Anyone who's read my blog and my previous reviews of the other 'Paranormal Activity' films, knows that I am a big fan of them all. Despite the "uncoolness" of using the 'found footage' genre, these films continue to impress me and use that genre to its fullest potential. I think the market is a bit oversaturated, sure, but there is always room for anything that's good no matter what the format. That holds true for everything. Put out a good product and it will overcome any obstacles. When I came into this film, I was ready to see the series fall on it's rear end. I was hoping for something great, but expecting something mediocre or worse. When it was over and I was watching a blank screen, I felt like I took the rollarcoaster ride all over again. It was like this was the first film and it was all still brand new. I needed the references from the old films to make this one make sense, but taking that part out of the equation, it was a great film all on its own. It brought the slow burning creepiness from the others and the constant curiousity of what was going to happen next and from where. I was literally glued to the screen for the entire run time. The script was creative and kept the story alive, without it slipping into a cheesy soap opera comfort zone. It didn't really up the ante any, but rather kept things on an even playing field with the others.... that way you can watch them in any order and end up with the same result, fear. That, to me, is an accomplishment.
The story begins with a box of videotapes missing. The contents of the tapes are unknown, but the sisters from the original films eventually find out. While viewing the tapes, we flashback to 1988 when the girls are kids. Their home is haunted by a spirit or spirits (as mentioned in the original) and no one seems to see it, but them. As the activity becomes more and more intense, soon the adults are starting to see what's going on. As we delve deeper and deeper into the horrors of the spirits, we learn that something far more sinister may be going on underneath it all. That's my basic version of the storyline. I couldn't find one that really summed it up in a way that I agreed with. The story is there and complex enough, but it's really something you have to see to enjoy. It's one that plays on our deepest fears as a child and all of the things that we eventually grew out of. It kind of makes you wonder if perhaps what you were afraid of.... really was something to be afraid of. Granted, I am in need of a second viewing to really absorb the ending, as it is a bit 'unique' and I am not 100% sure how I feel about it. You'll have to make up your own mind on that one.As this is a sequel/prequel to the first two in the franchis, many of the same characters return. Maybe not in the way we met them, but as their younger selves for most of the film. It's a good plot device and a good way to get repeat viewers back into the storyline by having something familiar to latch on to. This film also answers a lot of questions laid out in previous installments. It also fills in some gaps and somehow advances the story in reverse. Not that we needed a visual explaination of the past events, but it's kind of nice to re-live it the way the girls did. There are many genuine scares here. Anytime you have little kids and ghosts mixed up, things get creepy. I'm not entirely sure why that is, but it's a proven formula and it's taken full advantage of here. Those wonderful little moments where a child sees something that isn't there. Is it really there? Or are they just imagining it? It also makes us wonder if when our kids are out of our sight, what is really going on? Are the things that happen to them really happening or is it just a game? It's all that much more striking when you have kids of your own and see this film.
Here's a quick timeline for the films, before I sum everything up: (in chronological order)
1) 'Paranormal Activity 3' (2011) [takes place in 2006 and 1988]
2) 'Paranormal Activity' (2007) [takes place in 2006]
3) 'Paranormal Activity: Tokyo Night' (2010) [according to Wiki, it takes place in 2010.... however, the storyline actually takes place in 2006, pretty much right after the original 'Paranormal Activity']
4) 'Paranormal Activity 2' (2010) [it takes place 2 months prior to the original and then immediately right after the end of the original]
Now that this one is under my belt, I'm already hearing rumors of a 4th in the franchise. I am concerned that this win streak can't go on forever. We'll just have to wait and see on that one. In the meantime, we have 3 solid films with 1 additional for good measure and that's plenty. If this was the end of it, so be it. This is yet another 4 star experience and one that will be added to my DVD library some day soon. It's a trip that I want to take again, to see what I missed and to have that creeped out feeling all over. This may not be the same way everyone will feel about 'Paranormal Activity 3'. I can already imagine that many of you think that this well has run dry or perhaps you won't like it because it's a prequel. However, you're in the minority. This film was very well received by critics and fans alike. Not saying that you're wrong, but rather just asking you to keep an open mind when you see it. You may be surprised at what you see. This isn't the greatest ghost story ever told. It's not the greatest horror film of all time. The acting isn't amazing and the direction isn't the best I've ever seen.... but that doesn't mean it can't be a great film anyway. Sometimes it just takes a good established storyline and a lot of heart. It seems funny to say that about something like this, but it's exactly the way I see it. This is a great chapter in a great story and one that I think will stick with me for years to come.
If you like this, check out the other three films: 'Paranormal Activity', 'Paranormal Activity 2' and 'Paranormal Activity: Tokyo Night'