When any movie series, specifically of the horror genre, releases a part 3, its generally a money grab that sacrifices all forms of cinematic enjoyment in the process. So is not the case with the third installment in Oren Peli’s “Paranormal Activity” series.
“Paranormal Activity 3” continues the story of the first two movies, and once again is done in the form of a prequel. As part 2 was set in the handful of years leading up to the events of the original, part 3 occurs in 1988; 20 years before central characters Katie and Kristi have their respective ordeals as adults.
Continuing with the found footage style, part 3 does so splendidly with the limitations of ’80s era camcorders, displaying images and sound that are anything other than high definition. I loved how the change is clearly and demonstratively noticeable from the opening scene, set in the present, to the watching of the tapes from 1988.
Unlike the first two movies, part 3 features a male lead. Dennis (Chris Smith) is a wedding videographer, and is now living with single mom Julie (Lauren Bittner), and her two young daughters, Katie and Kristi.
I loved the acting of Chris Smith in the role of Dennis who comes off as a perfectly believable and sympathetic sort. Dennis is juggling the running a struggling business with trying his best to please his girlfriend, and be a father figure to a pair of children that aren’t his own. Likewise, Lauren Bittner is great as Julie, gorgeous, and loving and caring as expected, despite the unusual quirks of her young daughters.
While the first two movies in the series stay away from tangible scares, letting shadow play and strange sounds serve as the primary source of fear, “Paranormal Activity 3” offers a much bigger punch; more ghostly happenings are occurring but the demonic nature is explored in greater depth and done so in a way that still stays on the right side of plausible (f that’s even possible).
Through the lens of Dennis’ camera, we witness young Kristi’s odd behavior as she seems to communicate with an imaginary friend whose always just out of view. Both Jessica Tyler Brown and Chloe Csengery are cute as the children, and also effectively creepy as kids tend to be.
The psychological and anticipatory chills are back as well. Dennis and Julie sleep with their bedroom door slightly ajar, revealing only a small portion of the darkened hallway. One great aspect is Dennis creating a rotating camera to capture activity in multiple rooms. His slow spinning camera is flat out perfect for buildup of suspense and is the main focus of several of the best scenes in the series.
I won’t give anything away, but one particular scene with babysitter Lisa is what horror movies are all about. Comic relief if offered from Dennis’ assistant Randy (Dustin Ingram) who also demonstrates an ability for perfect terrified drama in the Bloody Mary scene.
If I had a complaint it would be the end. Not spoiling, but the last sequence of the movie is noticeably different than every scene before, going back to the start of the very first movie. It’s easily the shark jumping point of the entire series. I literally hated it.
Nevertheless, “Paranormal Activity 3” is a great horror movie. Its a fun continuation of the series, and can work well as a stand alone film for October viewing.
by – Matt DeCristo