‘Paranormal Activity 3′ Review

Published 3 years ago by , Updated December 12th, 2014 at 9:59 pm,

Paranormal Activity 3 Ghost Paranormal Activity 3 Review

Paranormal Activity 3 doesn’t reinvent the series’ wheel but it definitely refines an already effective format.

It’s hard to imagine that it’s only been two years since our own Kofi Outlaw was among the first film reviewers to screen the original Paranormal Activity – back when the film was only in limited release. At the time, it was unclear whether the found-footage horror flick (which was actually shown in 2007 at the Screamfest Film Festival) would ever see a full-scale release. However, fueled by fan “demand” (literally) the original Paranormal Activity haunted the box office to the tune of $107 million domestically – on a production budget of just $15,000. As a result, it was no surprise when the sequel, Paranormal Activity 2 scored an astounding $41 million in its opening weekend.

Now, the franchise is back once again with Paranormal Activity 3 – a prequel that fleshes out the story of sisters, Katie and Kristi, who are tormented by an other-worldly presence. This time, however, the movie’s producers recruited a fresh filmmaking duo, Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, to handle directorial duties. The pair rocketed to fame after critics, moviegoers, and even network news outlets debated the validity of their 2009 documentary Catfish. Do the sophomore feature filmmakers continue Paranormal Activity‘s successful run or has the found footage series run out of scares?

Fortunately the directors have a batch of new tricks at their disposal (as a result of the 80s timeframe) – as wedding videographer and man of the house, Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith) comes up with inventive ways to capture the bizarre events occurring in the family’s house. A panning VHS camera (attached to the base of an oscillating fan) offers some of the film’s most tense moments – and definitely improves upon the often static images of the prior installments in the series. The retro backdrop also provides a number of cathartic, and unintentional, laughs – such as the appearance of a fancy “cordless phone.”

The filmmakers have, over the course of the prior movies, managed to deliver a relatively intriguing over-arching mythology – one that is further developed in the third installment. Obviously, as with all these movies, the story isn’t the central focus but it’s good to see the producers and writers at least attempting to weave a somewhat coherent through-line.

Chloe Csengery Jessica Tyler Brown Paranormal Activity 3 Paranormal Activity 3 Review

Chloe Csengery and Jessica Tyler Brown in ‘Paranormal Activity 3′

While the adult versions of Katie and Kristi (played by Katie Featherston and Sprague Grayden, respectively) are present in the film, the Paranormal Activity 3 story (as mentioned) is actually a prequel to both the 2009 and 2010 plot lines. Instead of forwarding the narrative beyond the events of the prior films, the third installment focuses on Katie and Kristi as children (played by Chloe Csengery and Jessica Tyler Brown, respectively) - when they first encounter the paranormal presence that later defines and terrorizes their adult lives. As with the last version, this film isn’t likely to address many of the questions left in the wake of Paranormal Activity but it still manages to deliver a compelling addition to the series mythology.

Anyone expecting a change to the franchise formula (such as the often maligned jump from The Blair Witch Project to Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2) or a significant up to the Paranormal Activity 2 ante, may find the storytelling, scares, and visuals of Paranormal Activity 3 to be mostly “more of the same.” The third film definitely features a few moments that could be considered “larger” in scale than prior films; however, the majority of the runtime is still a waiting game that could be underwhelming for certain filmgoers. In general, anyone who has tired of the series’ formula won’t find a fresh variety of scares in the third installment – but that doesn’t mean that the film isn’t a worthy follow-up for moviegoers who still crave the subtle and creepy anticipation that dominates this series format.

As mentioned, 1988 Dennis has far fewer resources than 2006 Daniel Rey (the father in the second installment) – as a result, instead of a high-tech multi-camera montage, the Paranormal Activity 3 set-up is limited to two static shots as well as the aforementioned panning camera. The limitation actually forces the filmmakers to be much more creative, and showcase a lot of variety in what is actually shown in each of the three rooms – instead of relying on a lot of different rooms. The result is a much more “in-your-face” experience – as the cameras are situated lower to the ground (not mounted high above the action) – and audiences will become intimately familiar with what should (and shouldn’t) be happening in each room.

Paranormal Activity 3 Found Footage Paranormal Activity 3 Review

The next generation of found footage hardware: VHS Tapes

Also, unlike the prior installments (which featured adequate but mostly stilted acting), Paranormal Activity 3 has a solid cast of performers that manage to make good on the scares – as well as inject believable humor into the mix. It’s only fair to point out that this round of actors, specifically the adults, already have significant filmographies behind them – as the producers are no longer concerned with casting unknowns to maintain the impression any of the footage might actually be real.

