Paranormal Activity 3

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Paranormal Activity 3 Movie Poster Image
Slightly more violent prequel connects the first two movies.
  • R
  • 2011
  • 85 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 20 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 62 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

In these movies, bad things can suddenly start happening to good people, simply because a past relative did something bad.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Of the men in this series, Dennis is by far the most admirable. He really loves Julie and takes care of her daughters from a previous marriage as if they were his own. He's responsible and works hard to solve problems.


There's perhaps slightly more violence in this movie than in the previous two; in a couple of scenes, an invisible force attacks a young girl, lifting her up by the hair or dragging her across the floor. An unseen force also snaps a character's spine. There's a teeny bit of blood (a scratch). Otherwise, the violence is mostly suggested, and the movie has an almost constant feeling of dread.


An adult couple decides to videotape themselves having sex. They both wear T-shirts and underwear. They kiss and begin some foreplay, but they're interrupted. Also additional kissing and lots of "I love yous."


"F--k" is heard perhaps a dozen times, with "s--t" coming in a close second. "Oh my God" and "goddamn" are also used.


A box of Rice Krispies is visible in one shot.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The grown-up couple smokes some pot and gets high; the mother mentions that it's illegal and that she doesn't want her daughters to know.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this movie is -- a prequel to both Paranormal Activity and Paranormal Activity 2 -- attempts to explain the events that led up to the terrors in those two movies. Like the others, it's told in fake documentary style, mostly via surveillance camera footage. The scary stuff is left largely to the imagination (and there's a near-constant sense of dread as a result), though this movie has a little more on-screen violence than the previous films did: An invisible force terrorizes two young girls, lifting one up by the hair and dragging her across the floor. Language is strong but not frequent and includes many uses of "f--k" and "s--t." A loving couple attempts to tape themselves having sex, though they only get as far as some foreplay, with clothes on. They also smoke pot.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 7 and 15-year-old Written byParentReviewz July 16, 2012

The Third Entry in the PA series is just as good as 1 & 2.

Paranormal Activity 3 is great! However, most of the stuff in the trailer is NOT in the movie. But it's still a really good movie. I personally like 2 the... Continue reading
Adult Written byasmith027 December 11, 2020

If you seen one you seen them all!

Don't waste your time it's a slow burn for a short ride it's like staying at Disney world to get on a ride find out the ride sucks. Watch House b... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byTruthXposed October 28, 2019
Teen, 15 years old Written byEliffgg July 18, 2019

Scary, messey prequel.

This prequel is better then the second one, but the first one is still far superior. It is the funniest of them all and Randi may be my favourite character

What's the story?

In a quick prologue, set in 2005, Katie (Katie Featherston) drops off a box of old videotapes to be stored in her sister Kristi's basement. The content on these tapes consists of 1988 footage of young Katie (the main character of Paranormal Activity) and Kristi (the main character of Paranormal Activity 2). As kids, the girls live with their mother Julie (Lauren Bittner) and Julie's loving boyfriend, Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith). Kristi starts spending time with a sinister-sounding "imaginary friend," Toby, and strange, terrifying things start happening in the house. Dennis videotapes everything, but is anyone really prepared for the true horror behind it all?

Is it any good?

It continues the broken/mixed family dynamic of the previous two films, but the characters here are more sharply drawn and more sympathetic; this family has a more loving feel. The main drawback is the plot. Still somewhat ambiguous, it tries to explain everything and conclude the series. But that conclusion is a bit unsatisfying, more like a whimper than a bang. Overall, though, the movie definitely provides strong chills.

Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, the minds behind the quasi-documentary Catfish, take over as directors on this third entry in the Paranormal Activity series, staying true to the earlier films' style. Wide, unmoving images from surveillance cameras provide endless dread and suspense, never indicating just where the next shock is going to come from. The movie's most ingenious invention is a moving camera, mounted on an electric fan base; as it moves mechanically back and forth, important information moves helplessly, automatically out of frame, and viewers must wait anxiously to see more.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's violence, both implied and shown. Which kind is more powerful? Why?

  • How scary was the movie? What scared you most, and why?

  • What would be the effect of constantly filming your life?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love scares

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