Review in a Hurry: Another prequel to the mega-successful Paranormal Activity centers again on Katie and her sister Kristi. But this time: the kid years! Set in the late '80s, to explore what exactly happened all those years ago, 3 has the most likeable cast by far, some honest laughs and plenty of those patented Paranormal scares.
But the finale (which we won't spoil), while tense, is extremely uninspired.
The Bigger Picture: What originally started as a tiny film about an annoying couple where the guy needed to film everything, (call it the Blair Witch Project school of acting) has finally become a series with likeable characters. Christopher Nicholas Smith plays stepdad Dennis with plenty of self-effacing humor. He loves his stepdaughters Katie and Kristi a lot, but the thought of one of them (the youngest, Kristi) having a supernatural friend he loves a whole lot more. He's a videographer with plenty of cameras and an endless supply of VHS tapes. So with his Napoleon Dynamite-esque assistant (Dustin Ingram), they're hoping to see plenty of activity.
As mom Julie, Lauren Bittner is saddled with the always-underwhelming nonbeliever role. This is the third film, and the audience is clearly onboard, so why even bother with a naysayer?
Dennis sets up cameras everywhere: his room, the kids' room and in a clever move, attaches a camera to a fan, which allows it to move left to right to scan the dining and kitchen area in suspenseful fashion.
Then there's little Kristi and her imaginary friend Toby. Older sister Katie doesn't believe in Toby and that, of course, is a big mistake. While all the performances are solid Jessica Tyle Brown who plays young Kristi is the standout.
Even though there are plenty of genuine laughs, they do not come at the expense of the scares. There's something still irresistible about seeing those surveillance-type POVs, peering into them for just a moment longer before the payoff.
Directed by the duo that made last year's other handheld outing, Catfish, Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman have a blast with all the paranormal toys: the sudden loud booms from offscreen, the ordinary appliance that just feels off and a creepy Teddy Ruxpin that doesn't do anything...but feels like it should.
But the script by Christopher B. Landon isn't content to let the scares stay weird and unexplainable. The last act reveal, which shows why exactly it's all about these two sisters, is a big letdown. The execution is fine but ultimately, it's just too darn silly to suspend disbelief.
The 180—a Second Opinion: Production-wise, 3 is the most elaborate since it's set in '80s. And they nailed it big time with big fog lights, gaudy mirrors and the hot pink outfits of the period.