That said, obviously these aren’t Oscar-worthy performances, but all five of the “main” characters – Katie, Krysti, and Dennis as well as mother, Julie (Lauren Bittner), and family friend, Randy (Dustin Ingram) – deliver surprisingly likable performances in their respective roles. The adults inject plenty of humor and intriguing overarching exposition and the young girls successfully carry the creepier moments of the movie – since they’re often the ones being terrorized by the paranormal “activity.” As a result, compared to prior installments, the world created in these 80s VHS tapes is much more fleshed out and authentic – with real people, not just caricatures and demon fodder, reacting to the increasingly dangerous series of events playing out on screen.

Paranormal Activity 3 doesn’t reinvent the series’ wheel but it definitely refines an already effective format (and ups the ante by adding a few spikes to the rubber). While it’s still unclear where the franchise will go from this point forward, for the time being, the third film will no doubt deliver on (and possibly exceed) expectations. Non-fans of the series won’t find any marked changes to rekindle their interest but anyone who enjoyed either Paranormal Activity or Paranormal Activity 2 will probably consider this film to be scarier, funnier, and ultimately more entertaining than its predecessors.

If you’ve already seen the film and want to talk about various plot details without ruining them for others, head over to our Paranormal Activity 3 spoilers discussion.

If you’re still on the fence about Paranormal Activity 3, check out the trailer below:


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Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick - and let us know what you thought of the film below:

Paranormal Activity 3 is now in theaters.

Our Rating:

4 out of 5

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  1. The ending was ridiculous nonsense. I think the adult Katie and Kristi wouldhave mentioned mom and the boyfriend dying and grams being part of a demon loving witch coven. Ridiculous ending. Movie was great until the ending. They should have stuckbeith the house burning down

    • yeah but the covens symbol was on a book about mysticism, and mysticism was used to make people to forget horrible experiences and shiz, and the witch coven used to use it on the little girls once they could have babies and so they could forget about it… so the grandma probably used mysticism on the girls, but really, i totally agree with you.

      • Katie also mentioned in the second movie that “she couldn’t remember anything”

  2. I haven’t seen the film but calling your child “Sprague”, (apparently one the child actor’s names) is truly scary..

    • Sprague is the name of the adult Kristi.

    • No, Sprague Grayden played Kristi as an adult.

  3. The movies beginning was very well played but the actions throughout the movie was a job well done but nearing the end the climatic suspense led to a
    very disappointing end. In all it think “Word OF Mouth” Advertising went overboard and made this “let-down” of a movie to a very extraordinary movie.


    • Sorry, but I didn’t get that…….?

  5. I was REALLY disappointed in the movie…the trailers made it look phenomenal, and half of the things shown were not in the movie. The girls never played Bloody Mary together, there was no fire, the mother never truly saw anything happen or believed anything WAS happening until the kitchen fell apart, and that was the very last bit of the movie, and they never brought in a psychic or medium or anything (as shown in another trailer) at all. This movie was a huge blow to expectations.

    • 1. The girls never played Bloody Mary together
      How would that have changed the movie?

      2. there was no fire
      How would that have changed the movie? From all indications MAYBE there never was a fire….

      3. the mother never truly saw anything happen or believed anything WAS happening until the kitchen fell apart
      How would that have changed the movie? Did you go in expecting a movie about the mother and how she dealt with something? Or was it about the history of the girls and why what happened in 1 and 2?

      4. and they never brought in a psychic or medium or anything
      How would that have changed the outcome of the movie or over all story? We already saw what happens when a medium is brought in around this demon.

      What were you expecting? A movie about a family that has some sort of connection to a demon as set up from PA1 and PA2?

      So you are saying because you didn’t see what you already saw the movie itself was no good and you were REALLY disappointed?

      Nothing in the movie was phenomenal overall? It was blah? Did anything work?

      • False advertisement. Enough said.

      • Its not just about how the [missing]scenes would have chaneged the movie,; its about the expectations. The trailers are a commercial, a selling point, a marketing strategy. I went in looking forward to what was being offered and saw not a clip of it. I get that movies sometimes lose during final edits – but ALL the scenes “sold to audiences”. Hmmm.

        As for how things would have changed:
        1. The girls never played Bloody Mary together
        Including this scene would have showed that Kristi was afraid of Tony. Whereas the movie showed a ‘fearless’ little kid. Leaving Katie with no knowledge of Toby, till the ending attacks.

