Duration: 84 mins
The third and most expensive instalment of the series gets yet a new directorial partnership in the form of Catfish makers, Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost. However, a fresh set of eyes doesn't necessarily constitute a more original approach. In fact, the latest offering is perhaps a little too familiar to the tried-and-tested scares the former ones rely on.
The aesthetic of PA3 isn't just reminiscent of the the first and second: it's exactly the same; a mere extension as the heightened tension and interesting plot exploration looks set to smoothly follow up, albeit it in an earlier timeline. 1988 to be exact, where previously featured sisters Katie and Kristi are young girls growing up with mother, Julie (Lauren Bittner), and boyfriend, Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith), whom, in their new home, experience some spooky goings-on to say the least.
Those who have seen the prior titles will instantly feel a home because (positively or negatively, depending on your opinion) it's basically a carbon copy and doesn't offer anything new (whether such a format change would work or indeed will do for [REC]3 remains to be seen). The family set up cameras around the house as we witness the night-time events of said recordings and await the somewhat predictable jumps and slight movements with the clever and low-key special effects.
Assuredly there are a fair few shocks to be had, which are part-and-parcel of the deal when you see a PA flick. Included are some new touches, notably an oscillating camera that brilliantly pans between the living quarters and kitchen area, building the tension for an inevitable terror or subtle entity addition to the surroundings. As far as serving its purpose, we are privy to intimacies of family life coupled with bumps-in-the-night and plenty of psychological terror itself.
Because the story is in the past, we've already been set-up with characters, plot points and details, so PA3 doesn't dwell too much on these aspects, instead opting to use genre conventions to drive proceedings whilst hinting at back-story as underlying frivolity. Such disposition stands out as narratively the weakest picture. An abrupt ending doesn't bode well either, but arguably doesn't require such information because it's already in context in its franchise story arc.
Worthy of mention is the youngest actor, Jessica Tyler Brown, who plays Kristi. She exudes a classic American cuteness and shows promise for the future with her natural ability. By far the most rounded character, she proves very likeable whereas the remainder of the family aren't particularly explored as we never begin to relate to them at any point, thus always rendering distance between the audience and those screaming away on-screen.
Paranormal Activity 3 doesn't tread any new ground and is notably the weakest entry so far. The fresh scare techniques are startlingly effective, only marred by a lack of genuine innovation and overall it doesn't pack in as many terrifying moments as one ultimately hopes for. Nonetheless, a worthy horror to grip and unnerve for 84 minutes.