Since this is a horror prequel to a horror prequel, let’s call it a horror threquel. Time traveling back to 1988, it reveals how sisters Katie and Kristi Rey were traumatized at an early age by ominous, supernatural occurrences.
Beginning in the summer of 2006, just prior to the events of the previous two films, now-adult sisters Katie (Katie Featherston) and pregnant Kristi (Sprague Graydon) discover a stash of old family VHS tapes from their recently deceased grandmother’s (Hallie Foote) house, one of which is labeled “Summer, 1988,” as the ‘found footage’ flashback begins.
Celebrating a birthday party, young Katie (Chloe Csengery) and young Kristi Rey (Jessica Tyler Brown) are living with their mother, Julie (Lauren Bittner), and her partner, Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith), a wedding videographer, and curious about the inexplicable sounds emanating from their new home in Santa Rosa, California.
“It’s a new house; it shouldn’t be making these noises,” Dennis grumbles. So he sets up surveillance cameras in the bedrooms, kitchen and living room which chronicle the family’s daily activities, complete with Teddy Ruxpin and Lite-Brites, along with those mysterious nighttime disturbances. But Kristi has this imaginary friend Toby. There are phantom footsteps, doors open and close, and the toy closet contains demonic spirits. Then there’s that fateful game of “Bloody Mary” in the bathroom.
Terrified and tormented by otherworldly ghosts, sisters Katie and Kristi are creepily cursed by a deeply evil force.
Working from a formulaic, infuriatingly illogical script by Christopher B. Landon (co-writer of “Paranormal Activity 2), co-directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (creators of the pseudo-documentary “Catfish”) amplify the repetitive mythology, effectively prolonging the suspense, leaving much to the viewer’s imagination, particularly as a camera mounted on a disassembled swiveling fan base reveals weirdly different things each time the fan rotates from the kitchen to the living room and back.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Paranormal Activity 3” escalates to a spooky, scary 7, especially for Halloween. It’s more unnerving and sinister this time ‘round, as the low-budget/ high-payoff franchise continues.