*Editor’s note: It was told to us prior to the film that it was not fully complete and that they were still working on the sound. I will say that it appears fully complete, but some change could possibly be made later.
Following the death of the Saw franchise (good riddance), Paramount has set up a new series to capitalize on the horror-loving crowd that rises from the grave every Halloween. The Paranormal series has not only become a recent mainstay in the horror community, but the first film re-invigorated general audiences with its word-of-mouth popularity. Using little CGI, prominent sound effects, seemingly normal families, and a few hand-held camcorders, Oren Peli, who has gone from writer/director to simply just co-writing and producing the sequels, has started a new mythology that all began with just a slightly swinging door in a bedroom at night.
Paranormal Activity 3 sets up the film with a few scenes that bring you up to date from the previous films. Then the film gets off and running. Katie and Kristie are the two girls whose houses become haunted (and much more) in parts one and two. Here, we see them as young girls in 1988. The days of big hair, unicorn pictures on the wall, and Teddy Ruxpin; who makes a couple of frightening appearances. If their parents, or at least their mother, look familiar it is because Katie Featherstone (the older Katie from the original) returns playing the mother of the two. Conveniently, the father is a wedding videographer equipped with all the cutting edge recorders and editing software of the 80′s (the days before Final- Cut Pro). This comes in handy when the spooky stuff begins. What follows is a series of events that includes a mysterious friend to Kristie named Tobie, weird cryptic drawings on the wall, and a game of “Bloody Mary” that they will soon regret.
Paranormal Activity 3 is an extremely creepy sequel that not only enhances the story of the original but increases the level of scares. The biggest complaint many had with the second film, including myself, is that the shocking scenes were too similar to the original. After seeing swinging chandeliers so many times, eliciting any type of reaction from the audience is hard. Not to mention the fact that many also had a disconnect with the rich, snobby family of the second. Thankfully this film wastes little time on setting up the characters and approaches the visual scares in a new light. You do connect with the two impressionable girls who are played perfectly by the talented young actresses. Katie Featherstone is a welcome return as well. Yet, let’s get back to the real bread and butter of this series: The scares. They still begin in subtle ways that build to shocking images and very memorable sequences. In-lieu of a slower build, the directing duo quickly progress into territory that recalls Poltergeist. A sequence involving kitchen appliances caused audience members clapping with glee after jumping in fright. Another reason that Paranormal Activity 3 works so well for fans of the series is how they weave a creepy mythology that connects with the two previous films while also opening a door to a whole new mysterious world that is only fully understood until the incredible final ten minutes.
At the end of the sleepless nights filled with shadowy figures and loud crashes in the distance, critics will say that the film doesn’t seem as fresh the third time around. They will say that the characters aren’t as developed as the original film’s couple. Finally, they will say that there’s not an engaging plot. However, the one thing that stands as a constant in all of the films: Their ability to scare the audience. Gone this time is the overuse of noise scares and subtle shifts of doors and hanging lights. Add to this a comical character named Randy and a unique video gimmick that includes mounting a camera on a broken fan, and you have a far superior sequel that you might not have expected. Paranormal Activity 3 amps up the tension and pushes the visuals scares into new territory. For once in the series, “the evil” hinted at in the previous films makes is presence known. As a result, this third entry in what could have been a sinking franchise diverts its attention from taking itself too serious and creates a non-stop, fun trip through a very scary haunted house.