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Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)

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Paranormal Activity 3 (2011) Review!Starring Katie Featherston, Sprague Grayden, Christopher Nicholas Smith, Lauren Bittner, Chloe Csengery, Jessica Tyler Brown

Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman


Having seen the final cut of Paranormal Activity 3 and not the one screened during Fantastic Fest, it’s time for us to weigh in with an official review. In 2007 I fell in love with the original Paranormal Activity. Like it or not, it stands as a sterling example of independent filmmaking, proving once and for all that a creative filmmaker with passion can successfully weigh in with the big budget Hollywood fare. When Paranormal Activity 2 was announced, I was as skeptical as anyone. The movie didn’t need a sequel. However, in the end the second film took the events of the first and expanded and explained them perfectly. Lightning struck twice, and once again the now franchise found itself sitting high upon the Halloween box office.

The third film now has the unenviable task of living up to the first two. Let’s face it; the law of averages dictates that by all counts you can only go to the well so many times before it runs dry. Yet, this is a franchise that’s notorious for breaking the rules. How does it fare? I’m happy to say better than anyone could ever have hoped for.

Paranormal Activity 3 is actually a prequel to Part 2, which was already a prequel to the original. The time is 1988, and we’re introduced to Julie (Bittner) and Dennis (Smith), the proud parents of young Katie (Csengery) and Kristi Rey (Brown) (the child counterparts of their adult selves). Dennis runs a videography business out of their home, and Julie is about as cool a mom as you could possibly have. Their lives aren’t perfect, but they’re totally okay with that. In order for these movies to work, they need to strike a tone of authenticity. You need to believe that this is a real family. Everyone does a stellar job of creating that illusion, in fact, even more so than in Part 2. This family is easy to relate to. The dynamic is spot on. Everyone is extremely likable, and as a result you really start feeling for them once the lights go out and night creeps in.

I know what you’re thinking … we’ve seen this before in the last two films. Things start slowly, build up, and then go haywire. Formulaic, right? Wrong. While the series has its signature marks for sure, all of which are retained here, the inventive shooting style on display feels remarkably fresh while it holds you at its mercy, and believe me when I say there are moments in which the tension builds to a completely merciless level. You will find yourself afraid, jumping out of your seat, and white knuckled to the point of exhaustion.

Paranormal Activity 3 answers a few, but not all, of the questions raised by the first two films and in the process takes an even darker turn, thereby raising even more questions and a lot of hell along with them. The movie doesn’t just look to scare you … it toys with you. Gets under your skin. By the time that it all ends, fans of the series will find themselves wanting more immediately. It’s almost as if you’re left with three pieces of a four-piece puzzle. For that we’ll have to wait … and hope.

If you’re not a fan of the first two films, it’s not likely that Paranormal Activity 3 will do much to win you over. These flicks just don’t work for some folks, and that’s understandable. However, for those of us that do enjoy them? This is nothing short of a gift. The action is definitely amped up, the scares come fast and furious, and the overall creep factor is through the damned roof.

It’s amazing that a little found footage flick could end up having such a rich mythology built up around it. That’s a true testament to expert writing and some really ingenious filmmakers.

What we have here is the perfect Halloween treat that will no doubt have legions of folks gasping, screaming, and thinking twice before shutting off the lights. These movies possess the uncanny ability to follow you home and have your house come alive around you while you’re lying there trying in vain to sleep. The scariest modern horror franchise of the last ten years is alive, well, and staring at you from the foot of your bed. Paranormal Activity 3 defies all odds and delivers yet another hellish reason to be afraid of the dark.

4 out of 5

Discuss Paranormal Activity 3 in our comments section below!

Steve Barton

You're such an inspiration for the ways that I will never, ever choose to be.

  • Terminal

    Great review Creepy. I’d give PA3 about four knives. I think it’s better than PA2, which I thought was great before PA3 came along. There’s a lot more explanation toward why Kristi is so important, why Hunter is necessary, and why Katie is victimized by the Demon in PA. Loved it.

  • Uncle Creepy

    Regarding the footage in the trailer not seen in the movie, that’s the filmmakers way of keeping you guys off guard. They didn’t want to give anything away and during the process of this flick decided that they’d film a lot of things and if they didn’t work in the context of the film, they’d put it in the trailer. That’s a great way of keep the scares fresh. Pretty genius, and if you remember right they did pretty much the same thing last year.

    • Sirand

      I wish all movies did that. It’s so great to walk into these movies completely blind even after they’ve hurled all this stuff at you in marketing. It keeps the experience fresh.

      Really dug the flick.

  • ScaryJerry

    Creepier, faster, likable characters – everything part 2 messed up (Yay! No supporting role for a pool cleaner!) Loved this one so much better than part 2. And the filmmakers are either toying with us (or maybe it was heavily re-edited) but 75% of what was in the “official” trailer was nowhere in the film. Oooooooor, perhaps they were showing scenes from part 4. Who knows?

  • kiddcapone

    It’s no secret, I don’t share the ubers of love these PA movies get. Sometimes I wonder if people are paid under the table to overhype these flicks because they just don’t do anything for me. With that being said, PA3 is the best of the bunch so far.

