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Review: Paranormal Activity 3

Oct. 21, 2011by: Chris Bumbray

PLOT: A prequel set in 1988, showing the initial haunting of sisters Katie (Chloe Csenery- later Katie Featherstone), and Kristi (Jessica Tyler Brown- later Sprague Grayden) by a supernatural presence that would return years later to provoke the events of the first two films.

REVIEW: When I reviewed PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 last year, I was surprised at how much my negative review upset a lot of readers, who felt I wasn't giving the series it's due. Love 'em or hate 'em, I can't deny that the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY films have struck a chord with audiences, and I can totally understand why a lot of JoBlo.com readers would enjoy them. For one thing, they're different from the typical chiller that comes out these days, as the don't resort to CGI, or gore to scare an audience. Rather they prey on a fear that we all share, which are of things that go bump in the night.


Admittedly, I'm not the biggest fan of the series. The first film was an interesting experiment, and director Oren Peli deserves a lot of credit for turning a micro-budget experiment into a major hit. However, the second film was a virtual remake of the first, adding nothing new to the franchise. When I heard they were making a third film, I wasn't the least bit enthused, until hearing that it would be directed by Henry Joost, and Ariel Schulman- whose film CATFISH, I adored (regardless of whether or not it's an actual documentary).

Their approach to PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 is indeed somewhat different from the last two. Aside from the rather obvious prequel aspect (it was only a matter of time really), the film certainly relies more on out-and-out scares this time around. While it took about 2/3's of the running times in previous films, Joost and Schulman get to the scares relatively early.

PA3 focuses on Katie and Kristi's stepfather, Dennis (Chris Smith), a wedding videographer, who's settling into a blissful new marriage with the girls' mother, Julie (Lauren Bittner). Like the other films, this is all found footage, and being set in the eighties, we get a low grade video, with some intentional rolls, and video artifacts (although, in a concession to the fact that this is a studio film, it's starts to look less and less like tape as it goes on, looking way too polished for VHS- oh well). Being a child of the eighties, I appreciated some of the tongue in cheeks flourishes, including the prominent use of a Teddy Ruxpin doll (yay!).


One area that PA3 improves on the last films is in the quality of the cast and characters, all of whom felt a little more authentic than in the other films (Joost and Schulman's documentary background serves them well in this regard). Smith and Bittner are both very likable as the initially disbelieving parents (although the mother's denial is eventually a little tough to swallow), and the youngsters, Brown and particularly Csenery, are fantastic.

However, in an effort to be scarier than the last films, Joost and Schulman may have gone a little too far, as the whole thing becomes so extreme towards the end that the fact that neither of the girls mentions their horrific childhoods in the last two films is a major plot hole. However, if you ignore that little issue, PA3 is indeed a lot more exciting than the last two films, although in moving towards more visceral horror, they might be pushing the films away from what makes them unique to many viewers (although the vocal audience I saw this with didn't seem to mind).

At any rate, while I enjoyed PA3 to a certain extent, I'm still not really a fan of this franchise. It's a series that just doesn't really appeal to me, as I simply don't find them scary. In fact, the whole premise of the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY franchise seems like it was lifted from THE ENTITY (a truly scary 1982 horror flick), but considering how obscure that film is, I guess I'm one of the few that noticed.

Suffice to say, if you liked the last two, you'll probably enjoy the third film, as it is without a doubt the best film of the franchise (in my opinion anyway). However, if like me you thought the other films were overrated, this isn't really going to change your mind about the series. Still, it could have been a lot worse, and at least Schulman and Joost seem to be trying.

Source: JoBlo.com

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+26
10:08AM on 10/21/2011
Your written review does not match the rating you gave. It seems you liked the film but only gave it a 5? Your only complaint was a plot hole? If you give a film a 5 out of 10 please go more in depth on why its only a 5.
Your written review does not match the rating you gave. It seems you liked the film but only gave it a 5? Your only complaint was a plot hole? If you give a film a 5 out of 10 please go more in depth on why its only a 5.
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8:32AM on 10/21/2011
Pretty sure Katie brings up this thing being around since her childhood in the first flick, not seeing the glaring plot hole...
Pretty sure Katie brings up this thing being around since her childhood in the first flick, not seeing the glaring plot hole...
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+10
12:28PM on 10/21/2011

And yes..

it was mentioned in both films about their childhood. Katie mentions it in the first one for a sentence that helped bring on the sequel and then the whole sequel talks about it.
it was mentioned in both films about their childhood. Katie mentions it in the first one for a sentence that helped bring on the sequel and then the whole sequel talks about it.
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+10
12:26PM on 10/21/2011

Adored Catfish?

