ll be certain to pick up a ticket and revisit this world come Halloween: Even though you think you’ve seen it before, it re-energizes the haunted house formula and continues to invent new ways to scare you. Slow, deliberate POV shots once again put you in the place of the reluctant investigator, but the payoffs are much more potent and shocking this time around, proving that this franchise has a lot more story to tell.
If this trend continues, the Paranormal Activity series will serve as the document of a twisted family tree that still has many branches worth researching. But can we please have more Katie Featherston in the next one?
With Paranormal Activity 3 lightning strikes three times, delivering twice the scares of its predecessors! Pure potent fear.
4 out of 5