    *spoilers ahead*

    While it wasn’t perfect, I was never bored. The tension was amped up several notches but the ending was extremely predictable. It was clear from the start the mother had something to do with it and the entire sequence at her house turned into The Last Exorcism part 2. Very familiar territory. As soon as you hear cars pulling up, I was like, yep, here comes the other witches (or cult). I was hoping for something more clever. Even the invisible ghost named Toby was too close to the invisible ghost Jody in Amityville Horror. Plus they threw in way too many cheesy jump scares (like the mother with the mask in the closet). These movies are supposed to be better than that, right?

    PA3 also left me very confused. I know they sometimes put deleted scenes in the trailer so not everything is given away, but I can easily remember 5 distinct scenes not in the movie. 1: The mother getting pulled backwards down the hall. 2: Someone getting thrown across the parents bed. 3: The mother throwing water on Toby. 4: The two girls doing Bloody Mary. 5: The little girl jumping off the balcony down the steps. How can they possibly change that much in the final cut? Weird.

    These movies can’t go on much longer. The reasons for cameras around the house and filming shit is getting weak. It definately feels like it jumped the shark. Several scenes had no reason what-so-ever for being recorded yet there it was. “I need to do something to feel productive”…Puhlease. Even when the mother flipped out and said no more filming she allowed the cameras the same very night. It’s kind of ridiculous.

    Paranormal Activity 3 – 3.5 / 5. With all the faults, it still held my interest more than the last 2 and kept me on the edge of my seat for a few scenes. I’ll give it credit for that.

  • Masked Slasher

    Surprised by how much I liked this – it’s actually my favorite entry in the series.

    • un_DOA

      This movie really delivered the scares, but like the last film… there were certain scenes in the trailer that weren’t in the theatrical release. In other words… don’t look for a burning house in this film, because unlike the trailer, you won’t see anything like that in this movie.

  • nonserviam03

    I liked this one better than the second one. It felt like far less of a rehash of the original.

    Oh… and was it just me or was there A LOT of stuff in the trailer that was nowhere in the movie? Like, I know that movies like to use deleted scenes in trailers but if I remember correctly almost the ENTIRE trailer is not in the movie!

  • Designed4Him

    I am a horror movie fan, my mom use to read Stephen King novels to me while she was pregnant with me and took me to the movies to see The Nightmare on Elm Street when I 2. Not many movies scare me but these 2 did; along with Insidious. I don’t scare easily and we have to look at these for what they are and just appreciate the creepiest that they portray in the films.

  • Screamz

    These days, I can’t determine a movie’s worth on whether is scared me or not. Very, very few movies can do that. Rather, I just want to be entertained and if I’m scared in the process, well that’s just a bonus.

    That said, the Paranormal Activity movies just do nothing for me. The second one especially. It was PA 1 light. I’ll pass on this one…well, at least until it’s on HBO or Netflix or something. Then maybe…

  • MagusMaleficus

    I’m in the same boat as Foy when it comes to this franchise: these films do nothing for me. They just don’t scare me. I can recognize the hard work and craftsmanship that went into them (well, the first two, as I have not seen this one), but they just don’t creep me out. I feel like I’m missing something…like I lack a found-footage scare gene.

    • LSD Zombie

      Same here. It pisses me off that I can’t have the same experience that others have had with these movies. I slept like a baby after having seen PA 1 and 2.

      • Vanvance1

        I don’t think serious horror fans gets the same kind of scares as casual viewers. It’s one reason I really enjoy watching a great horror with someone who does jump and get shivers (someone female).

        • Uncle Creepy

          I don’t really think that it matters if you’re a serious or casual fan. Different things scare different people in different ways. Some people approach these and other movies dead set on not being scared and end up ruining it for themselves. Some let hyperbole get the best of them and are so anxious to be scared that they psyche themselves out and then get mad. And some? Well some just take the ride, man.

          • MagusMaleficus

            But you can’t make that kind of assumption about everyone. I had zero expectations going into the first one, and I was hopeful the sequel would do what the first couldn’t: scare me. And I’ll still see this one, and I hope the third time is the charm. I’m not overly hyped or mad. I want to be scared.

          • nazo

            Paranormal Activity isn’t a franchise, it’s an elaborate Rorschach test.

        • nonserviam03

          Yeah, that doesn’t really have anything to do with it. A lot of the guys have said in Dinner For Fiends that the first PA scared them, and if you run a horror website, you’re probably a serious horror fan.

          I consider myself a serious horror fan. I’ve seen more horror movies than most of my friends know exist. Paranormal Activity scared me. In fact, it’s the only movie that I can recall doing so since I was a kid. There have been moments here or there (like the ending to REC), but this is the only one that really did it for me on a whole.

          I look forward to the third entry.

        • Gus Bjork

          That’s what I thought when I took my girlfriend to the first one. She’s not a horror fan at all and scares quite easy. The first didn’t effect her what so ever though. I’m the first guy in line when it comes to wanting horror films to move away from extreme sadistic gore and torture and bring back suspense, character and story but but I’m still bewildered over how some people find PA scary.

          • Vanvance1

            I would really love to a see a return to sadistic gore and torture. I’ve been waiting for the next Inside/Martyrs/Frontiers for years now. Oh French directors, why have your forsaken me?