That movie was flawed and probably one of the biggest online hyped pieces of shit I've ever witnessed.

I remember dragging my friends to see it and then having to apologize to them after.
That movie was flawed and probably one of the biggest online hyped pieces of shit I've ever witnessed.

I remember dragging my friends to see it and then having to apologize to them after.
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+10
7:53AM on 10/21/2011
Idk maybe you should pass on reviewing this series, you have an obvious bias against it from the get go. That would seem to mar an ability to give an honest opinion. To give a 5 out of 10 and rate it the best of the series is pretty telling of your hate for it.

That being said, I'm pissed I saw a trailer for this because it looks like the threw in a lot of the scares of it. Yes I'll see this being a fan of the 1st two.
Idk maybe you should pass on reviewing this series, you have an obvious bias against it from the get go. That would seem to mar an ability to give an honest opinion. To give a 5 out of 10 and rate it the best of the series is pretty telling of your hate for it.

That being said, I'm pissed I saw a trailer for this because it looks like the threw in a lot of the scares of it. Yes I'll see this being a fan of the 1st two.
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8:31AM on 10/21/2011
Agreed. But then again, I've been saying that for a while. If you look back through the history of Chris' reviews, other than a few films of the genre, he just doesn't seem to enjoy most fantasy/horror/scifi films. He seems happiest when reviewing smaller independent films or at least he seems more able to give them a fair shake. He, by his own admittance, goes into these films already not wanting to like them.

He should leave this genre to JimmyO.
Agreed. But then again, I've been saying that for a while. If you look back through the history of Chris' reviews, other than a few films of the genre, he just doesn't seem to enjoy most fantasy/horror/scifi films. He seems happiest when reviewing smaller independent films or at least he seems more able to give them a fair shake. He, by his own admittance, goes into these films already not wanting to like them.

He should leave this genre to JimmyO.
11:27AM on 10/21/2011
DarkElfa- you brought up the same thing on my 3 MUSKETEERS review. Why don't you watch the films before judging. I don't go into anything wanting to hate it. NEVER (well, unless Katherine Heigl's in it). Look at some of my favorites of the year. Yeah, FAST FIVE, CAPTAIN AMERICA, and THOR were all indies. I just appreciate good movies- big budget or no.
DarkElfa- you brought up the same thing on my 3 MUSKETEERS review. Why don't you watch the films before judging. I don't go into anything wanting to hate it. NEVER (well, unless Katherine Heigl's in it). Look at some of my favorites of the year. Yeah, FAST FIVE, CAPTAIN AMERICA, and THOR were all indies. I just appreciate good movies- big budget or no.
9:01AM on 10/21/2011
this family really needs to get over their obsession with video cameras
this family really needs to get over their obsession with video cameras
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+8
9:22PM on 10/23/2011
Wow, you were a little generous to this terrible film. It's just as dull as the first two, if not more so. These films are becoming just as parasitic as the Saw movies (though not nearly as bad) and should stop now before they get any worse. Here's my full review:

[link]
Wow, you were a little generous to this terrible film. It's just as dull as the first two, if not more so. These films are becoming just as parasitic as the Saw movies (though not nearly as bad) and should stop now before they get any worse. Here's my full review:

[link]
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11:04PM on 10/23/2011
I think it's absolutely hysterical that people like you claim to hate these movies yet you keep going to see them and then complain about them.
I think it's absolutely hysterical that people like you claim to hate these movies yet you keep going to see them and then complain about them.
11:25PM on 10/23/2011
Well, as a film critic, I have to go see the big movies opening, so I have to sit through crap like this a lot. I'm just glad I'm not paying for it.
Well, as a film critic, I have to go see the big movies opening, so I have to sit through crap like this a lot. I'm just glad I'm not paying for it.
12:12PM on 10/21/2011
By admitting that at a 5/10 you think this is the best of the franchise you are obviously viewing this threequel with a preconceived bias. That makes it difficult to take your opinion on this film seriously. I don't understand why critics review sequels (and especially threequels) to films they didn't like in the first place.
By admitting that at a 5/10 you think this is the best of the franchise you are obviously viewing this threequel with a preconceived bias. That makes it difficult to take your opinion on this film seriously. I don't understand why critics review sequels (and especially threequels) to films they didn't like in the first place.
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2:02PM on 10/21/2011

