The third film in the Paranormal Activity franchise is very much like the other two in its execution. Sisters Katie (Katie Featherson & Chloe Csengery) and Kristi (Sprague Grayden & Jessica Tyler Brown) are seen in the beginning before the second film occurred, which was in itself a prequel to the first. In this one, the setting is 1988 and the sisters are both young children living with their mother Julie (Lauren Bittner) and her boyfriend Dennis (Christopher Nicolas Smith).
This film started off on a much more subtle note than the second one did, taking time to explain the story and the characters rather than trying any scare tactics from near the beginning. That in itself provides its own suspense as the expectation was on the idea that something was going to happen, it was simply a matter of when. Being set in the late 80s also made it easy to set up a much more primitive system of videotaping than the other two films did as well being relient on cassette rather than digital. Perhaps cassette provide a more authentic feeling than digital which can be easily altered.
Of course these films aren’t real but part of the fun is trying to give them a sense of realism. That’s what makes this franchise work. Instead of focusing on the actual scare tactics themselves, the focus is on the suspense. In one of the scenes, a videocamera is set up on a dismantled fan which rotates from left to right to get the full span of the living room and kitchen. This provides the most suspense as the viewer knows to expect something once the camera naturally pans back from the kitchen to the living room. Suspense builds when nothing actually happens and the camera pans back to the kitchen again. The biggest scare tactic is actually nothing at all. It’s constantly building.
Paranormal Activity 3 is also the first film of the series to go beyond the basic elements of the single individual accounts into providing further depth for the overall story. We have the ‘what’, now we’re going into the ‘how’ and ‘why’. When the third film was announced within the last year, my thoughts were that there was only so much that can be done and it seems a little excessive for such a thin storyline. After this film, it’s clear Paranormal Activity will become its own possibly-yearly movie franchise and there are openings left to take the story now. There is some confusion with some of the inconsistencies as a result of the storyline with 3 that hopefully will be answered in later episodes rather than being weaknesses in the writing. However, Paranormal Activity 3 does take the strengths of the previous films and digs deeper into the story to provide a wonderful guilty pleasure with the fourth one arriving next F all.