Paranormal Activity 3 Blu-ray Review

Paranormal Activity 3 Blu-ray ReviewHorror films are no stranger to the sequel love. In most situations, though, this involves the star killer or mad man of the series continually being plopped into a situation with fresh new faces to terrorize, maim and murder. One of the strengths that the Paranormal Activity franchise has going for it is that the first two installments, as well as the latest, Paranormal Activity 3, all follow the same family. Keeping this series within one family has made it have more of a lasting appeal.

The film begins in 2005, mere days before the events of Paranormal Activity 2. We see Katie bring her sister Kristi a giant box of old tapes from when they were kids which they place in the basement. When the “break-in” happened in Paranormal Activity 2, Kristi thought just her necklace was stolen, but, as we find out in this installment, the box of VHS tapes was also taken.

Cue the jump to 1988 where we catch up with Katie and Kristi as young girls, living with their mom and her new boyfriend, Dennis. Dennis just so happens to be a wedding videographer, which is an awful convenient way to explain someone having all of this recording equipment available but, out all the films in the series, it’s definitely the most plausible.

Paranormal Activity 3 Blu-ray Review

After an earthquake ruins Dennis’s failed attempt to get Julie to make a sex tape, Dennis watches what footage the camera did grab and notices what looks like an apparition in their bedroom. This leads Dennis to set up a few cameras around the house in hopes of catching further glimpses of the paranormal nature.

What follows is the “wait for the scare” mentality that the Paranormal Activity series now brings with it. Every camera angle is like its very own MacGuffin, because the viewer knows that if something isn’t happening right now in the cameras viewing space, it definitely will before the movie is over.

This formulaic approach made Paranormal Activity 2 damn near unwatchable. At times it had me feeling like I was watching a video game loading screen every three minutes waiting for the next part. Going in to Paranormal Activity 3, I was definitely worried about the same happening. While it is essentially “more of the same,” it was at least a lot more fun to watch and offered a bit more depth and even some narrative that was not only refreshing but very much needed.

Chloe Csengery and Jessica Tyler-Brown play young Katie and Kristi, respectively, are leaps and bounds the best actors this series has seen. Their reactions and interactions with all the goings-on have a certain believability to it that seems lost on most of the adults involved. They also work well in adding some newness to some of the “scares,” in particular a scene involving the babysitter in the kitchen.

Paranormal Activity 3 Blu-ray Review

Of course there are the now standard scares you’d come to expect from the Paranormal Activity series. There’s time-elapsed video of someone standing over someone else while they sleep, there’s random sounds and doors opening and shutting themselves. There’s even another kitchen incident, although it’s definitely done the best of any of them and is a highlight of the film. That said, there are a few surprises here and there, with some of the scares not coming from “ghosts” or “demons” at all.

I will say that my absolute biggest gripe about the movie is that it looks immaculate. I’m a child of the 80’s and I personally know full well just how awful camcorder videos can look, and this is not that. Not even close. This is not only a shame but a real missed opportunity because, in my opinion, the movie would have been truly more affecting if it actually looked like it was on VHS tape. That sense of connection and nostalgia home videos bring would have provided a much more believable reality and therefore could have been scary, possibly even frightening. It’s like the opposite of Apollo 18, another found footage film I recently reviewed that looked completely honest to its time, but unfortunately ended up being a really bad movie.

There’s also the issue of plot points from the previous films not coming up in this one. The fabled picture of Katie doesn’t get taken. The two sisters mentioned a house fire when they were young. Nope, not in this movie it doesn’t. Not to worry, though, as Paranormal Activity 4 will be out in October and will surely address these issues (it won’t).

Despite these shortcomings, I did actually enjoy the film. These films are becoming known for their last 15-20 minutes, and this one’s is no slouch and, in all honesty, made me want to know more about the overall story. Granted they seem to be making it up as they go along, but at least with this one they cared about having something resembling a plot rather than jump scares.

Paranormal Activity 3 Blu-ray Review

High-Def Presentation

Despite the fact that 95% of the entire film is supposed to have been recorded in 1988 with those old giant VHS recorders, the movie looks incredible. Consisting of a MPEG-4 AVC encode, the film is one of the cleanest films I’ve seen in a long time. Colors are vibrant, but have an intentional dated look to them and blacks are quite strong, especially in the final act which helps add to the overall atmosphere. Detail is crisp, especially on clothing and household textures.

This is all excellent for the videophile that wants everything to look as clean and clear as possible, but, as I previously mention, I feel like such an immaculate presentation hinders the overall realism of what the filmmakers were going for.

As good as the PQ is, the audio quality is even better, while being even more inconsistent to the supposed source material. The disc’s 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio lossless soundtrack is incredibly well balanced and immersive, which is exactly what one would want out of a jump scare kind of film. Ambient noise and effects really fill out the surround and truly immerse the viewer in the goings-on. Dialogue is centered and crystal clear, although some of the girls’ whispers are a bit of the soft side, but that just comes off as more natural than as a true gripe. A top notch track, for sure, but most assuredly not something that would have been even remotely possible with a VHS tape.

Beyond The Feature

For as much love as Paramount seems to be giving the Paranormal Activity franchise, that love is definitely not extended in the way of special features for this release. There is no audio commentary, no behind the scenes features, cast interviews, nothing. Normally we list out all special features but there’s literally one. It’s a collection of ‘Lost Tapes’ which consist of two parts; one being a montage of Dennis scaring Julie and the other is a brief commercial for Dennis’ video recording service. That’s it. I’m not sure if it’s in an attempt to keep up the “reality” aspect of the film, but that seems like a cop out, especially considering the space available on the Blu Disc.

This Blu-Ray release does also include a DVD, which also serves as a digital copy, as well as an Ultraviolet copy.

Paranormal Activity 3 isn’t the best of the series, but it is leaps and bounds better than the dreck that is part 2. I liken it most to revisiting a haunted house a year later. You know where most of the scares are going to come from, but they still manage to sneak in a surprise or two. It’s got a solid cast, especially in young Katie and Kristi, and some actual semblance of a story going on.

As far as the Paranormal Activity 3 disc goes, this release features excellent PQ/AQ but an absolute lack of special features to round it out. If you like the series, you’ll definitely dig this one. If you’re the casual horror fan, I would definitely give it a try. Just stay far away from Part 2. You’ll thank me.

– Matt Hardeman

Shop for Paranormal Activity 3 on Blu-ray for a discounted price at (January 24, 2012 release date).

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