Paranormal Activity 3

star2 star1 star1


Directors: Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost

Writer: Christopher B. Landon

Producers: Oren Peli, Jason Blum, Akiva Goldsman, and Steven Schneider

Main Cast:
Christopher Nicholas Smith – Dennis
Lauren Bittner – Julie
Chloe Csengery – Young Katie
Jessica Tyler Brown – Young Kristi
Rey Dustin Ingram – Randy
Hallie Foote – Grandma Lois
Johanna Braddy  – Lisa
Sprague Grayden – Kristi Rey
Katie Featherston – Katie
Brian Boland –  Daniel Rey

Running time: 84 Minutes

Rating: R (violence, language, brief sexuality and drug use)

Year of Release: 2011 

To sum up: Using even more lost video tape footage, two little girls are the focus of this film which deals with some sort of activity. Is it normal activity? Why, no! It's Paranormal! These are the same girls that were the focus of the two previous films, also conveniently called Paranormal Activity

Alice: “Bloody Mary. Bloody Mary. Bloody Mary.”


         "The American Human Society monitored all human actions. No Humans were harmed in the making of this film."
         With its slow, panning cameras displaying mostly grainy images, the cinematic world is presented with the third installment of the Paranormal Activity film series, as we head to the theater and shell out our cash in an effort to get the living hell scared out of us (or into us). But with all of its scares, high tension, sudden jolts, and relentless atmosphere, the most shocking thing about this film is that this third installment maintains almost the same level of tension that its two predecessors did. Almost.

         I say "almost" because it must be noted that even though I would term this film a successful continuation of the series, it is probably best to end it on this high note, since ongoing audience familiarity with the film's techniques will take much of the surprise out of many of the scares. (Don't worry. We know Hollywood won't let a good cash cow go to waste.) It may be telling that in an effort to mitigate that familiarity, the film chooses to introduce its supernatural elements sooner and from that start, amp up the intensity of those elements. But praise must be given for producing a quality horror film that comfortably joins two previous films that have consistently achieved high intensity scares.

         Keeping it within the family and focusing on the two sisters of the first two installments, Paranormal 3 decides to take us all the way back to 1988, and show what exactly happened to the two sisters, Katie and Kristi, when they were children; events that were only hinted at conversationally in the previous films.

         Julie (Lauren Bittner) is the recently divorced mother of Katie (Chloe Csengery) and Kristi (Jessica Tyler Brown), two girls who will grow up and go to Hollywood to be the stars in a fabulous movie series called Paranormal Activity. They all live together in a large house with Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith), Julie's boyfriend. If there is one thing to be learned from this film series, it's that there must be a familial genetic predisposition to videotape everything, because Dennis makes his living as a videographer, editing weddings and other social events. This is very convenient since the films are based on viewing "lost footage". After a sudden earthquake, Dennis notices something very odd in the footage that his camera caught. Convinced it's supernatural, he excitedly sets up cameras around the house in the hopes of getting more strange occurrences on tape.

         Meanwhile, Julie, not buying any of Dennis' story for a second, tries to go about her normal life, and simply be a good mother to her two girls. Both Kristi and Katie are cute, normal girls except that Kristi has a new friend named Toby who may or may not be imaginary. So, with the cameras constantly recording, they quickly learn that their normal lives are going to turn surreal as the incidents become steadily worse.

         Sound familiar? It should because it's the exact same setup as the previous films (as well as Poltergeist, The Exorcist, and a slew of other supernatural stories). But the filmmakers have again managed to keep the story engaging enough that we care what happens to the characters. Unlike most horror films where the people exist only to be cows for the slaughter, this film isn't afraid to take the time to let their characters develop into more than simple types by showing their ordinary lives and helping to enhance the realism of the film.

         Key to this are the two little girls, Kristi and Katie. In horror, with their natural innocence and trusting natures, putting children in danger can go a long way towards eliciting audience sympathy. Kristi, who looks to be a near perfect look-alike to her adult counterpart from the previous film, strikes just the right blend of aloof playfulness at having an invisible friend, while at the same time showing a natural cautiousness towards the sinister overtones that her friend, Toby, conveys. Katie comes across equally genuine as the slightly older sister who displays a rivalry typical of siblings but at the same time, the deep bond that only close sisters can have. The parents Julie and Dennis come across equally honest. Once again the film benefits from the actors being permitted to essentially ad-lib their lines, letting their natural instincts play the scenes in a realistic way; in short reacting as people would in the real world, with a combined sense of giddy curiosity that eventually devolves into pure terror. 

         As with the previous two films, in this third installment, the key to the film's horror success lies in that favorite film school term: verisimilitude; of which the dictionary term is, "the appearance or semblance of truth; likelihood; probability." In short, how real or how believable are the events we see unfolding on the screen? Without taking one wit away from the brilliance of The Exorcist or Poltergeist, those films are presented using the more conventional cinematic format, examples of which include music, close-ups, wide shots, and the omniscient storytelling device of following characters into moments where they are alone. But, as with the first two films, Paranormal 3 maintains its realism by presenting a very authentic mundaneness. It once again relies on the "found footage" plot device that is currently so in vogue. I've never been a fan of this style because it draws too much attention to itself and feels even more staged than a traditional shooting style (to say nothing of the overly shaking camera). But Paranormal 3 does it well, presenting an honesty that has the same feel of all those YouTube ghost videos. And because of that YouTube mundaneness, it comes across as something that we could encounter in the real world, and ironically adds to its realism. But what I found to be the spookiest thing about this found 1980's footage was that it was somehow filmed in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio with 5.1 surround sound.

         Oren Peli and crew have proven themselves as masters of this style of horror, so that from the very start of the film, it is dripping with tension. We know that something very bad is going to go down, we just don't know when or how. They know how to make use of sudden shocks and jolting noises, but most importantly, they know how to let the palpable silence of each scene ratchet up the tension to the utmost, as our stomachs twist into knots waiting for the inevitable. And if the film's tools are now reaching a point of familiarity, be comforted in knowing that they are still effective.

         This was a lot of spooky fun and well worth your time.


         Engage in this Activity.



(2011. Reviewed by Frederick Holbrook)


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