Skip to Content

Found Footage Friday: ‘Paranormal Activity 3’

Found Footage Friday: ‘Paranormal Activity 3’

Paranormal Activity 3
Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman
Written by Christopher Landon
2011, USA

Sequels in horror franchises are rarely ever connected to their predecessors with the exception of the same villain/outline that proves profitable. What makes the additions to the Paranormal Activity franchise different is that each follow-up expands the universe, further exploring the demon that plagued Katie and Micah in 2009. With Katie and Kristi both having their adult horrors played out onscreen with Paranormal Activity and Paranormal Activity 2, let’s do the time warp again.

The year is 1988, and cinematographer Dennis (Chris Smith) is moving in with girlfriend Julie (Lauren Bittner) and her two daughters Katie and Kristi. The story opens at Katie’s birthday party which Dennis is filming, some of the conversation between attendees reveals quick insights into his relationship with Julie before the couple moves in together. Dennis and Julie aren’t getting married prior to the move, and that is causing some stress among members of her family. On move-in day, audiences are given a background of sorts for what has been makes things go bump in the night for the previous two films. Little Kristi has an imaginary friend named Toby, but her midnight treks around the dual-level home with her new pal concern Dennis and Julie. Given his fondness for cameras, Dennis decides to strategically place cameras throughout in hopes of catching something. As Dennis records and compiles more footage, it appears Toby isn’t as imaginary as one would like.

Paranormal Activity 3

The scares are a little more played-out by the third installation of the franchise that is Paranormal Activity, but directors Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost, the masterminds behind Catfish, one of last year’s is-it-or-isn’t-it docudramas, have taken the scares that became so commonplace and reinvigorated them again. Something as simple as rigging a camera to an oscillating fan creates an effect so unsettling for the audience that even when nothing is happening, the excruciating anticipation leaves viewers sitting on edge.

Chris Smith does well as the fish out of water boyfriend typically present in horror films. Time has proven again in the Paranormal Activity series it is an unforgivable sin to be a male, though the film does offer a few reasons for Chris’s panic in its exploration of Katie and Kristi’s past. As fun as it is to play with scares involving small children, filling in the background of characters isn’t always the best use of time. Boogeymen like Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees prove less interesting with their back stories filled in, and Katie and Kristie are no different. Surprisingly though, some refreshingly new scares are blended into the mix.

The Paranormal Activity films are similar to an In-N-Out franchise at this stage. The burgers are essentially the same at every location, but with a few slight tweaks here and there, you get what you came for. The scares at the end of the third P.A. film might not match the fright of the original, but they introduce interesting new angles for found footage horror to go. Co-directors Schulman and Joost enjoy a stroke of genius when they have Dennis attach a camera to an oscillating fan. We know what’s coming, but damn if it still doesn’t get everyone to jump.

Diminishing returns are difficult to avoid in any horror franchise, yet Paranormal Activity 3 still manages to get hairs raised before the lights dim. I recommend keeping your hands free for watching this one, you might need them to cover your eyes.