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In 1988, young sisters Katie and Kristi befriend an invisible entity who resides in their home.
A leaner, meaner, and altogether scarier entry in the Paranormal Activity horror franchise, Paranormal Activity 3 is a well-oiled scare machine that delivers the gut-wrenching shocks of the original 2007 film. Fans may initially groan over the plot, which takes the tried-and-true sequel tack of flashing back to the "origin" of the first film's phenomena; here, we discover that the diabolical entity that plagued sisters Katie and Kristi (Katie Featherston and Sprague Grayden, both of whom return in "found footage" clips) has been after the girls since their adolescent years in the late '80s. There's an attempt to provide a reason for the haunting, which may or may not rankle franchise fans; its inclusion, however, doesn't interrupt the barrage of shudders and armrest-clutching frights encountered by the girls' father (Chris Smith), a wedding videographer whose skill with cameras uncovers glimpses of the monstrous presence in his house. Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (Catfish) have a keen understanding of how to use the corners of their image to milk maximum suspense from a static shot or slow-moving pan, as shown in one of the film's most memorable scenes, in which a camera mounted on an oscillating fan first suggests and then reveals a terrifying moment. As before, the human element is the weakest link, though Chloe Csengery and Jessica Tyler Brown, as young Katie and Kristi, respectively, are convincingly hysterical at the proper moments. But one doesn't attend a Paranormal Activity film to see fine acting. The franchise is a thrill ride/rite of passage/endurance test for its loyal fans, and PA 3 has the horsepower to stand alongside the other pictures. --Paul Gaita