*** (out of four)
Anything’s better than another “Saw” movie. And now that its franchise’s formula isn’t just nothing-nothing-nothing-door-slams-nothing-nothing-big-jolt-movie-over, the much-improved “Paranormal Activity 3” earns compliments other than, “At least no one gets their guts ripped out by an elaborate piece of sadistic engineering.”
Taking it back to 1988—and popping in Teddy Ruxpin, Spud Webb and MacGyver references to make sure we don’t forget this is a prequel to a prequel—directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (“Catfish”) deliver more variety than their predecessors in pursuit of suspense. That generates less predictability and a giddier sense of nervous anticipation, even though we know young Katie (played as a child by Chloe Csengery) has a nasty future ahead of her, documented in the boring parts 1 and 2.
Clearly these characters should realize capturing suspected demons on tape does nothing to send the evil packing, and all the handheld cameras in “PA3” mean an equal dose of tension and motion sickness. The best addition is evidence that when life gets freaky (and imaginary friends might not be so imaginary), adults can be at least as scared as kids, if not more.
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Fridays at 7:30 a.m. on WCIU, the Umpais@tribune.com. @mattpais