        2. there was no fire
        Including a house fire, would have audiences more understanding as to the girls pshychological state of mind. Losing all possesions kinda makes you forget there was a ghost around. And why they would repress the hauntings. Though how they would forget in P1 and P2 that Grandma was part of a coven is beyond me.

        3. the mother never truly saw anything happen or believed anything WAS happening until the kitchen fell apart
        How would that have changed the movie? Did you go in expecting a movie about the mother and how she dealt with something? Or was it about the history of the girls and why what happened in 1 and 2?

        As for myself, I did not go in to see Poltergeist: where the family ‘deals’ with a demon…..I went in to see a continuation of a series and having the mom terrorized and aware of it would have explained how in Part2, Katie mentions “mom in a hospital”…..Then audiences would understand Gams influence in the girls. With mom taken away, she would have raised them as she saw fit.

        4. and they never brought in a psychic or medium or anything
        How would that have changed the outcome of the movie or over all story?

        I almost forgot that a clip was shown ‘out there’ about this in P3. Agian, it would have been interesting to see this medium scene. To show unity in family and how one ‘should not open a can of worms’.

        Overall, I did really like the movie. It was interesting. Not scary. It served its purpose in explaining [somewhat] the storyline….And well, not disappointed – but I did leave deflated. It was not what I hoped or expected it to be as ‘sold’ to me by the commercial advertisements.

        And what gives with the whole: Toby sound effect….a horse? sounded more like a boar to me.

        Did not appreciate or understand that Kristi describes Toby as tall and old….Then Katie bumps into Toby and looks up because she senses the stature of Toby…..but when the sitter-sheet scene comes about, Toby is a suddenly a midget….what gives?

        • The Toby midget thing was supposed to make audience think that it was kristi under the sheet

      • Um, it made the movie actually look scary and interesting when it wasn’t.

        It changed the movie a lot.

      • What are you talking about? Of course these scenes would have changed the movie around. The commercial made the movie look like it could have turned out to be a completely different movie. Even the smallest scene can have a big impact on a movie and change scenes around.

        1. The girls never played Bloody Mary together
        How would that have changed the movie?

        “You forget that there was a demon visible in the mirror, behind the girls. Having a demon they can see would change the movie around.”

        2. there was no fire
        How would that have changed the movie? From all indications MAYBE there never was a fire….

        “The movie could have ended differently if the house was on fire. As shown in the commercial clip. So this scene could have mattered.”

        3. the mother never truly saw anything happen or believed anything WAS happening until the kitchen fell apart
        How would that have changed the movie? Did you go in expecting a movie about the mother and how she dealt with something? Or was it about the history of the girls and why what happened in 1 and 2?

        “This scene wouldn’t be needed if scenes like the psychic or medium scene existed in the movie. Remember, all the mother needed was one act of evidence that toby exist in order to leave the house. If the medium got attack this scene would’ve been removed, and that would have changed the story a bit.”

        4. and they never brought in a psychic or medium or anything
        How would that have changed the outcome of the movie or over all story? We already saw what happens when a medium is brought in around this demon.

        “If a psychic or medium were brought in and he were attacked like seen in the commercial, there wouldn’t be a need for #3 (when the mother saw all her kitchen stuff hit the ground) if this scene would come before that kitchen scene. The medium would’ve made the mother a believer early on instead of when she believed in toby at the end of the movie.”

  6. I like this movie series!! Always freaks me out everytime. Finally glad to know what started it all. As much as i loved the movie it is questionable of why all the movies dont add up. The history stated in one and two dont relate to the third one. But i guess than again who wants to go around telling everyone that a demon killed their mother.

    So third movie for me was a 4.5!! Yes it was alittle disappointing that i didnt see the girls playing bloody mary in the bathroom but that really wouldnt have connected in the movie. what does bloody mary have to do with the demon in their house? hm.

  7. Alright I’ve read everyones reviews about the trailers missing and everything, but did any one catch when they went into the grandmas house and when Kristi tried to warn the step by by scratching the picture of the horse on the wall. If you think about it when they were playing bloody marry in the bathroom the demon kept going back and forth it sounded like a horse and when the step dad and Kristi went to go hide in the closet towards the end seemed like it was a demon on the horse going by real quick. And on the final seen of the movie when you can actually hear what is to be Toby before he breaks the camera it also sounds like a horse breathing. I only bring this up becuase if you watch part two again when the dad is watching the security dvr they show that same picture of the horse. Hopefully I’m not the only one that has seen this let me know what you think.

    • Robert, I picked up on the horse angle too. Thanks for posting your comment, I thought I was the only one who realized that.

