I thought I would start off this review with a quick recap of my reviews of Paranormal Activity 1 and Paranormal Activity 2 . As far as part 1, I was buying what they were selling up until Micah started doing research, and found a woman who went through a similar experience as Katie. I was not happy that they introduced back-story, and created a “Hollywood” ending. As far as part 2, some of the scares actually got me, and my opinion of the back-story changed. Now it is time for the tiebreaker.
This movie starts off briefly in 2005 where a pregnant Kristi (Sprague Grayden/Jessica Tyler Brown), and her husband are getting the house ready for a new baby. Of course Katie (Katie Featherston/Chloe Csengery) makes an appearance, as she is preparing to move in with Micah. She leaves some boxes that their grandmother left her in Kristi’s basement. One of the boxes holds some old family videos, and is the only thing that goes missing when Kristi’s house is apparently broken into. From there the audience gets to view exactly what happens to the sisters, their mother, Julie (Lauren Bittner), and her boyfriend, Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith), on those video tapes.
While you probably want me to start off telling you if the movie is scary or not, I will hold off on that for the moment. Instead, let me start off with a few thoughts on the franchise. Besides the focus on the scares, there are a couple of things that make Paranormal Activity unique. One is how the story goes backwards instead of forward. The audience starts off thinking that Paranormal Activity is just about some poor girl getting haunted, but it turns out that there is a whole history of events that lead to the reason why the demon is there. With each prequel the audience gets to learn something new about the sisters’ past. I questioned this move at first, but it seems to have worked for the most part, even after two prequels.
The other interesting thing about this franchise is that while part 1 is all about Katie, the focus of everything turns to Kristi the further the story goes along. It turns out that Kristi is the more important sister because she is the one that has a baby boy. If you remember, Katie wouldn’t have even been haunted if Kristi’s husband didn’t point the demon in her direction. In this movie, the young Kristi plays a more important part than Katie mostly because she is the only one in the house that can see the demon, or as she calls it “Toby.”
That brings me to the all-important back-story. As mentioned, I have gone from hating it to eagerly wanting all of my questions answered. My biggest questions going into this movie were: where does Katie take Hunter, and what does she have planned for him? Unfortunately, those questions are left unanswered. After the quick opening in 2005, this movie sticks to what happens to Kristi and Katie in 1988 to start all of this paranormal activity.
The audience gets a more formal introduction to the demon that haunts them with the introduction of the aforementioned Toby. At first, Kristi appears to be just one of those kids that say they have an imaginary friend. The audience knows better, and the people around her soon find out there is nothing imaginary about Toby. As the movie goes on, she is repeatedly asked questions about Toby. The audience gets some clues about how it looks, and acts towards Kristi, but in the end there is still plenty of things to wonder about Toby.
Besides Toby, the audience does find out some interesting things about their family. There is the introduction of their mother, but no father. As the movie begins, it appears that Dennis is the father, but it is soon revealed that he is just Julie’s boyfriend. There is a quick mention of their father, but only enough to keep you wondering what really happened to him. The biggest revelation and important piece of the back-story happens at the end of the movie, but I will leave that for you to see.
Finally, let me talk about the scares. Yes, there are some similar techniques used in the previous movies most notably the cameras. Dennis is the one responsible for recording everything. He carries one camera with him, and sets up a few others in the house. Probably the most effective use of the camera scares is the one that he attaches to the base of an oscillating fan. It works similarly to the effect in part 2 of the constant skipping through camera views, except this time the view goes from one side of the room to the other. It does an excellent job of creating suspense as it pans back and forth from the front door, through the living room, and into the kitchen. It makes the audience stare at the room trying to figure out when, and if something has changed from a moment ago.
Another thing that works well is how the sisters’ room is set up at the top of the stairs. Their room is basically the second floor of the house. The camera is set up to catch anyone that comes up the stairs along with a good view of the girls’ beds. It is an interesting added twist that Toby happens to like hanging out right behind where the camera is placed. And on a funnier note, remember the pool cleaner that is constantly shown in part 2. Well, this time there is a fish tank that has a treasure chest in it that blows bubbles every once in a while.
There are also some new and different techniques used to try to scare the audience. My favorite and most effective one is how the demon has a physical presence. No, the audience never really gets to see it, but it is clearly there because of what happens to the girls. Lets just say it is like a bird that can’t tell there is a glass window in front of it. Another good thing about some of the scares are that they are not all produced by the demon. There are some created by people in the movie that serve as a form of tension breaker, and comic relief. In case you are wondering, I don’t think I ever jumped like when the kitchen exploded in part 2, but there is one scene that kind of gave me the chills.
One of the reasons I didn’t like part 1 was the ending, but I thought they made up for it in part 2. I might have spoiled a few things for you, but I don’t want to spoil this ending. Again, it does answer some questions about what is going on, but sure as hell opens up plenty of new ones. And no, I didn’t have any major issues with how this movie ends.
It is simple to say, but if part 1 and 2 scared you, then I see no reason this movie won’t be able to do it again. This prequel to the prequel doesn’t hurt what the previous movies accomplished. It answers some questions, but still leaves some unanswered ones, such as what ever happened to that fire Katie mentions. More importantly, if the tapes are supposedly stolen, who has apparently put them on for the audience to see? Honestly, I hoped this movie would close out this trilogy, but I can see room for another one. Yes, I said it, another one. With that said, this movie breaks the tie, as I give it 3.5 pools of blood, and give the franchise my stamp of approval (for now).