“Paranormal Activity 3” Movie Review

     Last year on this exact weekend, I wrote about the very scary “Paranormal Activity 2” and said I was getting goose bumps just thinking about it as I wrote.  As the year has gone by, and the inevitable announcement of the third film came and went, I too have had much skepticism as to whether or not Oren Peli and company could effectively extend the life of the gimmick these films have used for yet another sequel.  I will no longer question this franchise.  By bringing in “Catfish” directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, the Paranormal Activity franchise is alive and well, delivering the scares and chills you’ve come to expect along with plenty you won’t.  The bottom line is “Paranormal Activity 3” is a very good horror film, containing all of the elements needed for a scare fest of epic proportions.

     Marketing has been a key for all three of the Paranormal films.  For the third time around, the marketing team put together a number of highly effective trailers and TV spots that contain footage not used in the film.  Think of that for a second.  They had so many great moments to choose from that they didn’t need to use any of the actual film’s footage in the advertising!  That’s amazing to me.  Even the movie poster shows a camera angle of the girl’s room that is not consistent with the angle used in the film.

     In PA3, we are treated to a prequel, intent on explaining just how sisters Katie and Kristi got so screwed up in the first place.  No such question remains unanswered this time.  We are taken back to September of 1988 where as children, Katie and Kristi begin having encounters with an invisible entity that lives in their home.  Their mother’s live in boyfriend, Dennis, is a wedding videographer and decides to set up cameras throughout the house in an attempt to explain some of the noises he’s been hearing at night.  One camera is set up in his and Julie’s (the mother) bedroom, one in the girl’s bedroom, and later in the film one is set up down stairs.

     As is the case in the first two films, the third film depends heavily on a slow build of tension.  You’ve been through this before, so you know something is coming, eventually.  This, I would presume, was a major challenge to the filmmakers as they attempted to breath new life into the franchise.  One of the ways they’ve done this is with the aforementioned down stairs camera.  Dennis and one of his video buddies constructs a tripod that pans from left to right and back by using the motorized base of a floor fan.  This means we are given a view of both the living room and the kitchen, but not at the same time.  The cameras in the first two films were always fixed with one view, this new twist really adds to the tension as the viewer assumes something is now coming just as the camera pans away.  The timing the directors use in these scenes is impeccable.

     It wouldn’t be right for me to actually go through any of the many great sequences in this film and break them down.  I will just tell you this.  Paranormal Activity 3 does not suffer from the same tired premise that many of the Halloween or Saw films did during their third time around.  This is not a case of going back to the well, so to speak, rather the filmmakers have taken an established premise and delved into its past quite effectively.  Its a story that needs to be told, in other words.  We’re not talking about a slasher film, where the creative team must top the last film with new and inventive ways for their killer to mangle people.  Remember, you will never actually see the killer in Paranormal Activity 3 and the people involved are defenseless to this very unwelcome ghost.  Or is it welcome after all?  See the film and you will find out. GRADE: B+