Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 67% (Critics) 58% (Audience)
Directed By: Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman
Written By: Christopher B. Landon & Oren Peli
Starring: Lauren Bittner, Christopher Nicholas Smith, Jessica Tyler Brown, Chloe Csengery
Synopsis: The third in the series that mixes horror with cinéma vérité, Paranormal Activity 3 is a prequel that journeys back to 1988 to see how sisters Katie and Kristi became tied to the malevolent spirits that plagued them in the first two films.
Coming off of the second PA film that was criminally light on scares, PA3 ramps the fright up several notches. This movie didn’t seem to go more than 5 minutes without some sort of “jump scare” scene occurring and that is a good thing. There is nothing worse than sitting through this type of movie waiting for the action to happen and being disappointed. And to the filmmaker’s credit the scary scenes were really good. It also helps to have small children being the focal point of so many of the ghostly happenings. Nothing gets the inner fear sensors working better than a small child being endangered.
I also found the limitations to the filming techniques faced by characters in 1988 helped to make the movie more interesting. By having to come up with ways to record the house that relied upon VHS tape instead of digital cameras the filmmakers created more tension within the movie because of what we couldn’t see. This was especially true with the way an oscillating fan was cannibalized to create a panning camera. Those seconds where the part of the room where spooky doings were occurring was off screen really worked well.
I am not one to usually complain about the length of a movie being too short but in this case it is not such a good thing. At a running time of 85 minutes (which felt much shorter) Paranormal Activity 3 suffers from a certain air of abruptness. I really don’t think that adding another 15 minutes would have hurt. I rather think those extra minutes could have fleshed out some of the more murky scenes especially the stuff at the end. And based on the amount of stuff that has been shown in the multiple trailers for this movie but did not actually appear in the film itself I would say filling that extra 15 minutes would have been a cakewalk.
Speaking of the end of the movie…what the hell was that? Prequels aren’t supposed to raise more questions than they answered but all the viewer got from this movie were more questions. And the questions are not welcome. What has been a pretty straightforward haunting is now being set up to be some weird amalgamation of ghosts, witches and generational supernatural hocus-pocus. I’d have preferred things be kept a bit simpler.
Despite my misgivings about where this franchise is headed I did enjoy most of this movie and it is a more than serviceable option for those horror fans that are looking for something new in theaters to satisfy their need for scary cinema in this Halloween season. C+