'Paranormal Activity 3' Blu-ray Review: An Unrated Director's Cut That's a Step Up

'Paranormal Activity 3' Blu-ray Review: An Unrated Director's Cut That's a Step Up

Jan 18, 2012

How's the movie?

The haters would have you believe the Paranormal Activity series is everything that's wrong with horror movies these days. And that's a sympathetic party to join when you've just wasted good money on a bad movie like The Devil Inside and are looking for someone to blame, but the truth is the PA series boasts a more engaging storyline than most genre efforts of late. Yes, the "found footage" approach is a visual gimmick that has certainly run its course after two films, but as far as its regressing, each-sequel-is-actually-a-prequel narrative goes, it's more creative and entertaining than any number of remakes or retreads. The horror genre may be one in which its fans are more forgiving of franchise fare than most, but Paranormal Activity 3 is no slouch kid cashing in on its parent's success. In fact, a compelling case could be made it's the strongest of the series.

But what say the aggregates?

IMDB: 6.2
Rotten Tomatoes: 66% Fresh with critics, 58% Liked by audiences
Box Office: $203,148,425 worldwide ($104,028,807 domestic) 


What are the vitals on the disc?

Paranormal Activity 3 Night 1

Studio: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: January 24, 2012
Edition: Unrated Director's Cut
Number of Discs: 2 (1 x BD, 1 x DVD)
Digital Copy: Yes, Ultraviolet Digital Copy

Runtime: 83 Minutes for the R cut, 93 minutes for the Unrated cut
Video: 1080p MPEG-4 AVC, 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish DD 5.1, Portugese DD 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese 


How does it look and sound?

Paranormal Activity 3's found footage approach is essentially a Get Out of Blu-ray Jail Free card. You can't complain about the substandard quality of the presentation because that is by design part of the illusion. The series isn't supposed to look pristine, it's supposed to look ragged and gritty from years of aging and neglect. Having said that, PA3 does look better than it's supposed to. There's no confusing this with actual VHS footage from the '80s. It may not be immaculate, but even for a faux-documentary aesthetic, its HD presentation looks crisper and cleaner than it should, letting you clearly see every scrunch in the '80s clothing and every shadow in the demon-haunted night.

The sound design is also probably the best the series has ever had, but it's still uneven in uniquely artificial ways. When it's firing on all cylinders on its charge toward a big scare, like in the Katie and Randy Bloody Mary scene, it's heart pounding, but there are times when it loses its atmosphere. Literally. You can hear regular noises, like the sound of the fish tank in the girls' room, in some scenes but not in others, which is an inconsistency you shouldn't find in a movie that's supposed to be "as is." It's not exactly a deal breaker - again, no one is ever purchasing a found footage movie for its high definition prospects - but it is disappointing.


What about special features?

As far as traditional special features are concerned, there's not a whole lot here. What little is present is lumped into a "Lost Tapes" reel that features unseen footage from the film that's nothing more than several instances of Dennis scaring Julie by jumping out from hidden places, plus an intentionally cheesy commercial for Dennis' Wedding Videographer business.

The only special feature here that's actually worth your time is the Unrated Director's Cut of the film, which is about 10-minutes longer than the theatrical cut and is the superior edit of the two. Curiously, most of the material that was found in the film's trailer that wasn't in the theatrical cut still isn't present. There's no girls knocking on mirrors, there's no introduction of the priest, no house on fire, no mom levitation. There are, however, a few more character moments between Dennis and his friend/assistant, Randy, and two additional scares (both of which are in the trailer) that are worthwhile additions. There isn't a drastic, game-changing difference between the two cuts, but the new material does give the Unrated version a better sense of pacing and character without adding noticeable bloat.


Final thoughts?

It's an obvious conclusion, but if you already like the Paranormal Activity series, you're going to like Paranormal Activity 3-- and even if you don't, it's possible that the charming actors and solid scares this time around (which are only improved upon in the director's cut) may just be the first time you warm to the phenomenon. Unfortunately, if you do suddenly find yourself becoming a PA convert, there are no substantial special features on this disc to satisfy your newfound fandom.

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