Found footage formula continues to produce scares...

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In 2009, Paramount Pictures captured lightning in a bottle with Paranormal Activity, an independent supernatural "found footage" film made for a reported $15,000. Acquired by Paramount for $350,000, the movie went on to earn nearly $108 million at the U.S. box office. Needless to say, Paranormal Activity was a huge runaway hit, spawning a franchise that now frightens moviegoers on a yearly basis. Last fall saw the release of Paranormal Activity 3, the biggest theatrical debut for a horror film ever, earning more than $200 million worldwide. Staggering sales numbers aside, these movies ultimately sell because they are genuinely creepy; Paranormal Activity 3 being - in my humble opinion - the creepiest of the bunch. The found footage formula may appear trite and predictable at this point in the series, but it's a formula that continues to work so well. As they say: if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Haunting home video today in a Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, Paranormal Activity 3 takes viewers back 18 years prior to the events of the first two films. The year is 1988 and VHS is all the rage. Dennis (Chris Smith) makes a living recording weddings (and his family) while his girlfriend Julie (Lauren Bittner) plays mom to two lovely daughters, returning (albeit much younger) sisters Katie and Kristi (played by the adorable Chloe Csengery and Jessica Tyler Brow, respectfully). As with previous entries, things start off simply enough, the family going about everyday life. Here the movie actually introduces some humor through a few practical jokes - a first for the series. It's not long, however, until things start to go bump in the night; "paranormal activity" occurring through a string of riveting recordings. Unlike the drawn-out scenes of nothingness in Paranormal Activity 2, Paranormal Activity 3 directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman reward the audience with plenty of jolts and "did you see that?" moments; every frame tense and captivating. In addition to the film's retro-recorded 1980's look, a new oscillating fan camera trick provides one of the spookiest scenes in the movie involving an ordinary bed sheet.

Presented in enhanced widescreen 1080p high definition, Paranormal Activity 3 looks just as good as you remember it in the theater, though the "vintage" style of the film purposefully lacks modern pixel perfection. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio delivers all the eerie sound effects crisply, and the thunderous bass score indicating a ghostly presence is pitch-perfect and unnerving.

Found in the Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack is the theatrical version of the film (blu-ray only), as well as a new unrated copy (presented on both blu-ray and DVD for when on the go). The latter is arguably the main selling point of the combo pack, but those expecting tons of teaser trailer footage not shown in the theatrical version will be disappointed. The unrated version basically amounts to a few added or extended scenes. Likewise, bonus features are very light and lackluster. The "Lost Tapes" allures with the promise of more spectral scares but boils down to two short comedy clips. There is a "Scare Montage" starring Dennis jumping out at Julie all of three times and the brief "Dennis' Commerical" which shows a humorous homemade advertisment for Dennis' wedding taping business. That's it.

If you were to judge Paranormal Activity 3 purely on all the sensationalism surrounding the film's record-breaking sales, you'd think it was the best thing since buttered bread. Don't let the hype sway you from seeing this movie. Paranormal Activity 3, while not Academy Award-winning material, continues to succeed in scaring the living daylights out of people. I'm a huge horror hound, able to watch the goriest films put before me without breaking a sweat. On the other hand, a movie like Paranormal Activity 3 will make me jump in terror no matter how well prepared I am. The rapt anticipation of something about to happen... coupled with increasingly creepy music... BOO! It's a formula that continues to work so well.

Paranormal Activity 3 is rated R for some violence, language, brief sexuality and drug use. It is available now wherever fine home video is sold.

Be sure and enter our Paranormal Activity 3 Blu-ray Set Giveaway for a chance to win a copy of 2011's scariest movie!

Review by Jeff Saylor

Review Sample Courtesy of Paramount Home Video