Horror Movie Review: Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)

Remember how the sisters and stars of the first two Paranormal Activity movies briefly mentioned that the events that plague them are very similar to things that happened to them as a child?

That is the premise for Paranormal Activity 3, a prequel to the first two films showing what occurred during the girls childhood and finally beginning to answer some of the questions regarding the demonic haunting that has been at the forefront of the franchise so far. Hold on to your hats, this is the last enjoyable Paranormal Activity too.

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Opening showing a brief recap of the events of the second movie up until the point Kristi and her family are seemingly burgled. The reason for this is to focus on something that I and many had failed to notice…the missing tapes. Katie stored some stuff at her sister’s place, in the basement and it included old VHS tapes from their childhood. When the families house is ransacked the only thing that is missing are those tapes.

It’s mentioned briefly and then completely forgotten about…until now, these are the tapes that the viewer is about to watch.

Continuing the style of the first two, Paranormal Activity 3 is a found footage movie and plays out in very similar fashion. Strange things have been happening around the house of Julie, her boyfriend Dennis and her two children from an earlier relationship, Katie and Kristi.

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Dennis gets hold of a basic handheld camera and while trying to make a sex tape with Julie a small earthquake occurs. Watching the footage back later he sees dust fall on what looks like a person standing in the room. Excited he decides to rig the whole house with cameras to see if he can capture any other spooky phenomena.

This brings me to the major issue of the film. Later it’s established that Dennis is a bit of a layabout, unemployed (he does wedding videos occasionally) but devoted to Julie and the kids. Julie argues with her mother, Lois (Grandma Lois for those who have seen the rest of the films) when she criticises him and questions why her daughter is letting him use her money for all his cameras.

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Here’s the thing…it’s never explained just what Julie does for a living. The cost of a good camcorder back in 1988 cost anywhere between $700 and $2000. Now he has at least 4 set up in the house, add that to all his equipment for playback etc. and something really doesn’t add up. Am I overthinking it? Maybe, it is just a movie after all however by this stage it’s not possible to just ‘unchain’ your brain and enjoy these films as ‘jump scare-athons’ as the story is getting more and more complex.

Remember….don’t ask me to watch your film that you claim is based in reality then be extremely unrealistic.

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Anyway back to the story. So Dennis sees a few odd things around the house especially regarding Kristi who has grown attached to an imaginary friend that she calls Toby. Yep, the demon finally has a name and he sure has a lot of fun in this film.

As a viewer it does make for some of the best scares and creepy moments of the series & its build feels more urgent. Things escalate quicker but with far better results and more links towards witchcraft. You see Dennis discovers a symbol in the girls closet that he links to an ancient witches coven that brainwash girls of child-bearing age into having sons then offering them up to a demon (see? It’s all beginning to make sense, not exactly good sense but sense none the less).

This is the first of the films to actually go into further detail regarding the demons intentions and who might be involved. It all comes to a violent end at Grandma Lois’s house as the witch coven’s plan is put into place.

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It’s a fun, interesting and far less slower ending that retains the ‘scares’ that the series has become famous for (both positively and negatively). Unfortunately it once again leaves far too many unanswered questions & with the series going way downhill after this point, it’s best to just view this as the final film.

Had it remained a trilogy the series would probably be thought of it a much more positive light. Paranormal Activity 3 is a good horror movie and a decent found-footage film. It has many of the problems that I have come to loathe about the genre but actively tries to make it an enjoyable watch.

Sure, there are far too many moments where it makes no sense for the camera to be involved (such as the finale…who brings a camera along for that!?) but for the most part the static images work perfectly fine. In particular the make-shift rotating camera in the living room has one of the best scares of the entire series.

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The acting is the best of the series so far. Dennis and Julie are likable & there relationship convincing, no Katie and Micah rubbish here. The girls, Katie and Kristi are good too with the latter showcasing a childs innocence that leads into fear as Toby becomes more and more aggressive.

There is an undercurrent of constant darkness running through this movie, something that was never as persistent in the earlier films. Considering our expectations surrounding the demon by this stage it is remarkable that any kind of threat still exists!

I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed this entry & it is a real pity the series would go so wrong after this. Paranormal Activity 3 is a good horror movie!


  • Carl Fisher

    Owner/Administrator/Editor/Writer/Interviewer/YouTuber - you name it, I do it. I love gaming, horror movies, and all forms of heavy metal and rock. I'm also a Discworld super-fan and love talking all things Terry Pratchett. Do you wanna party? It's party time!

Paranormal Activity 3
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