It's Horror Movie Month! "Paranormal Activity 3" Review

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures

Want a Chance to Win the Entire "Twilight" Collection on Blu-Ray? Enter here!

It's Horror Movie Month! "Paranormal Activity 3" Review

Rating: R Length: 83 minutes
Release Date: Oct. 21, 2011
Directed by: Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman
Genre: Horror

Horror series often get only a few good stories in before they become bogged down in repetition, relying heavily on the same old tricks to fill the next movie request. "Paranormal Activity 3" carefully skirts the trap of repetition by adding more than a few twists designed to advance the story and heighten the tension. This makes the film a great choice for those who already know the standard tropes of horror movies and are ready to try something that incorporates new spooks and scares alongside time-tested ways of frightening moviegoers.

"Paranormal Activity 3" delivers a tale filled with mystery and the supernatural. The story begins with two characters from the first two movies, Kristi (Sprague Grayden) and Daniel (Brian Boland), as they begin preparing for the birth of their new son. A series of videotapes left to them by Kristi's grandmother slowly reveals the secrets of the pregnant woman's family and upbringing. Kristi's mother, Julie (Lauren Bittner), and her boyfriend Dennis (Chris Smith) star in the tapes and take center stage as the descent into true horror is unleashed.

The main actors in "Paranormal Activity 3" deliver some exceptional performances. Grayden is truly believable as Kristi, a girl whom moviegoers familiar with the earlier films may already suspect to be heavily involved in deep and mysterious plots. Similarly, Boland delivers an excellent performance and helps Grayden create some of the most memorable early scenes in the film. Bittner is a solid example of a woman trapped in circumstances far beyond the ken of normal people, and Smith's portrayal of Dennis as a man determined to get to the bottom of events best left alone is one of the film's many highlights. The child actors in the movie deliver a fair performance, with Jessica Tyler Brown as the young Kristi giving off an eerie vibe that will disconcert some viewers.

The cinematography is one area in which the film falls a bit short. Some scenes are filmed in darkness so total that it's hard to tell exactly what is happening around the main characters. Properly used, this creates incredible suspense, but it often obscures events to the point that it lessens the overall scare instead of adding to the horror of a scene. Viewers may find themselves wishing they had a rewind button or could adjust the brightness to better enjoy many of the film's scares. The transitions are often jumpy and may leave viewers feeling disconnected. The camera angles, however, provide an excellent redemption for most of these flaws. Scares are almost always captured with just the right angle to get even veteran horror fans jumping out of their seats.

The script is surprisingly good for a Halloween release. Rather than relying entirely on tropes established by other films in the genre, screenwriters Christopher Landon and Oren Peli carve their own tale out of traditional stories of witchcraft and demons. The result is a tale that falls somewhere between "The Omen" and "The Amityville Horror," borrowing the best of both stories and twisting it into something more original. The dialogue does not fall into campy territory, and the characters' lines are realistic and suit the events happening around them.

The two directors tasked with bringing the story to life do an admirable job. Horror movies often fall into either shock-and-scare tactics or creepy mystery fare. "Paranormal Activity 3" balances the two and, much like the story itself, weaves the themes clearly through both the characters' actions and the dialogue. The casting decisions are exceptionally good, and the directors place each character in seemingly just the right place for the best scare or spooky moment. The choice, seemingly made by the directors as well as the scriptwriter, to keep children out of the film's scary climax seems to be a good one and is likely to be lauded by many viewers.

"Paranormal Activity 3" is a great take on the old campfire tale about haunted houses and imaginary friends. The movie makes the most of common horror tropes, twisting and remaking them to tell a story that's suited to contemporary audiences. The film is likely to find a home in the collections of horror fans and supernatural or mystery genre aficionados alike, making it a great choice for Halloween movie nights or a stay-at-home evening under the covers with a loved one.

Rating: 3 out of 5