Usually, by the time you reach the third movie in a series, the law of diminishing returns is in full effect. However, Paranormal Activity 3 manages to not only rise above its predecessor, but is also a pretty effective film in its own right.
When we say the film is effective, I think you need to understand how we view these movies. To us here at FGSG, the Paranormal movies play much like an old haunted house ride – there’s lots of jumps, and while you’re on the ride you’re having fun getting scared. You’re on it specifically to get scared. In PA3, the movie plays out much like that kind of ride, with a few twists from the other two films that gives it a bit of its own voice. If the constant screaming of people in the packed house we saw it in is any indication, it seems to have succeeded as a scary Halloween-time thrill ride.
It’s hard to review this without spoilers, so we won’t say too much. The film is set in the 80s, looking back on Katie and Kristi (the sisters featured in PA1 and PA2, respectively) as children, and their first encounters with the entity that has followed them their whole lives.
Some of the scares were really fun – particularly a few kitchen scares that were both original and creepy. The young actors playing Katie and Kristi give believable performances – younger sister Kristi is definitely creepier, especially when talking to her invisible “friend” Tobey just out of frame. The film goes back to hand held cameras set up in each room (with one on the base of an oscillating fan, which I thought was a nice way to change it up a little), leaving behind the security cameras of PA2. But even though they technically return to form, this movie isn’t a cookie cutter of either film. It does manage to give an interesting backstory for the girls and their family. The last third of the film is a nice departure from form, and I think is the most effective part of the movie as a whole.
I guess we’re all going to have to get used to the fact that the PA trailers have NOTHING to do with the actual film (excluding PA1). They are deliberately misleading, showing footage that never appears in the film. PA3 seems to have about 5 seconds of actual footage from the movie in the trailer, which is bullshit. They can do what they want, but I think promising your audience one thing and then never coming through is a mistake. I still liked the movie I saw, but that doesn’t change the fact that there are some major plot points int he trailer that never show up, and in this case it really changes the vibe of the whole film, and that’s a crappy thing to do to your viewers.
PA3 is a good scary movie – it won’t stay with you for weeks after, but it’ a good movie and that delivers some jolts and jumps for Halloween. Sometimes, that’s good enough.