Editor’s Note: We recently reviewed Paranormal Activity 3 during Fantastic Fest – review here. Since we were told that the version at Fantastic Fest wasn’t finished (“mostly finished except for some sound mixing”), we wanted to bring you a review of the version of the film that is being released theatrically. However, it does seem like both versions are the same.
It’s October and a few years ago, it would be another year for Saw. However, in 2009, Paramount overtook the throne with the film they originally were going to remake until they released it via a grassroots campaign. That film was Paranormal Activity. Now, it has become a profitable franchise. Instead of violent gory death traps, we are treated to a voyeuristic view of stuff that goes bump in the night. The idea of this stuff happening while you sleep is probably the main reason why many people love these films.
I’ll say right off the bat that I wasn’t the hugest fan of Paranormal Activity and I thought the sequel did some things better than its predecessor but still failed in the same respect that the first one did. The problem that I had with the previous films is they were more like great set pieces or scare scenes as opposed to a complete and cohesive piece of horror. In some aspect, that is what works for the past films. The anticipation of the night scenes is what kept everyone on edge. Now, obviously, when you have a successful film, a sequel is made and as long as the cash keeps rolling in, you will see a new entry in the “franchise”. In afterthought, maybe that is why Paranormal Activity 2 bothered me. It felt like it tried to materialize a bigger story out of a simple film. Obviously, this is only going to work if it all comes together in the end. Paranormal Activity 3 is far from the end yet it does a good job of connecting some of the dots that the sequel before it set up.
Paranormal Activity 3 starts prior to Paranormal Activity 2 and plants the seed of how this new entry ties into the whole “story” quite quickly. Paranormal Activity 3 is a prequel except for these beginning scenes. The film, after the set up in the timeline, takes place in 1988 and we witness young Katie (later played by Katie Featherston in Paranormal Activity 1 & 2) and Kristi (later played by Sprague Grayden in Paranormal Activity 2) and their childhood with their experience on what was vaguely addressed in the previous films. Their mom’s boyfriend is a wedding videographer who in turn uses his cameras to try to document the weird happenings in the house.
What Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (Catfish) do in this sequel is probably the best entry in this series. They break up the monotony that was starting to form from the first two entries and execute some scares outside of the all too familiar blue tinted night shots. Don’t worry, those shots are still there, but if a house is haunted, stuff is bound to happen at any time during the day. Unlike the other two films, this entry introduces characters that you care more for. The actors seem more genuine and believable. Also, with the film taking place in 1988, as long as you can get over the technical aspects – it’s not shot in 4:3 and the image looks too good for a VHS camcorder – you will notice that the set design of the house and the clothing is pretty accurate. It is obvious that there was a lot of attention to detail to make sure that simple things like props and hair styles wouldn’t break you out of believing this was shot in the late 80′s.
There are a lot of great camera setups in this entry. Like I mentioned earlier, while the blue tinted night scenes are still here, the majority of the scares take place in broad daylight or using a makeshift panning camera shot to cover two rooms using a oscillating fan.
One of the bigger problems I had with the film was essentially the film not really explaining some of the things that were addressed in the other two films. There are some inconsistencies between what is done in this film and what was vaguely mentioned in the previous entries. However, Paranormal Activity 3 is a step forward unlike Paranormal Activity 2.
The scenes are more potent and don’t feel like filler. The scare set pieces are better done and this film feels like it is adding elements to solve what really is happening with Kristi, Katie and their bloodline/family. It is obvious that after this film they will probably jump in the timeline and try to follow Kristi’s son from Paranormal Activity 2 because I’m not too sure where else they can go. Paranormal Activity 3 is the best entry in the series.