Best of the Series

I can't decide if this is worth a watch or not, but when I saw the quote of "best film of the franchise" I certainly didn't expect a 5/10 rating...
I can't decide if this is worth a watch or not, but when I saw the quote of "best film of the franchise" I certainly didn't expect a 5/10 rating...
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7:39PM on 10/21/2011

Explanation

Saw this last night. Loved it.
SPOILER WARNING...
The reason Katie and Kristi seem to not remember the severity of what happens when they were young is because the cult brainwashes them. When Julie's boyfriend is researching the cult based on the symbol they found, he clearly states that the little girls used in the ceremonies are "brainwashed to forget" Hope that clears this up to the reviewer and everyone else.
Saw this last night. Loved it.
SPOILER WARNING...
The reason Katie and Kristi seem to not remember the severity of what happens when they were young is because the cult brainwashes them. When Julie's boyfriend is researching the cult based on the symbol they found, he clearly states that the little girls used in the ceremonies are "brainwashed to forget" Hope that clears this up to the reviewer and everyone else.
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6:54PM on 10/22/2011
Totally agree with you. Bumbray missed this glaring fact in his haste to give this movie a bad review. Next time do your research, Chris!
Totally agree with you. Bumbray missed this glaring fact in his haste to give this movie a bad review. Next time do your research, Chris!
9:24AM on 10/21/2011

Agree with Antarius

We need someone who will give this movie a fair shake. Why would you send someone who doesn't care of a fanchise to review it?
We need someone who will give this movie a fair shake. Why would you send someone who doesn't care of a fanchise to review it?
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10:07AM on 10/21/2011
Because if you were a fan of the franchise, you wouldn't be an objective viewer....DUH! That would be like a Transformers fan admitting the movies are shit.
Because if you were a fan of the franchise, you wouldn't be an objective viewer....DUH! That would be like a Transformers fan admitting the movies are shit.
+3
5:01PM on 10/21/2011
Not interested. Liked the first one, not interested in studio run sequels. The first was something different, a fantastic experiment in minimalist scares and effective dread. The sequels are cash-in, studio produced films attempting to replicate this. PA was never a film that demanded sequels nor studio production. The acting and story were always lackluster. I can appreciate the original film and it's genius moneymaking. I cannot appreciate a studio driven franchise that really has nothing to
Not interested. Liked the first one, not interested in studio run sequels. The first was something different, a fantastic experiment in minimalist scares and effective dread. The sequels are cash-in, studio produced films attempting to replicate this. PA was never a film that demanded sequels nor studio production. The acting and story were always lackluster. I can appreciate the original film and it's genius moneymaking. I cannot appreciate a studio driven franchise that really has nothing to add.
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+2
3:51PM on 10/22/2011
Well i actually think it is the worst one but was still decent and think it deserves at least a 7 rather than a 5......i dont mind slow starting movies cause the movie needs to build up story,character developement etc but I found myself think it ended to soon...should of been another 30 mins at least....IMO
Well i actually think it is the worst one but was still decent and think it deserves at least a 7 rather than a 5......i dont mind slow starting movies cause the movie needs to build up story,character developement etc but I found myself think it ended to soon...should of been another 30 mins at least....IMO
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1:21PM on 10/21/2011
I don't know about most, but movies I rate a 5/10 I don't find that enjoyable. But I am optimistic to see this. I thought the first one was original, the second...MEH. So I'm looking forward to this.
I don't know about most, but movies I rate a 5/10 I don't find that enjoyable. But I am optimistic to see this. I thought the first one was original, the second...MEH. So I'm looking forward to this.
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3:42AM on 10/23/2011

not defending this but...

there are two ways to watch these movies:
1) in a dark theater with as many people as there are seats...and make sure they are screaming highschoolers.
2) at home, on DVD in the privacy of your own home theater system at noon.
there are two ways to watch these movies:
1) in a dark theater with as many people as there are seats...and make sure they are screaming highschoolers.
2) at home, on DVD in the privacy of your own home theater system at noon.
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1:18PM on 10/22/2011

The scariest one yet!

