Paranormal Activity 3 Netflix Streaming DVD | Blu-ray
Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman
Starring Chris Smith, Lauren Bittner, Chloe Csengery, Katie Featherston, Jessica Tyler Brown, Sprague Grayden, Hallie Foote, Dustin Ingram
Originally Released: October 21, 2011
As a horror fan, it seems to be increasingly problematic to find a new film in the genre that impresses me. There have been several good releases over the last few years, but it seems they are drowned amidst the mediocre attempts. Paranormal Activity 3 does not tumble into any shade of mediocrity, in fact, it’s a shining example of a good, solid horror story that pays homage to its influences and delivers on the frights it promises without over relying on the stereotypical bloody gore shock value.
In point of fact, the third chapter of Paranormal Activity is not only of a high standard of excellence, it actually eclipses the previous two films, quickly having become the best of the series – an extreme rarity for franchises with more than a couple releases.
Set in 1988, Paranormal Activity 3 serves as a prequel to the first movies, expanding on the multiple back story threads brought up in the original film and its first sequel. Katie (Katie Featherston), the main character from the first film, and her sister Kristi (Sprague Grayden) from the sequel make short appearances at the beginning to provide some context as Katie brings a box of old VHS tapes to Kristi’s house to store.
Following the short cameo, we begin viewing the contents of the VHS tapes that document the backstory / history of the events that young Katie (Chloe Csengery) and young Kristi (Jessica Tyler Brown) experienced as kids that act as the catalyst for the events in the other films. Their mother Julie (Lauren Bittner) has moved into a new home with her boyfriend Dennis (Chris Smith), who is a videographer running his own business, predominantly shooting at weddings and parties.
The curious paranormal activity begins manifesting itself with Kristi having chats with an imaginary friend called Toby. An earthquake Dennis catches on film seems to unearth something demonic about and/or within and/or alongside Toby, with a dust-covered apparition caught on the same videotape. Curious about the anomalous appearance in the tape, Dennis decides to place some of his video camera around the house in attempt to capture more stuff on film.
Analogous in style to the first two movies, the VHS footage begins to reveal creepier and creepier moments, with many scenes bringing you deeper into the contextual framing of the family’s story. As Dennis continues to study the tapes and conduct research with his business partner, fellow Videographer and Editor Randy Rosen (Dustin Ingram), they and the family fall into an unexplainable demonic haunting that rivals that of the mythologies of films such as Poltergeist and The Amityville Horror.
Plot-wise, Paranormal Activity 3 is a lot stronger than its previous two chapters. Writer Christopher B. Landon has built an impressive contextual framework around the initial two movies that provide much enlightenment to precise moments from the previous films, but also bring up a lot more questions and speculations. The attention to detail on character development is of particular importance, even with some of the minor roles, as the viewers will feel themselves compelled to empathize with the family and what they’re enduring. On top of that, the shocking conclusion of the movie will leave you feeling haunted yourself, and yearning for more.
Furthermore, there are some epoch realisms added into the movie to provide some reasoning behind how things get caught on camera. Having the Dennis character be a professional videographer was a stroke of genius – something that was industrially catching on during the real-life era – and also provides much explanation for elements of the story, such as the immaculate condition of the footage and the innovations the character creates in an inventive fashion to record footage – things that realistically place the concept within the realm of feasibility. This logic establishment is especially important in horror movies, because the more feasible and real the contextual layering is, the more fear-provoking the stories become.
The performances in Paranormal Activity 3 are also excellent. Lauren Bittner and Chris Smith do a reasonable job at staying within the confines of being earlier versions of the Micah and Katie characters from the first film. They stay within these roles without developing too much or only when necessary (during key scenes in particular), which is fine because it serves the story.
The young girls in the movie, Chloe Csengery and Jessica Tyler Brown, are absolutely stellar in Paranormal Activity 3. Both of them steal the show, with commendable performances that pin down some important realism, but also with some dreadfully convincing fear scenes. These young ladies show some notable talent, and I’m predicting we will see more of them in the future. Maybe even in a future Paranormal Activity film perhaps.
For myself, my favorite performance of the flick goes hands down to Dustin Ingram. Ingram begins as a curious young man (late teens/early 20′s), assisting the Daren character. In fact, his performance during the first part of the flick feels somewhat stereotypical, but this is done very slyly and deliberately. When it comes to his "Bloody Mary" scene, Ingram completely NAILS the fear element – his performance is so convincing and heart-pounding, that I found myself rewinding it to watch it again.
His comfortable descent into the stereotypical young dude puts you at ease, so much so, it provides massive impact to this key scene. Ingram is extremely underused in the movie, but his panicked reaction during the "Bloody Mary" sequence is worth watching this movie alone. Keep an eye on this young actor too, folks.
The visual effects in the movie are great as well. Like the previous two movies, there are a lot of practical effects employed, as well as some of the good old deceiving camera tricks used effectively. Combined with the minimal use of CGI, the overall result of the visual effects are very well crafted, and paced brilliantly. The key haunting scenes are spaced out well so that the effects don’t over-inundate the quality of the movie.
Horror/Thriller fans will love the frights in this movie. The jump-the-fuck-out-of-your-seat moments are paced just as well as the effects, and while quite a few of them are of the same abstract standard used in the first two installments, there are a few that escalate way over the top of the earlier chapters – much to the enhancement of the film. Additionally, there are a few moments that will leave you dumbstruck or saying “WTF” out loud, that occasionally add further clarity to the overarching story, and other times just add and compound on top of the fright factor.
There are a few ghost “violence” scenes in the movie that add to the fright factor, but there is very little blood and gore, which is similar in vein to the previous movies. It’s interesting to me as a horror fan – while I dig the bloody and gory fests as well, I find the ones with better fright factors, less blood/gore, and excellent attention to characters and story to be the films that stand out as classics. The filmmakers of Paranormal Activity sticks to their guns with this third chapter, with slight escalation as mentioned above, but used to the advantage of both the film as an individual creation and as a chapter of a series.
The solitary criticism I can muster for Paranormal Activity 3 is that much of the story relies on having seen the first two movies. Both 1 and 2 could be watched in any order, without any previous context or backstory provided. The third chapter builds on top of the overarching universe created in this series, both provided clarity and confusion effectively, but requires a previous knowledge and/or experience with the other two films.
Although this is not necessarily a big deal, a prerequisite of story knowledge was a killing factor for many of the horror franchises during the 1980′s in particular. The more of the movies that came out, the more previous information one needed. Continuity is becoming an important part of this series, and while the longtime and hardcore fans of Paranormal Activity will appreciate this, casual viewers will eventually become disenchanted with a simple question: “How many sequels does this movie need?” This is the same question that was applied several times to the Saw series as an example. In fact, the Saw example is almost synonymous to the continuing Paranormal Activity series.
Notwithstanding this, horror fans and viewers who liked the first two movies will love Paranormal Activity 3. I was so impacted by the quality of this film that I immediately felt like re-watching it and then going back to view the other 2. It’s an incredible accomplishment for a franchise to outdo its original movies, but directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman have managed to bottle lightning for the second time for this series.
Thus, with Halloween coming up, many are looking for some good horror flicks to check out. My fellow horror geeks, freaks, weirdoes, and friends: look no further than Paranormal Activity 3. Catch this one as soon as possible.
Just make sure all the lights are out when you watch…