Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)

Warnings: best avoided if you're weak against jump scares

Contrary to my initial want, I ended up watching Paranormal Activity 3; it wasn't really on my absolutely-must-see list, but more of a "can't find anything else to watch so might as well watch this one". In the end I'm not disappointed I have, it's a pretty solid installment in the PA series and can stand on its own without relying on the other two. I didn't plan to review it either but found I had more material than I thought, so I ended up reviewing it after al c:

As a side note, I couldn't take any screenshots from more action-packed scenes because they looked very blurry, so you'll have to settle for the normal parts. And I gave in and created a Supernatural tag, since this is anything but fantasy. There's also a new background for the World! If you're wondering, yes, I've seen all of the movies whose posters it's made from.

On a different note, 8 more movies to grade and I'll reach 500! Yay!

PA 3 acts as a prequel to PA 1 and shows the childhood of sisters Katie and Kristi (who are featured as adults in the other two films). Their mother has remarried and they're still trying to adjust to being a family, which is a real challenge for the new father. One of the problems he has to face is suprisingly normal: Kristi has her own imaginary friend, whom she talks to like she would to a real person. Unfortunately for everyone else, "Toby" is more than Kristi bargained for.

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The Good
Now if you're even slightly familiar with the PA series, you know they don't rely on explicitness to scare you. Compared to more traditional horror movies, these prefer to show you the effects of the supernatural and leave you to imagine the supernatural itself, which I find very clever. Any competent horror director knows that if you just show the audience the monster, some will be scared, sure, but some (oftentimes, most) will just shrug and go "it's not that scary". This is precisely why the best horror movies are those where you create the monster yourself, based on what scares you the most, instead of swallowing up whatever someone else thinks is scary (or would scare the public most).

The first thing that pops up into everyone's heads when they hear "Paranormal Activity" is "heavy shaky-cam action". If The Blair Witch Project defined the genre, PA revived it. Sure, more shaky-cam movies have been coming out these past few years (the Spanish [Rec] and its American remake, Quarantine, come to mind), but the genre truly took off when then the first PA appeared in 2007.

What worked about it was that it wasn't as extreme as in Blair Witch, which reportedly made a lot of people vomit in the theater; here, apart from the moments when it's being carried around, the camera is mounted on a tripod or stationary object. The more "active" moments are rare and tend to happen near the end of the movie, when it's time for the climax; until then, it's almost like watching a "normal" movie.

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Another part I liked was the fact that the movie is self-contained, you don't need to go see the other two to know what's going on. In the beginning we are shown 2-3 scenes tying the other two movies to this one (one of them foreshadows the reason why some events happened and some characters reacted the way they did). The characters themselves are definitely less stupid than standard horror movie fare and I was surprised at how quickly they caught on to the fact that, hey, a demon was haunting their house. Instead of, you know, ignoring or taunting it, like the idiots from the first movie (Jesus, were they obnoxious).

The pacing is much better as well this time around. You don't need to sit through an hour of pointless couple moments (like in the first PA) to get to the good parts, they start early on. And even though it's a minor aspect, I applaud the director for keeping this movie under 90 minutes and not padding it with useless filler; we get exactly what we need to understand what's going on (...mostly) and there's no wasted time.

As for the actors, they're definitely much better than in the first film (second was fairly decent though nothing out of the ordinary). They actually made me care about their characters, and that's a plus. The little girls that played Katie and Kristi were very convincing and that's why this movie turned out so well: you could feel their innocence, fear and (sometimes) bratty attitude and it made for an interesting watch.

The Bad
Even though it's a prequel and it does explain some things, it ultimately leaves a lot of questions behind too. And I'm not talking about questions that can be solved by watching the other two movies or rewatching this one, they are legitimate questions that arise from the incomplete information we're given. I won't spoil anything, but I really wouldn't have known what certain characters were doing if I hadn't watched Nostalgia Critic's review (second video, first is full of spoilers) before watching the movie itself.

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The Plain WTF
The ending. More precisely, what was left unexplained about the ending. Again, I don't want to spoil anything, but there are a lot of things to consider and you may need to rewatch all the movies in chronological order (3-2-1) to fully understand what's going on. And even then you won't have the whole picture.
Oh, and there's a guy having his spine broken by being bent backwards by the demon.

The Quotes
Julie: Who's Toby?
Young Kristi: He's my friend.
Julie: I don't see him.
Young Kristi: He's standing right next to you.

Katie and Randy (together): Bloody Mary. Bloody Mary. Bloody Mary.

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It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Verdict and recommendations
Most of PA's charm lies within the reaction of the audience: "AAAAH" after a jump scare, followed by a quick "ahahaha, I got scared, silly me" and nervous laughter make this worth seeing in theaters or at least with a few friends (preferably scaredy-cats). There's not much going for it if you watch it alone because it can bore you to death. Heh, clever marketing ploy there if you ask me: movies that you can only enjoy if you see them in groups.

Anyway, this one turned out to be more serious than the other two; the characters aren't your typical "too dumb to live" (heh) that have been cemented as "realistic" in horror, the pacing is good and the scary moments are indeed scary. Even though it's not an amazing movie per se, it's decent and appropriate for the (sub)genre.

They upped the ante on the fear and it really works. Now we can only hope the following PA's to be even better.

Originality + creativity: 1 point
Actors: 1.5 points
Sound effects: 1 point
Special effects/Natural flow: 1 point
How much I enjoyed it: 2 points

My rating: External Image (6.5, rounded to 7 out of 10)
Paranormal Activity 3 (2011) on