I was on the edge of my seat for this entire movie. I was happy to see that the scares(and the payoffs) came rather early in the film. And that one camera that slowly panned left and right back and forth was just absolute torture. The suspense was practically killing me! Now one thing, the trailers. If you're like me and are mad at what you saw in the trailers or commercials because they felt too spoiler heavy..... dont. Because a good 70% of what was in the trailers didnt even make it to the
I was on the edge of my seat for this entire movie. I was happy to see that the scares(and the payoffs) came rather early in the film. And that one camera that slowly panned left and right back and forth was just absolute torture. The suspense was practically killing me! Now one thing, the trailers. If you're like me and are mad at what you saw in the trailers or commercials because they felt too spoiler heavy..... dont. Because a good 70% of what was in the trailers didnt even make it to the final cut. For better or for worse(I felt the movie needed to be longer. 84 minutes? Come on...) practically everything in the trailers were non-existent.

Now... the ending. I'm not gonna spoil anything but there's a lot of "hype" surrounding the ending. Honestly... the ending scared the shit out of me until about the last 30 seconds. It was already a little over the top(albeit still terrifying) but there was something that happened that was a little way too over the top. So I'm not sure if the ending was the right direction story wise... but it still managed to scare the shit out of me so I guess it's a job well done.

Definitely the scariest entry yet, but I say make the fourth one a proper sequel, and call it the end. Cause they can only continue to make this series so fresh and only push the whole "found footage" shtick so far.
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4:33AM on 10/22/2011

Lol

Anyone who is so obsessed with this franchise that they're defending it is fucking nuts. You are the Big Studio's wet dream. The film already made it's money back opening weekend. Get ready for the next Saw series! Paramount won't let this one disappear. Whores.
Anyone who is so obsessed with this franchise that they're defending it is fucking nuts. You are the Big Studio's wet dream. The film already made it's money back opening weekend. Get ready for the next Saw series! Paramount won't let this one disappear. Whores.
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9:23AM on 10/22/2011
Why is someone "nuts" if they legitimately like these movies? And what Hollywood franchise (Saw, Halloween, Friday the 13th etc.) or movie isn't made to make money? I don't see what the studios intentions have to do with it if people legitimately like a film or series. If you want integrity watch indies. I do (and I like my Hollywood stuff too.)
Why is someone "nuts" if they legitimately like these movies? And what Hollywood franchise (Saw, Halloween, Friday the 13th etc.) or movie isn't made to make money? I don't see what the studios intentions have to do with it if people legitimately like a film or series. If you want integrity watch indies. I do (and I like my Hollywood stuff too.)
2:05AM on 10/22/2011

LOL seriously

a 5/10 you people are fuckin idiots. LMAO. this one was the best one by far and way better then the first and 2nd one. At least it didn't have 80 mins of talk and no action. And the scares were pretty tight :)
a 5/10 you people are fuckin idiots. LMAO. this one was the best one by far and way better then the first and 2nd one. At least it didn't have 80 mins of talk and no action. And the scares were pretty tight :)
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9:46PM on 10/21/2011

Trailer Trashed?

Just got back from the film - it was okay. Much better than the last one. I really liked the first one, absolutely HATE the second one, and am kind of okay with this one.
However, anyone notice how trailer trashed this film is? I must have seen 6 or 7 clips on various horror movie sites and not a single one of them is actually in the film. Every trailer and tv spot also includes numerous scenes/sequences which are not only not in the film, there is nothing even remotely that would lead to
Just got back from the film - it was okay. Much better than the last one. I really liked the first one, absolutely HATE the second one, and am kind of okay with this one.
However, anyone notice how trailer trashed this film is? I must have seen 6 or 7 clips on various horror movie sites and not a single one of them is actually in the film. Every trailer and tv spot also includes numerous scenes/sequences which are not only not in the film, there is nothing even remotely that would lead to it. Its like they deleted an entire movie from the movie we got. Or, they purposefully made scenes not intending to include them only to make the actual "real" movie to remain a surprise.
Again, overall, not bad but I am simply stunned at the amount of material we see in marketing materials which is not even in the film.
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11:19AM on 10/21/2011
i read the review and then noticed the score and was like
i read the review and then noticed the score and was like
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11:47PM on 10/21/2011