      Overall, I liked the movie, but maybe I’m getting jaded. Didn’t seem to be as scary to me as the other two. Having the two young girls in danger did anger me, but hey, that’s part of the basic plot. I saw the trailer and wondered why I didn’t see those scenes in the movie, but that doesn’t bother me either, It’s only a movie.

  8. Bad movie all together the acting in it was terrible the ending was the only bit in it me and my friends liked only because everyone was dying and throughout the movie they just used the jump effect how they can call this a scary movie is a pure joke i just want to warn you of this terrible terrible movie.

  9. Really sucked! Right when it started to get good it ended in the most stupid way ever. A bunch of old people hanging out in a dark room! WTF! and the on to the backyard around a fire? nothing that was on the previews was on the movie, we thought there was going to be something after the credentials, it had just started to get scary and it ended. Nothing compare with the 2nd one, the second one was very good, this one was Extremely bad. SUCKED

  10. I watched this on Monday,
    and i personally loved it!


    1. The end was pretty confusing what was going on,
    as they didn’t explain the witch thing well enough.
    2. It was pretty damn confusing that toby turned out to be a woman?!
    3. and ofc a lot of things that we’re in the trailer wasn’t in the film (but tbh i didn’t watch the trailer because i loved the last two)

    Postive *no spoilers*:
    Great camera work when they made a fan into a camera and it was turning reaaaally slowly! Built so much tension!
    Great effects that totally blows your mind compared to the other two
    It made the whole cinema scream and a few people had to walk out (so i was told as i was hiding behind my scarf)

    I recommend you only watch this film if you are in love with the other two,
    great film to watch with your friends!

    • see…that;s the thing. Like when right before the movie began, an attendant alerted the audience that medical help will be made available by the concession stand….and I figured, wow what a build.up….then as you know – left deflated. So I wonder, which scenes caused movie goers to leave (in need of medical assistance)??

    • What makes you think the demon was female?

    • wow claire you must be so wealthy to have a screening room in your kitchen

  11. I’ve been reading a lot of negative remarks about this film. Honestly, I would agree with the 4/5 rating. I felt this film was better than the other 2, even though they didn’t show every scene from the trailers. The only WTH moment I got was who was watching the tapes.

  12. Me and my cousins goin to see da movie tonight! We decided to see the reviews since some people say “it wasn’t scary” and see what others thought so i wouldn’t blo 15 bucks on movie tickets that wouldn’t be worth it! LOL. Well, wish us luck and may god not make me go home with a giant Pee stain on my groin!

  13. i found the beads a errie clue to the way the spirt imbeds itself into the family,,and if you notice the grandmothers bead collection?? i did, nice talisman

  14. This movie is TERRIBLE! One of the worst for a long time – I liked the first one, the second one was just okay, and I like POV type movies… but this one no WAY!! ‘Boring’ is a kind way of describing it.

  15. I only liked the Sex-Tape-Attempt part. Damn earthquake. It ruined everything

  16. I don’t understand all these complaints about the parts in the trailer that weren’t in the movie. I think it made it better, because what you were expecting to happen, didn’t. That’s the whole premise of this movie….the suspense of what, where & when things are going to happen. The best part about it is, you still get to see it all (trailer & movie) and both scare the living heck out of you. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to see a comedy & ended up seeing all the funny parts already in the trailer. Such a let down & it happens all the time. So in my opinion, kudos to them for doing things differently & keeping us on our toes.

    On a side note, for me the ending sucked….not a big fan of the old lady coven. I didn’t find that as scary as the “unkown”.

  17. 4 out of 5 stars, your joking right?, half the movies missing! glad I didn’t pay for it.

  18. so yea im pretty sure that they cut out the scenes so u can watch it another time and see a whole different movie im pretty sure thats what they did with the ending of the 1st one. but I could be wrong.

    I just watched it. the movie was ok, but the hype was too strong. it should have been longer and had some more scares. I enjoy the camera work but lets be honest here, watching the rotating camera go slowly back in forth a million times to finaly see what lurking in the corner gets a little boring. its also pathetic how the roles stay the same. the man gets a camera and experiences little to no activity. and the woman experiences alot of activity but acts like nothings wrong until the end.

    but im sure that somethings going to be released sometime in the future regaurding the missing clips from the trailer. maybe the maid will come in and find the box of tapes in the basement and take them with her. as a new plot to a missing bonus features when the dvd comes out or heck maybe when halloween night hits theyll say the added an extra hour to the film so everyone goes to watch the movie again, as a way to trick people into buying one movie twice.
    yep i see that happening for sure.

