I tried not to get pulled in by hype, and I'm not sure why I always am. The first film looked 'eh', but it was decent. The second film looked 'eh', and it was mostly dull with a fantastic final 20 minutes. I wasn't very hyped for the third until reviews started coming in... and it was a let down... somewhat. The third in the franchise continues to take us backwards as we finally get to see what happened when sisters Katie and Kristi were little girls, which has been alluded to for 2 films now. You know the drill by now, I'm assuming. Weird stuff starts happening, the man of the house starts to film it, and things escalate as each night goes by until an insane finale.
The trick with this one, however, is that it takes place in 1988, so video recording in the way this series is set up is a bit trickier. For instance, they have to film with video tapes instead of digital... which brings us to plot hole number one. Dennis (the male lead in this one) even states that he can only record no more than 6 hours at a time before having to change the tape. That means to see some of the stuff we see, he's having to constantly switch the tapes every 6 hours. Now, I'm no mathematician, but if the couple goes to bed around 10 (and the girls prior to that), that means the recording would stop about 4 AM at the latest--and that's assuming he changes the tape(s) at 10. But lo and behold, there are at least 2-3 events that occur after 4 AM. I know this is nit-picky, but it bugged me. And not just the 4 AM thing, but the logistics of changing the tapes every 6 hours for nearly 2 and a half weeks.
Besides the tape switching, they actually do use the cameras to good effect. There's one rigging in particular (the kitchen/dining room rigging) that I thought was ingenious and used quite well in the film. It took the scares from "what's in the closet?" to "what's around the corner?" That does build tension very well.
Unfortunately, the movie is mostly all tension and no pay-off. You're waiting and waiting for things to happen. Sometimes they do. Oftentimes they don't. You know in the first two films when you reach those middle nights? The ones where things become noticeable, but not to the point it's gotten physical (moving people and whatnot). That's where the majority of the film stays. And any jump scares can be seen a mile away, particularly those at the beginning. There are some really good moments, though. In particular, the Bloody Mary scene is great, as is most of the next 5-10 minutes after that. And the "sheet" scene is good, too. The ending, however, is a bit lame. It lost a lot of the tension and build-up and replaces it with "Um... what's going on?" Then it just dissolves into practically the same exact ending as the other two films.
One major difference that I think people might appreciate is that our male lead is actually quite likeable... and he stays that way for the entire film. A lot of people couldn't stand Micah (or Katie, really) in the first film. There were a few similar complains for the second. But I found Dennis (and his friend/co-worker Randy) to be really good and fun.
You're also left with more questions than answers. The whole time I'm waiting to see the house fire that the first two films talk about so much, but it never happens. Then there's something that the demon wants Kristi to do, but you never find out what (I might have a thought, but it's nothing more than that). I won't even get into the whole climax and what was going on there. All I know is that I didn't leave the theater scared, nor did it have any moment that really scared the hell out of me like, say, the second one did. And everybody around me left saying how unscary the movie was. Not a particularly good sign. Overall, it wasn't bad. It had some really interesting ideas and moments. But on the whole, it was just the exact same formula and didn't give us a whole lot new.