Sisters Katie and Kristi were menaced by a malevolent force all the way back in the 1980s as we see in Paranormal Activity 3, another prequel in the horror series.
Katie (Katie Featherstone), the sister who lived with a camera-happy boyfriend named Micah in the first movie, and Kristi (Sprague Grayden), whose family was terrorized in the second movie, are seen briefly in their mid-aught incarnations and then we meet them in 1988.
Young Katie (Chloe Csengery) and Kristi (Jessica Brown) live with their mom Julie (Lauren Bittner) and her boyfriend Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith) in a relatively new house in Santa Rosa, California. We know it’s new because Dennis, a wedding videographer, thinks it’s strange that, in this new house, they are hearing all these noises lately. One night, Dennis convinces Julie to let him video tape them gettin’ it on. Before things get too sexy, though, they start to hear those strange noises again — and then there’s an earthquake. Julie and Dennis run to check on the kids, the camera falls over as the shaking continues but it keeps filming. Later, Dennis watches the footage and sees what we see — that dust falls from the ceiling and settles, as if on a person, midair. Then it falls to the ground. See? Dennis says to his assistant Randy (Dustin Ingram), there’s something in this house. Determined to figure out what, he sets up cameras in the bedrooms and takes apart an oscillating fan to create a camera that can keep an eye on the entire downstairs. Based on what he sees, Dennis starts to think that Kristi’s new “imaginary” friend Tobey might have something to do with what’s happening.
As in previous movies, the scares in Paranormal Activity 3 come from the camera’s unthinking look at the rooms. We don’t get zoom-ins on the creepy stuff — it is often happening off to the side or somewhere in the background. The oscillating fan camera is particularly good at building tension — what’s going to change between this view and the next view of the kitchen? The Paranormal Activity movies are all built on minor oddities that slowly freak out a home’s inhabitants.
And for me, it works. There are more answers to “why” in this movie, but they come at the very end. I suspect it could be not enough or too much why for some people. But for me, the ordinariness of the characters and their relationships, paired with the everyday-ness of the suburban surroundings, is what makes the scary stuff scary.
Paranormal Activity 3 does a good job of building off the first two movies while still standing on its own. B
Rated R for some violence, language, brief sexuality and drug use. Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman and written by Christopher B. Landon (from characters written by Oren Peli), Paranormal Activity 3 is an hour and 25 minutes long and is distributed by Paramount Pictures.