Hmm

You're calling it the best of the series, RT gave it a "fresh" rating...it even made all its money back opening night. And yet the second one was a dull, unscary piece of crap. Did they really manage to improve??? I remain skeptical, but curious.
You're calling it the best of the series, RT gave it a "fresh" rating...it even made all its money back opening night. And yet the second one was a dull, unscary piece of crap. Did they really manage to improve??? I remain skeptical, but curious.
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3:52PM on 10/22/2011
This is a HORRIBLE review. This movie is an easy 8/10 WTF is this reviewer smoking? very subjective review based on his personal opinion and not objective critiquing. 5/10??WTF??? this same sight though highly of Captain America, but puts a low rank on a brilliant and creative scary film? come on...
This is a HORRIBLE review. This movie is an easy 8/10 WTF is this reviewer smoking? very subjective review based on his personal opinion and not objective critiquing. 5/10??WTF??? this same sight though highly of Captain America, but puts a low rank on a brilliant and creative scary film? come on...
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12:22PM on 10/21/2011
I thought the film was great! If you didn't like the minimalism in the first two films (more so the first one), you'll definitely like this one. Not only are the quantity of the scares much great (and comes in much earlier in the film than expected), the quality of the scares are pretty great too. Overall, if you want to see things go bump in the night, PA3 is one of the best. 8/10
I thought the film was great! If you didn't like the minimalism in the first two films (more so the first one), you'll definitely like this one. Not only are the quantity of the scares much great (and comes in much earlier in the film than expected), the quality of the scares are pretty great too. Overall, if you want to see things go bump in the night, PA3 is one of the best. 8/10
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1:47AM on 10/23/2011

Suprising

I found Paranormal Activity 3 to be very effective and enjoyable, and this is coming from someone who HATED the first movie. I just saw the second one the other day and thought it was pretty okay, but the third one was a really good movie. This is just MY opinion though.
I found Paranormal Activity 3 to be very effective and enjoyable, and this is coming from someone who HATED the first movie. I just saw the second one the other day and thought it was pretty okay, but the third one was a really good movie. This is just MY opinion though.
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-5
11:24AM on 10/21/2011

Mini Review

Where am I coming from? I thought the first one was very creative with limited resources and thought the second was creepy but just fine; completely on par with the first. Completely understand why the second didn't do anything drastically different (Blair Witch 2 anyone?). Now for my mini review on the third:

Terrifying and the best damn Horror I've seen this year! CATFISH directors Joost and Schulman, who show glimmering talent, stay within the confines of the series but build creative &
Where am I coming from? I thought the first one was very creative with limited resources and thought the second was creepy but just fine; completely on par with the first. Completely understand why the second didn't do anything drastically different (Blair Witch 2 anyone?). Now for my mini review on the third:

Terrifying and the best damn Horror I've seen this year! CATFISH directors Joost and Schulman, who show glimmering talent, stay within the confines of the series but build creative & highly effective ideas upon the bedrock. The oscillating camera is just one of their many wise decisions. It's one of those rare scary movies where you'll be glad it's over because it means you can start breathing again.
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9:19AM on 10/21/2011

TWO WORDS

GRAVE ENCOUNTERS.. One of.. No.. The best.. Found footage horror movie period. I can't judge PA2 OR 3 because I never seen them but I can tell you that GRAVE ENCOUNTERS makes PA1 look like a fuckin' Disney flick, and it's what I thought PA1 should have been. Paranormal makes 100 million and this film goes straight to DVD. Makes no sense. The trailer is on youtube.. Check it out.
GRAVE ENCOUNTERS.. One of.. No.. The best.. Found footage horror movie period. I can't judge PA2 OR 3 because I never seen them but I can tell you that GRAVE ENCOUNTERS makes PA1 look like a fuckin' Disney flick, and it's what I thought PA1 should have been. Paranormal makes 100 million and this film goes straight to DVD. Makes no sense. The trailer is on youtube.. Check it out.
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10:09AM on 10/21/2011
I do have a agree that grave encounters was suprisingly awesome.
I do have a agree that grave encounters was suprisingly awesome.
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