Paranormal Activity 3 is a 2011 found-footage horror movie and is the third in the Paranormal Activity franchise. Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (Catfish), and starring Christopher Nicholas Smith and Lauren Bittner (Bride Wars), as well as Chloe Csengery and Jessica Taylor Brown as the young Featherston sisters. The film is set in 1988 and serves as a prequel to the first two Paranormal Activity instalments.
Billed as being the movie in which you would "Discover how the activity began", the film follows Julie (Bittner), her daughters Katie and Christie and Dennis, Julie's new partner. As we’re aware from the first 2 films, the girls have been haunted by a malevolent poltergeist all their lives. PA3 reveals the origin of these hauntings via an old VHS tape discovered by the adult sisters. Rather conveniently, Dennis is a wedding videographer, which means he has all the equipment to document the ghostly happenings as they occur. As the film wears on, Dennis is able to capture the activity as it intensifies, leading to a revelatory climax supposedly explaining the true meaning behind the haunting.
Personally, I’m a big fan of the found-footage format and the original movie and with Schulman and Joost on board, I had sky high expectations. Therefore, it disappoints me to say that Paranormal Activity 3 is not even worth the cheap celluloid that it's supposed to be recorded on and is a thorough waste of 83 minutes of your life. Perhaps the biggest gripe I have with the film is it’s continuity with the rest of the franchise. It is an insult to the viewers' intelligence to propose that the characters of the first 2 films have absolutely no specific recollection or knowledge of the events of this film. It is the sort of retrofitting that saved the second film from becoming tedious and nonsensical that makes this film seem quite ridiculous. At the opening of the film we see the adult sisters discovering the tape, then some activity happens, and the tape is stolen (presumably by the ghost). If the tape has been swiped by a poltergeist then how on earth are we coming to view it? A simple police investigation graphic would have filled in this gaping plot-hole, as was present in the other films.
I defended the first film with terminal intensity when people said it was 90 minutes of waiting for a door to slam. I even stuck up for the second film when it was largely a rehash of the same scares, but three time is most definitely not the charm. There are no attempts to take the franchise in a different direction (unless you count the unconvincing 80s setting) and nothing in the way of new or original scares. At one point the ghost even appears under a white sheet appearing to pose for the camera! Combine this with the infuriating ending, and you get the impression that Paranormal Activity 3 is somewhat of a parody of it’s predecessors (Scary Movie 900 perhaps).
2011 wasn’t a great year for found-footage horror (Apollo 18 and Atrocious being notable failures) but this doesn’t necessarily mean that the end is near. Unfortunately, it seems a fourth Paranormal Activity film is already underway. The only for this is the profitability of the format as, regardless of what I think, this movie was one of the most profitable openings of the year. This mirrors the success of the first film as the most profitable horror movie of all time but the difference is...that was a great movie that redefined the genre and this is a boring, repetitive and predictable way to spend an evening. There are plenty of great found-footage movies out there and this is certainly not one of them.
1 Star *
What did you think of Paranormal Activity 3? Were you as disappointed?