Since the breakout success of The Blair Witch Project, the first person horror genre has been on fire. The technique pulls the viewer into the action. We see only what the camera sees, and when the protagonist is behind it, we become the center of the movie. Granted, it requires some suspension of disbelief. Movies like Cloverfield require us to accept that during a disaster, people would continuously film the action. The original Paranormal Activity managed to avoid that problem in a very simple way—a family is being haunted, and they want to know why. They set up cameras and record what happens. It was a fairly brilliant premise, and it made a lot of money. Sequels were inevitable, and so we have Paranormal Activity III.
Is PAIII as good as the original? Not quite. For one, this time we know the formula, and the producer’s decision to continue focusing on the same family instead of branching out seems like a mistake. What we learn about Katie and Kristi doesn’t really add anything to the story and borders on unbelievable. Moreover, whereas Paranormal Activity did its best to avoid the problem of having a character continue to film in unbelievable situations, PAIII decides to throw that restraint aside and rely on suspension of disbelief. At times, the movie takes it too far.
Having said that though, PAIII offers some great scares. The actors are first rate, and we really believe we are watching real people in real situations. The addition of the camera on the oscillating fan is simply tremendous, and as the camera swings back and forth, the sense of anticipation is heightened, whether anything is waiting for us as the camera moves along its path or not. PAIII is a tense film, and every time a new night falls, we know that the demon is waiting. A good movie for horror fans.