I figure if I’m doing this whole 31 days of horror thing, it would probably be a good idea to actually go see a NEW horror movie in the theater. Since I missed the screening of The Woman and I really am not excited about The Thing, Paranormal Activity 3 seemed like an okay choice. I’ve seen the first two Paranormal Activity movies and while I’m not super into them, there are a few things happening that I can talk about. I also missed both of those in the theater.

Plus, my friend Chris really wanted to see it. Okay, Paranormal Activity 3 it is!

Paranormal Activity 3 – USA, 2011. Dir. Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman. Starring Chloe Csengery, Jessica Tyler Brown, Christopher Nicholas Smith.

I remember when the first Paranormal Activity was coming out and there were all of the trailers and press about how scary it was, how terrifying the audiences found it. My friends actually went to one of the early Hollywood screenings that happened, before the wide release. I was supposed to go and was stuck working instead (lame!) but my friends told me it was incredibly scary. It was living up to the hype. I actually really wanted to see it.

Finally, eventually, I rented the DVD, turned out the lights, poured a glass of wine, and curled up on the couch ready to be scared. And… well… yeah. Meh.

It had its scary moments, sure. Mostly though I could not get past the fact that I found the characters to be incredibly unlikeable. I spent most of the movie wanting to punch Micah in the face. Not conducive to a pleasurable movie watching experience.

So Paranormal Activity, not my favorite.

Then Paranormal Activity 2 came out. I was on the fence. I really didn’t like the first one, but the concept wasn’t bad and maybe I’d like it more with different characters. I guess I did. Some scary stuff happened, the characters weren’t nearly as annoying. That helped. Still though, not my favorite. They started to fill in the back story a little more and that was okay but a lot of the movie just felt like filler. Rather than the quiet down time building up the tension, it only serves to fill the gaps in between the scary stuff. Most of the movie ends up being completely forgettable. At least the first one had the advantage of doing something new-ish, the second one is just more of the same gimmick with less of the surprise.

Paranormal Activity 2, still not my favorite.

Yet I’m still willing to give Paranormal Activity 3 a chance. Why? Well, a big part of it was that I had watched 1 & 2 at home, on DVD. I was curious to see how the theater experience would effect my opinion. Would it be more fun to watch this with an audience who was reacting appropriately to all of the scares? How would that work out? Another factor was that I was also curious to see if the addition of the two little girls would make a difference. Turn of the Screw type stuff. Would it be scarier if children were placed in jeopardy (yes, I know there is the baby in second one, but he was so young he doesn’t really count as a character). Then there was the fact that Chris really wanted to see it. So there, I was in.

Paranormal Activity 3, still not my favorite but it’s okay. Not great, but okay. At least, I didn’t hate it.

Watching in the theater was actually pretty fun. People’s reactions are amazing. At one point a girl actually screamed. It was fun to be able to share a laugh with my friends when something ridiculous happened. I enjoyed this part. The mini wine bottle I had stashed in my purse didn’t hurt but still, it was fun.

If you missed the trailers, Paranormal Activity 3 is a prequel to the first two movies. It follows Katie and Kristy as they are little girls, before they’ve lost their parents, when the haunting activity is just beginning. It fills in the back story a little more but mostly it follows the same formula of the first two: weird stuff happens around the house, the man of the house decides to start filming it, the haunting escalates, there’s a climax, there’s a shocking ending.

I think what helped this one the most for me is that this was the first time I actually liked any of the characters. Julie, Katie & Kristi’s mother, is probably the least exciting person in this movie. Lauren Bittner is fine in the role, she’s just never given much to do. The two little girls are adorable though and both actresses do a great job. Most importantly though is the fact that Christopher Nicholas Smith in the role of Dennis is not super annoying. He’s the one filming everything, he has the most time on camera, and he’s actually, surprisingly, likable. He made this movie watchable.

Beyond that though, it’s mostly just more of the same. Some of the frights are genuinely creepy but unfortunately we’ve seen almost all of it before. We’ve seen the shocking reveals, the doors slamming, the furniture or whatever being thrown around. Young Kristi and her invisible friend are a new touch and one of my favorite scenes is the one in which Dennis has a tea party with Kristi and the invisible Toby. It’s silly, sweet, and disturbing. There are several other clever moments, the addition of the Bloody Mary game was terrifying for anyone who remembers playing as a child, but again, most of this we’ve seen before.

It’s sort of a shame this wasn’t the first in the series. When the premise of your film relies so heavily on one gimmick (that this is filmed entirely as “home movies”), you can only take that so far. By the third time around it begins to feel tired. Too bad it took them three tries to start to get things right.

If you like the first two movies, go check this one out. Otherwise, there’s no rush. Watch it if you’re curious but I don’t think you’re missing much if you skip it.