Horror review: Paranormal Activity 3

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ORIGINALLY POSTED ON STRAIGHT.COM, OCT. 21, 2011

By Steve Newton

It’s not often that Hollywood spawns a demonic-horror film franchise that produces nothing but winners. It didn’t happen with The Omen; it didn’t happen with The Exorcist; and it sure as hell didn’t happen with The Blair Witch Project.

But it has happened with Paranormal Activity. All three of that series’ low-budget offerings—2007’s Paranormal Activity, 2010’s Paranormal Activity 2, and the new prequel Paranormal Activity 3—have hit the mark with moviegoers in search of serious scares. The latest installment isn’t quite as terrifying as the second, but it’s still extremely creepy and engrossing and everything you’d want in a 21st-century nightmare maker.

PA3 takes us back to the childhood experiences of Katie and Kristi, the sisters who were menaced by ghostly forces in PA and PA2. The brunt of the action occurs in 1988 in Carlsbad, California, where the sweet little girls (outstanding wee actors Chloe Csengery and Jessica Tyler Brown as Katie and Kristi, respectively) live with their mom, Julie (Lauren Bittner), and stepdad, Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith). Their seemingly innocuous existence unfolds in a split-level tract home that leaves plenty of room for the antics of Kristi’s “imaginary friend”.

But with friends like “Toby”, who needs demons?

Spurred by escalating weirdness in the house, wedding videographer Dennis starts installing cameras all over the place, even rigging one on Julie’s oscillating fan to pan back and forth from the kitchen to the front door. As in Paranormal 2, the comfort and familiarity of the living quarters leads to exquisite tension when insidious elements creep in.

After much recorded freakiness, the family flees to the perceived safety of the kids’ grandmother’s house, and that’s when the already maxed-out fear quotient gets cranked to 11. As far as story line is concerned, it’s unclear where a fourth Paranormal Activity might lead the three-for-three franchise, but wherever it may wander, discriminating horror fans are sure to go.

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