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 411mania » Movies » Film Reviews

Paranormal Activity 3 Review [2]
Posted by Joseph Lee on 10.24.2011


*Christopher Nicholas Smith as Dennis
*Lauren Bittner as Julie
*Chloe Csengery as Young Katie
*Jessica Tyler Brown as Young Kristi
*Katie Featherston as Katie
*Sprague Grayden as Kristi

Story: In 1988, young sisters Katie and Kristi befriend an invisible entity who resides in their home.

Trivia: This film was directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, who broke onto the scene with their documentary Catfish last year.

Before this review gets started, I should say that if you don't love the first two Paranormal Activity movies, then you're not going to like Paranormal Activity 3. It follows the same formula (more or less) and the same type of story while mixing up the scares. But if you are a fan of this series, then you'll love the latest installment. As for myself, I had the original as my favorite horror film of 2009, and the second, while suffering from some issues, managed to hold its own. I don't get excited for many mainstream horror films these days (and with the current track record, why should I?), but I was ready for this paranormal prequel.

Yes, this is a prequel. Instead of following up on the ending from the second entry, we're going back in time eighteen years from the the first film. This one explains what exactly Katie was talking about when she said she had went through this before. In some prequels, it's pretty obvious what's going to happen, such as The Thing. If you've seen the Carpenter version, you can guess the fates of everyone in the prequel. However, with this series, a prequel only tells us that Kristi and Katie will make it, but what will happen to them before the end, as well as what will happen to their parents is up in the air.

The movie opens with adult Katie putting a box of video tapes in the basement of adult Kristi. Then, when the house is trashed in part two, the box is the only thing missing. That sets the stage to go back to the eighties where we meet a new family, with our lead characters now much younger. Kristi has an invisible friend named Toby and if you aren't suspicious about that then you haven't been watching these movies long. At the same time, things start getting weird and Dennis (Smith) decides to use the cameras from his wedding recording job to film the supernatural events.

Paranormal Activity 3 differs from the other two in that it moves slowly for a shorter amount of time. When the demon finally begins his overt terrorism of the family, it gets a lot more intense and all hell breaks loose. For those who were bored by the original, claiming that nothing happened (it's called building suspense, for the record), you may enjoy this one more. The demon gets absolutely insane towards the end and things do happen. It's not quite the same as the past entries, but it also works in that regard. By this point we know it's a demon and we know what it's capable of. Might as well not play the cat and mouse game in that case.

Without continuing to compare it to its predecessors, how does the film stand on its own? It's just a solid, and more importantly, fun horror movie. This is actually the first of the series that I viewed in a theatre, having watched the other two on DVD in my own home. It's a much better experience sitting among like-minded individuals who gasp and jump at the intended scares and allow themselves to be carried along for the ride.

The movie also features some of the better acting in entire series, which admittedly has always been one of the worst parts about it. Yes, Micah was annoying and the father in Paranormal Activity 2 was the same for completely different reasons. But I think we have found a suitable lead male in the form of Christopher Nicholas Smith, who plays Dennis as the epitome of an everyman. He's not overly skeptical, he's not an idiot. He just notices the activity early and wishes to record it to get proof and find out what the entity wants to get rid of it. The audience already knows what it wants, but Dennis is a lot more proactive than the men in the last two films.

The best acting comes from the two little girls, because it doesn't seem like they are acting. I suspect that outside of setting up some of the special effects shots, they might have went "method" on this and just ad-libbed with the girls. The bulk of their material doesn't feel scripted. It probably was, but what matters is that it doesn't come across that way. Jessica Tyler Brown in particular really holds her own. She's cute in some scenes and even a little creepy in others. I'd be interesting in seeing what she could do in a more standard type of film.

The special effects are really put to the test here as this employs the most of them. Outside of one shot at the beginning and another at the end, it looks as though most of them were done practically. At the very least, one could see how they could be done practically. This movie uses special effects to play with audience expectations, and the effects in general are very, very good. Once again, compare the effects used here with something like last weekend's The Thing and there is huge difference in quality and effectiveness.

But there are some minor problems. First of all, I didn't like the finale. The story had to progress and technically introducing the new twist makes sense, but I just found it goofy and didn't think the film had earned it. I suspect the end of this movie will draw a few comparisons to last year's The Last Exorcism, but thankfully this one isn't quite as over the top. There still is that feeling of dread that the film likes to employ, but it's almost overshadowed by the silliness of that twist.

However, it doesn't detract from the fact that Paranormal Activity 3 is another solid entry in the franchise and overall a very fun horror film to watch. It retains some of what made the first film great (the slow burn and building of tension) while also attempting to go the other way and get a little crazy towards the finale. It all goes back to my original statement. If you're not a fan of the first two, you won't like this. If you are a fan, then you'll probably love it like I did. To quote 411's J.D. Dunn: "More of the same, but damn they're good at it."

The 411Paranormal Activity 3 is a definite step up from the last film, but it doesn't quite match the heights of the original. If the original film was all about subtlety, this one is more of the mindset to throw everything at its audience in an attempt to scare. Sometimes it doesn't work, but a lot of the time it does, and that makes this prequel another solid entry in a growing franchise. This is how you do horror, you make it scary. Bring on Part 4!
Final Score:  8.0   [ Very Good ]  legend


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