It would be fitting if this low-key horror foray would be the last in the series as the storyline from Christopher B. Landon colors (without a deft logical continuity) in what has tormented sisters Kate (Katie Featherston) and Kristi Rey (Sprague Grayden) from their childhood.
Paranormal Activity 3, like its predecessors, offers tension sans lurid languor and bloodletting, a mainstay in torturous franchises which have featured characters like Jigsaw and Michael Myers, to name two.
San Diego-ins Katie and Kristi move around storage boxes with old videotapes in them before the action shifts to a beautiful abode in Santa Rosa circa September 1988 as kids with their mother (Lauren Bittner). The young mom has a loving wedding videographer of a husband in Danny (Brian Boland).
This origin tale of sorts has the familiarity of being discovered footage coalesced to relate the inexplicable horror they contain of the ilk of Cloverfield and The Blair Witch Project (less queasy-cam). Of course, there has to be someone into filming to help out a premise which revels in strange sounds beginning to cause havoc to a fun-loving family.
What helps overcome some of the narrative lapses (as Paranormal Activity 2 for its downtime nicely shoehorned and merged with the original) is the savvy, if self-reflexive direction by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (who made the controversial, timely Catfish). They work in some needed levity within the usual gravitating eeriness as the one wishes Danny wouldn't pursue his girlfriend's danger-laden daughters.
Whether off in the distance or front and center, there is an ably, taut misdirection that will have some scanning each frame to try to locate the source of an oncoming scare, even as unbeknownst young parents chill out. Something of interest comes through Kristi's unusual friend in Toby, an innocent game of Bloody Mary, a staticy TV at night, as the Reagan-era is nicely referenced through the use of Back To The Future and the cute, cuddly toy Teddy Ruxpin.
Using its own formula in a natural, consistent cognizant strokes there appears to be more activity in this frightful aesthetic that startles and creaks less annoyingly with reality. Especially with nice visual side effects as some goosebumps are felt even when a camera is situated on an oscillating fan. One that fills in the maddening shades of grey for Katie and Kristi in ways that still may be unfinished for the most entranced by this slow-burning "gotcha" horror.