Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)

Who’s seen the first two Paranormal Activity films? Not you? Don’t worry, this is a prequel! Set in 1988 when the protagonists from both Paranormal Activity 1 & 2 were little ‘uns, we follow their family as everyday life turns from normal to scary to lethal as young Kristi’s imaginary friend Toby stops being imaginary and becomes something much, much worse…

In a brief prologue, we see adult Katie (Katie Featherston - from Paranormal Activity 1) dump a box-full of VHS tapes in the basement of her sister Kristi (Sprague Grayden – from Paranormal Activity 2) asking her to look after them. Then – in more found footage – we find out these tapes have been stolen following a break-in where nothing else was taken. Spooky. These tapes are what make up Paranormal Activity 3.

Initially I asked the question: where did the tapes comes from? Did the demon post them to Paramount Pictures?! Then – after 85 minutes – I wished they hadn’t been found at all. Paranormal Activity 3 is decent enough, with some superbly chilling moments, but the abysmally lazy ending made the entire film stink of stupidity and wasted time. This is a decent and scary horror, but the films before it are much much better.

Young Kristi Ray (Jessica Tyler Brown) has an imaginary friend called Toby. No one else can see him – including her sister Katie (Chloe Csengery) – whilst her mum Julie (Lauren Bittner) and her new partner Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith) see it as “just a phase”. Being a freelance wedding video-er means Dennis has a lot of cameras, so when strange noises start occurring in their new home, he sets up “surveillance” to see what they are. Quickly Dennis realizes something odd is going on with Toby, and as he continues to film he witnesses some seriously unexplained phenomena surrounding Kristi…

Having flip-reversed the “sceptic / believer” roles from the previous two films, it was interesting seeing the man of the house setting up cameras specifically to catch the ghost on screen. It made it a much more believable dynamic from Paranormal Activity 1 and 2, where the man-folk came across as being absolute bastards. In Paranormal Activity 3 our unbeliever is the mother, whose scepticism comes from an inherent need to protect her daughters from harm – mental as well as physical. They make for a great family, believable and likeable.

Acting wise Paranormal Activity 3 excels all-round. The two girls (Chloe Csengery and Jessica Tyler Brown) are excellent, the adults superb and even the bit part players – the unlucky babysitter (Johanna Braddy) and Dennis’s mate Randy (Dustin Ingram) – are pitch-perfect and work incredibly well within the dynamic of the story. Perhaps only the grandma fails to compel, but that’s the writers fault for making such a ridiculous and clichéd character.

Before going into the fundamental problem with Paranormal Activity 3, one of the very minor issues is that Paranormal Activity 3 never really feels like it’s filmed in the 80’s. Apart from the babysitter’s awesome 80’s get up and the creepiest Teddy Ruxpin you’ll ever see, the house and everything else seems modern – even the dialogue feels very now. Perhaps it’s the lack of 80’s music or the always-generic clothing the main characters wear, but I never felt I was watching something genuinely filmed in the 80’s. Where were the day-glo shorts?!

Paranormal Activity 3 is scary. Bloody scary, in fact, with some jaw-dropping moments of violence and suspense. The demon this time has a physical presence and it’s even more powerful and audacious than before; picking people up, writing on walls, destroying kitchens. The beast is malevolent and insane and it’s nerve-rattling stuff. Unfortunately all this fear and tension leads us to the final act, where a complete change of location ushers in what feels like a complete change of genre, from the paranormal to… well, I won’t spoiler it. The ending may be unexpected, but it’s awfully designed and feels lazily tacked on, making a terrifying horror into a laughably bad cliché.

Overall Paranormal Activity 3 is decent. The acting and characters are superb, the direction solid, but the final act is so woefully inept it spoils the whole experience. Enjoyable, bloody scary, but massively flawed. And where did the missing tapes come from?!

Additional side note: this trailer is a fucking LIE – LINK. There is literally no moment when both Kristi and Julie stand in front of a mirror and play Bloody Mary. This scene never happens within the context of the film. This is a really odd choice by the marketers as it dragged me kicking and screaming back to reality when I realized it wasn’t happening and I was – 100% – watching something Hollywood built.

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

3 Comments on “Paranormal Activity 3”

  1. Rachet says:

    That’s not true, the two girls did play bloody mary in front of the mirror, however no women appeared after they left. A door opened slightly in the back and slammed.

    • Scullion says:

      Hi Rachet – in the UK theatrical release the two girls NEVER played the mirror game together – it was Randy and one of the girls, and door slamming fun ensued.

      Perhaps you’ve seen a different release? I know the original Paranormal Activity had three different endings (UK, USA and DVD release versions), so maybe this is a similar thing here – with different versions released in different countries and different formats.

      Whatever the case, the version I saw in the UK (at the Hammersmith Cineworld, to be precise!) did not feature a scene involving the two girls in front of the mirror.

      I makes me wonder if this found footage is actually genuine…

  2. admin says:

    I actually thought this was superior to the second movie. It made me jump more anyway. Although, I agree about the trailer……to a point. I think if they’d included everything that was shown in the full UK trailer then there would have been no surprises in the actual film so I’m glad they mixed it up, it felt more unexpected.

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