johnlink ranks PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 (2011)

Being home from work for a couple of weeks after the birth of baby number two has been nice. Been able to catch up with family, spend some time with my son, support my wife, visit with friends. Oh, and I was able to watch the entire PARANORMAL ACTIVITY series in four days. But that goes lower on the list, I suppose. SPOILERS at the end of the article, but not before I give another warning. So read on freely.



I watched PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 (2011) on 10.11.12. It was my first viewing of the film.

Sticking with the found footage format, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 jumps back to 1988 and tells us the story of the two sisters (Katie and Kristi) as little girls. Throughout the first two films, adult Katie and Kristi reference their ghost-filled childhood. Here, in number three, we get the opportunity to see what really happened,what it is Kristi has been suppressing so fiercely.

Katie and Kristi are living with their mom Julie (Lauren Bittner) and her boyfriend Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith). The father is alluded to, but never specifically discussed (more on that in the spoiler section). In this film, a botched sex tape leads to the discovery of something spooky. Dennis then decides to set cameras up in the home as a way of figuring out what it is. Perhaps the most unbelievable part of this film about ghosts is that the home video equipment Dennis is using is so high quality. While the first film was made on a tight budget and looked authentic, by the third film the producers know they aren’t fooling even the most gullible of film-goers, so the facade of reality can be thinned somewhat.

What makes this film more engaging than the third is the fact that the characters are both more fleshed out and more likable. The PARANORMAL ACTIVITY series, through the first two movies, had a short but tangible mistrust of its male characters. They goaded evil spirits, acted obtuse in the face of facts, or generally did dumb and insensitive things. In number three, Dennis is the provider of our prospective. It is Julie who doesn’t want to believe, but she doesn’t come across as stubborn or negligent. Instead, she is portrayed as someone who doesn’t necessarily want to believe because she doesn’t want to deal with the fallout for what that means for her two young daughters. There is certainly conflict in this film, but it is from a more solid foundation. The lines of likability are much more mixed here.

The camera set-ups are pretty good, if simple at first. A single camera in the kids’ bedroom, a single camera in the parents’ bedroom. When Dennis is frustrated by the inability to capture more house, he deconstructs and oscillating fan and mounts his camera on it. The living room and kitchen are thus shown in slow succession, in a steady pattern. This is a brilliant way of building suspense. There are multiple instances of the audience wanting the camera to move more quickly, or of nervous anticipation as we know something is waiting in the next room. This moving set-up is second only to the first film’s bedroom set-up in effective camera use.

One slight issue I have with these movies in general, but the third most specifically, is that any information that is read out of any supernatural book will absolutely have an impact on the film’s climax. Characters seem to have the superhuman ability to only happen-upon pertinent facts from thousands of pages of books.

Alright, time to move to the SPOILER section, so skip to the scores if you have not seen the film. Last warning.

Getting out of the house is a smart move, even if it results in the weakest ending of three films. It broadens the scope of the films. I’m not sure I like the explanation the series offers for the titular activity, but I also understand that they felt the need to explain something.

The film does leave plenty of questions. How much do Kristi and Katie remember? In the second film Katie mentions that Kristi doesn’t want to become like their mother. That seems to allude to the possibility that they know what happened, or else the grandmother seriously brainwashed them.  Because the mother didn’t have time to make an impression between when she finds out what happened, and when she meets her fate (unless, of course, she didn’t actually die. We never see her close up). Furthermore, I’m pretty sure that Kristi and Katie are immaculate babies (or that the ghost of Toby is the father). I think the absence of the real Dad is intentional. I think there never was one. Of course, we can only go by the information the films give us, and this reading relies on the idea that the certain sections of books read throughout all three movies really are the rules the film is working by. Either way, this third film left me with more big questions than I thought it would.

I know this movie is generally shrugged off, but I was pleasantly surprised by its execution. It enriches the series as a whole, and provides more humor and scares than the third. While the second PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is not bad, it is certainly worth watching so that the third can be fully appreciated. I’m glad I watched all three in quick succession.





~ by johnlink00 on October 12, 2012.

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