[Movie Review] Paranormal Activity 3

With Paranormal Activity 3, one begins to suspect that the franchise isn't sure where to go. Since the end of Paranormal Activity, the plot has only moved forward several hours of in-universe time. Everything else has been prequel material; Paranormal Activity 2 outlined the events that set up Paranormal Activity (with a brief bit of genuine sequel at the end) and Paranormal Activity 3 chronicles the original 1980s haunting of the Featherston women--Katie, Kristi, and their mother, Julie--and Julie's live-in boyfriend, Dennis.

There are a lot of flaws in Paranormal Activity 3. Perhaps most damning are the significant differences between Katie and Kristi's exposition from the first two movies and what we are shown in this.

In Paranormal Activity, the first major detail of Katie's story is that she has been haunted on and off throughout her entire life, starting when she was eight. After a brief section immediately preceding the events of 2, the main plot of 3 begins with Katie's eighth birthday party. The haunting gets into full swing soon afterwards, so that detail is preserved with reasonable accuracy.

On the other hand, Paranormal Activity has details that completely fail to match up with 3. For instance, Micah mentions Katie's mother visiting them in Paranormal Activity; in 3, however, she appears to have died when Katie was eight. Furthermore, Katie mentions in the original movie that when she was eight, she and Kristi used to see a shadowy figure standing at the foot of Katie's bed (and, she clarified, it was always Katie's bed, never Kristi's); yet in 3, Katie never sees "Toby", and Kristi is the primary focus of the haunting.

In Paranormal Activity 2, Kristi says she remembers nothing of the childhood haunting; Katie says she remembers Kristi cried all the time, suffered from insomnia and anxiety attacks, and even stopped talking for months. Katie also mentions that "weird people came to [the] house and Mom was upset all the time."

Here we have perhaps the biggest problem. In 3, the demon was Kristi's imaginary friend, and the relationship didn't become openly aggressive until the end of the movie. So where's this crying, insomnia, anxiety, and mutism Katie's talking about? For almost all of the movie, Kristi was a sweet, cheerful five-year-old who suffered none of those negative symptoms. So is Katie talking about the second haunting (when Katie was thirteen)? Does she have false memories of the haunting when she was eight? Did the writers just forget what their predecessors had written? The movie offers no hints as to the correct answer.

And the mention of "weird people" further implies that Julie survived the third movie, which the movie itself does not imply in the slightest; while there is a group of "creepy old ladies" in the end of the third movie, they are at Grandma Lois's house, not Julie's, and neither Katie nor Julie ever sees them. So is Katie talking about the haunting when she was thirteen? If so, Julie either survived 3, or else Katie and Kristi identify some other woman as "Mom"... but who? Their dad is never seen (or spoken of, if I recall correctly), so it's probably not a stepmother. An adoptive mother, then? It's possible, given the events of the fourth movie. But the adoptive mother certainly couldn't be anyone from the coven, because why would one of those women be "upset all the time" because of the haunting? And it was definitely because of the haunting, as in Paranormal Activity 2, Katie uses their mother's misfortune to encourage Kristi to ignore the demon when she says something to the effect of "Remember what happened to Mom?"

As you can see, the worst problem of Paranormal Activity 3 is how loose it plays with the series' continuity. But there are other problems.

See, for example, the second trailer for the movie.

After you watch the movie, you'll notice something fairly important:. Almost none of those scenes are in the movie. And why the heck not? One of them in particular is integral to the plot; in Paranormal Activity, Katie tells the psychic that she was forced to move to a new home after the original haunting because her childhood house burned down. The house fire is in the trailer. Why on earth did it get cut from the film?

As for the horror of the film, it's typical Paranormal Activity fare. One character has an obsession with recording his entire life. Little things happen while the characters are established. More noticeable things begin to scare the characters (including a rip-off of the kitchen scene from the second movie). Cue final night when everyone (well, not everyone) dies.

If you like the Paranormal Activity series, you might like this third one. But if you're a stickler for continuity... you might be better off pretending this doesn't exist.

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