Review: ‘Paranormal Activity 3’

Bored now. “Teddy Ruxpin is evil” would have been a more plausible explanation.

Back in ancient times (herein known as “1988”), two young sisters, Katie (Chloe Csengery) and Kristi (Jessica Tyler Brown), share a room. Kristi has an imaginary friend named Toby, a fact that Katie enjoys taunting her little sister about. After their videotape-loving step dad Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith) talks their mom, Julie (Lauren Bittner), into a little recorded hanky panky, they accidentally catch a glimpse of an invisible entity during a California earthquake. Obsessed with catching more paranormal activity on tape, Dennis sets up multiple cameras while researching anything he finds with stolen library books. Is it a ghost? Is it a demon? Can an eighty-one minute movie be dragged out any longer?

Ouch. What happened here? The original Paranormal Activity was lovingly written and directed by Oren Peli and received critical acclaim for the accomplishment. A year later, the sequel was handed off to others who managed to create a new story that expanded the original idea but came in far less scary as a result. With a whole new crew putting together the third film, this installment not only goes right off the rails but does what no horror film should do: bores you to death. Resetting everything back to 1988 to tell the story of the two sister who grow up to become the characters in the first two films sounded like a great idea, but with a flimsy excuse for having “found footage,” practically meaningless scares (except for a brief nod to Poltergeist), and a so-called final explanation for why it all started to begin with, the final product is bland, hurtful ending to a promising trilogy as well as a franchise killer.

The problems start early. With an opening sequence that begins so abruptly it’s hard to tell if the movie has actually started at all, it is then followed by camerawork so unsteady that even people who could keep their lunch watching The Blair Witch Project would do well not to hurl. It seems to take forever to get to the first filmed activity, and even then it seems like a stretch having a wedding videographer suddenly obsessed with paranormal surveillance. Add in that most of the so-called scary sequences make almost no sense to the story (and are all easily trumped by mom in a mask), and there’s just nothing to show for the first hour of the film. The ending? Ugh. It’s one thing to use a standard trope of the horror genre, but if you can’t make it your own (or in any way plausible at all), why bother?

It was fairly obvious from the first teaser trailer how poor this third film was shaping up, even though later previews managed to made it look better. Compared to the creepiness of the first film and the viral online teasers for the second, Paranormal Activity 3 makes even less sense than the Blair Witch sequel Book of Shadows. Any fans of this franchise may wish to consider steering clear of this train wreck if they would like to preserve the pleasant memories of the first two.

(a one skull recommendation out of four)
1.0 out of four skulls


  1. Definitely better than the second one and even though it’s a little bit of the same thing around again, it still is totally freaky and has so many chilling moments that will stay in your mind forever. Good review. Check out mine when you get the chance.


  2. I saw the movie at midnight Friday and I must say the movie scared the heck out of me. These are the type of horror movies I have been craving. Bare bone basics….


    • Sadly, this film managed to pull in another $18 million over the weekend. Who’s watching this? If this actually scares you, it must be because it’s a “safe” scare because ANY episode of “American Horror Story” would likely have you clawing your eyes out.


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