‘Paranormal Activity 3’

Paranormal Activity 3 poster

Paranormal Activity 3 (2011) Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. Starring Chris Smith, Lauren Bittner, Chloe Csengery, Jessica Tyler Brown, Dustin Ingram, Hallie Foote.

For last year’s marathon I watched a lame sequel to the moderately scary found footage flick Paranormal Activity. I was not much of a fan of Paranormal Activity 2. It had a couple of high points but took too long to get started, suffered from overuse of a distracting rumbling sound during the “scary” scenes and a ridiculous ending. I held no hopes that the third movie would be any better but it seemed that I had started a tradition of watching one every year so I picked it up anyway. Surprise, surprise, it turns out Paranormal Activity 3 produced a decent thrill ride that scared the crap out of me.

If you bothered to watch the previous film (don’t bother) you may recall that sisters Katie and Kristi briefly discussed some frightening events that took place in their childhood. PA3 takes us back to 1988 to see what happened. And it’s lucky for us that the women in this family are attracted to men who take a notion to film everything. The unlucky fellow this time is wedding videographer Dennis (Chris Smith) who moves in with Julie (Lauren Bittner), the mother of young Katie (Chloe Csengery) and Kristi (Jessica Tyler Brown). It’s Dennis who insists there is a ghost in the house and sets up his cameras to capture the eponymous paranormal activity.

Yes, it’s a found footage movie and in order to enjoy the thrill ride you have to ignore the logic holes and swallow the tropes that come along with the style. Accept that the characters find excuses to tape everything and that they run around with a camera during terrifying ordeals where most people would drop it and run. In PA3 most of the scares are so well crafted that you’ll forget to be bothered by such things.

There’s a clever addition to the stationary camera shots and bouncy handheld wanderings; Dennis sets a camera on an oscillating fan that he dismantles, capturing a panning view of the dining room and kitchen area. It’s this point of view that provides a couple of the most chilling sequences, not to mention the tension that builds as the camera slowly pans to the parts of the house where you anticipate something is lurking.

It’s not all perfect; there is at least one false scare that’s too forced and one shot that looks ridiculous (curse you, cgi!), though we cut away from it quickly. But PA3 avoids the larger problems from the last film; the rumble is there but it’s not as prevalent or loud and the first 40 minutes isn’t full of frustratingly poor scares.

It’s best not to say much more. Check it out. Don’t over think it, don’t look for much in the way of subtext, just enjoy the rollercoaster ride. There’s a fourth one coming out this month, directed by the same team. I hadn’t planned on it before but having enjoyed PA3 so much, I might go check it out this year. It could be a blast to see it in a full movie theater with an audience that’s into it.

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2 Responses to “‘Paranormal Activity 3’”

  1. Michael K. Vaughan Says:

    I have a hard time believing this review. Now I’m going to have to watch it.

  2. […] year Paranormal Activity 3 took me by surprise by scaring the bejesus out of me. I was so thrilled I almost went to the theater to see Paranormal […]

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