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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Paranormal Activity 3

January 23rd, 2012

Paranormal Activity 3 - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack

"It's Halloween, so it must be Saw." has turned to "It's Halloween, so it must be Paranormal Activity". With the fourth film already in production, we get Paranormal Activity 3 hitting the home market this week. I've reviewed the previous installments, so how will this one compare to those two films?

The Movie

The film begins in March of 2005 with an expectant father, Daniel, filming the nursery he and his pregnant wife, Kristi, are preparing for their son. Well, she's preparing and he's filming her preparing. They are interrupted by Katie, Kristi's sister. Katie has come over asking if she can store yet another box in their basement. The latest box includes a set of VHS tapes. The film flashes to August of 2006 and a break-in at Daniel and Kristi's place. Their house was ransacked, but it appears the only thing missing is the box of tapes Katie had brought over.

We then flash to one of the tapes. Specifically is September 3rd, 1988 and Katie's birthday party. Julie is getting the cake ready while Dennis, her boyfriend, is filming the party. We have seen Kristi sitting by herself under the trampoline talking to no one in particular. We also meet Grandma Lois (Hallie Foote).

For the next little while, we see snippets of their family's home life. Dennis films weddings and edits the tapes at home. He plays a prank on his habitually late assistant, Randy Rosen (Dustin Ingram). Kristi talks about her loose tooth. Etc. About ten minutes in, Dennis tries to convince Julie they should make a sex tape. He actually succeeds in convincing her (the pot helps) but they don't get far when an earthquake hits. However, the camera keeps rolling and it catches something strange. When dust falls from the ceiling, it lands on something invisible.

This really catches Dennis's imagination, although at first Julie can't even see it when he tries to show her. When he shows the footage to Randy, on the other hand, Randy suggests setting up more cameras to see if he can get more evidence. He does, and soon Dennis becomes obsessed with figuring out what's going on.

You can probably tell from that plot summary that the film is very much like Paranormal Activity and Paranormal Activity 2. Unfortunately, the film's effectiveness is far closer to the second that the first film. In fact, while the film's Tomatometer Score was a step up from number two, I found this film less engaging. I just think the whole premise has worn thin. The first film had novelty going for it and while it did have pacing issues, it built tension very well. The second film had better technical execution thanks to an improved budget, but without the uncertainty, it lacked tension. This time around, we are supposed to get sucked into the story of why the adult Kristi and Katie are plagued by the supernatural, but I just couldn't do it. It was far too much, "Been there, done that." Without the tension, there's nothing more than jump scares left. And that's not enough.

The Extras

There are no extras on the DVD. None. The only extras on the Blu-ray are the extended edition of the movie, which runs ten minutes longer, and two deleted scenes. Like the previous two movies, the video is weak, but that's because the film is supposed to be found footage shot on VHS. If it looked like a $100 million Hollywood blockbuster, it would break suspension of disbelief. The transfer does as much as it can with the source material and it does look better than the DVD. The audio is effective, while mostly remaining in the limitations of the found footage format. The Blu-ray does cost $7 or 47% more than the DVD, but it includes the DVD.

The Verdict

In my opinion, Paranormal Activity 3 just doesn't do enough new with the formula to be worth picking up. If you loved the previous two films, maybe you will enjoy this one as well. Hopefully they will shake things up for number four. There are no extras on the DVD, which makes it strictly a rental. Meanwhile, there's not a lot more on the Blu-ray Combo Pack, so it is only worth picking up if you are a hardcore fan of the franchise thus far.

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Filed under: Video Review, Paranormal Activity 3