  19. I just came back from watching the film. I too am very disappointed in the missing scenes shown in the trailer. I suspect they will be part of the DVD/BD release in a “Director’s Cut” although some of those scenes will fundamentally change the movie (Christi throwing water on Toby and revealing his “form” then the bedroom being throw into disarray. I just don’t understand why some of the trailer scenes were cut as they were all very good.

    As for Katy/Christi not remembering anything when they had grown up. Remember the scene where the Mum’s partner and his assistant are reading the Demonology books and there was mention made of “Brain-Washing”? I’m thinking the girls are also brain-washed and have had the memories “erased” by the coven as far as Toby and their parents dying go. Using this method they can keep control of the girls without them going “rogue” as they grew up. It’s really the only explanation I can think of because kids would certainly remember traumatic events such as their parents dying and having their hair grabbed by a ghost!

    My thoughts for they’re worth.

  20. Worst movie I have ever seen. It is so borning and slow. Scary? Yeah right. I get more scared walking to my car in a dark parking lot.

    I felt like a punk when I was leaving. I paid $11 dollars to waste 100 minutes of mylife!?! Who pays to waste their own time? Well Saturday night, I did.

    Please people stop supporting this BS!

    When the movie was over some actually thought the past 90 minutes were a joke and that now the movie was “really” about to start. When people figured out the movie was over almost eveyine in the place started “booing”! What a waste!

  21. OMG, the grandma was a total b****!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • AGREED ! !

  22. i went to watch this on friday and i found the build up very long a boring, when the spooky stuff started happening i expected to be really scared like in the adverts but it was a big dissapointed i found myself laughing at how pathetic it was, most of the scary bits were the actual characters just popping their heads infront of the camera after a long silence, ending was total crap i was very dissapointed and cant believe i wasted my time and money ,,,, DONT WATCH IT, ITS CRAP!

  23. What a disappointment! All trailer scenes missing from final cut. Loved 1&2, they’ve messed 3 up. Nothing really explained!!!

  24. Just watched this movie I wouldn’t say don’t go and watch it, it has its moments but pretty disappointed in the ending like most people, it don’t fit with the story at all there was no fire, or anything that fits the first 2 movies I hope they bring a 4th out so they can explain it a little bit better, but overall liked the movie!

  25. this movie sucked it was a huge let down enough said

  26. This movie was excellent. The story fit together well [kids able to see spiritual phenomena, etc]. The acting was awesome. I was glad they didn’t bore us by repeating the bloody mary trailer. That probably got cut, and replaced with a far superior bloody mary scene. The end scene with the coven is a bit similar to other stories, but can you give a better explanation of how an entity manifests? It seems there would be some ‘memory adjustment’ performed by the demon. When the grandmother is complaining to mom about Dennis, it seems legitimate. But upon rewatching the movie, i’ll pay attention to the beginning when grandma talks on the camera. I think they borrowed some symbology from harry potter [the circle in the triangle], but maybe that’s the way. the demon in katie at the end seems like Case 39, i wish they’d try to top the finale of ‘the season of the witch’. maybe it’s a budget thing. that’s my gripe, need a believble nemesis. PA3 is better than the other 2 overall. I see a lot of the criticisms, but to dwell on minutae like that so much is a waste of your time.

  27. Load of crap all 3 of the films crap simple as

  28. Okay, HUGE question here (and **Spoiler**, btw):

    So, the VERY beginning of the movie, Katie brings Kristi (younger sister) a bunch of videos in a box. Someone opens the box and they start watching videos? I mean, how are *we* the audience seeing the box of videos? Who, in the present, is watching them? If it *is* Kristi and her husband, wouldn’t they like, say, oh crap, we should watch out for demons?

    I remember the box got stolen, but I can’t remember how we got into the framing devise of watching the videos themselves.

  29. Well I saw it last night and was somewhat underwhelmed come the end.I love 1 & 2 but the ending wasn’t as nerve shredding as in PA2. The missing trailer scenes that some readers here keep going on about here was something I saw on the second trailer on youtube and only after watching the movie itself. On the one hand it would have elevated the movie a lot to see those scenes and probably made more credible how screwed up and traumatic it was for Kristie and Katie to experience these events. But now having seen the first trailer which hinged on the ‘bloody mary game with both sisters’ then the movie itself followed by that second trailer, I can see why the story and events therein were downplayed. The film couldve gone in a similiar direction to Insidious except for the lack of ghostbusting doohickeys and the otherworld angle. But now I suppose all I wanna know now is what happened to Hunter and Katie so maybe showing that interspersed with events resolving plotholes from PA3 might be the way to go and that in itself sounds like a saw movie I know but I’d definitely be down for that if it were done right.