The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Paramount - 2012
MPAA Rating: R/Unrated
Feature running time: 87/96 minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.85:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, French/Spanish/Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Starring: Kathryn Newton, Katie Featherston, Matt Shively, Alexondra Lee, Stephen Dunham, Brady Allen, Aiden Lovecamp
Directed by: Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman
Written by: Christopher Landon
Region Code: A,B,C
Blu-ray Disc release Date: January 29, 2013
When Katie disappeared with her nephew Hunter, there were no survivors. Five years later she's returned with a mysterious boy, ready to target new victims with her demonic rage. Now, a family's young daughter will capture every one of the terrifying occurrences, beginning with her new neighbors' arrival.
I am admittedly a fan of the first two Paranormal Activity films with the first being the better effort. I find Paranormal Activity to be an effective horror film experience. Its slowly evolving and escalating storyline is perfectly paced and eerily frightening. Paranormal Activity 2 is paced slower and doesn’t build the foundation of fear building up to its conclusion like the original film. That isn’t to suggest that it isn’t scary because the last 30 minutes or so are every bit as disturbing as the first film (maybe even more so). I like the development of story, the additional characters, and its tie into the original plotline.
When Paranormal Activity 3 was announced and I saw that it was going to take us back to the origin of the terrifying presence’s in Katie and Christie’s lives, meaning their childhood (events referenced in the first two films). I looked forward to seeing how it all started. The trailer showed promise and included glimpses of the horrible fire referred to in the first film that destroyed everything they owned as well as images of Christie and Katie playing the dangerous game “Bloody Mary” which hinted at opening the door to the evil that would eventually destroy their lives. I was pretty disappointed to find that much of what was shown in the trailer didn’t appear in the film. Regardless, as a fan of the franchise I took from it what I could and enjoy it as part of the series.
Paranormal Activity 4 is the only film in the series I didn’t see theatrically. After the third installment I figured I would wait for it to come to home video/Blu-ray. Let me say up front that if you’re a fan of the series as a whole more than likely you will find PA4 to bring much of what makes the franchise work to the table. The question is, is that enough now that we have arrived at the fourth installment?
Here the story picks up five years after the events that concluded PA2. Katie has resurfaced as a single “mom” toting her six year old “son” into a suburban neighborhood where he befriends a six year boy next door which sets off a chain of events that result in terror for his entire family. I found this film to be a bit more rewarding than PA3 although frankly there is little difference in terms of the narrative. In looking at the chronology of the events the order of the films would be PA 3, PA, PA2, PA4. Introductions of the intended victims are brief but thorough and the setup for the plot which revolves around the creepy six year old boy that just moved in next door and how the events are going to be captured (via laptop webcam/smartphone camera) is established.
The unfolding events move at a pace similar to installments 2 and 3 as the unseen evil slowly makes its presence known. Once again we have a protagonist (s) initially unsure of what is happening and as things begin to escalate make futile attempts to make sense of and warn others. There is a twist that adds a little flavor to the storyline as things escalate coming to a boil in the finale (again as you might expect if you’ve seen either/both of the earlier films) with a fair amount of violence/suspense/frightening moments.
At this stage I would like to see deeper extension of the cult following the evil that has taken hold of Katie and ultimately a worthy challenge to its dominion over those it invades. New direction is definitely in order as the repetitive nature of writing smacks of laziness in a beating a dead horse sort of way. Unfortunately the film closes leaving us with unanswered questions and left to surmise the whys and wherefores. At the end of the day Paranormal Activity 4 is a mildly entertaining companion to its predecessors, with the original film still reigning supreme. Both the theatrical cut and unrated version are included, the latter of which adds approximately nine minutes of additional content which doesn’t deepen the story’s elements.
Both versions contain language and some violence/terror.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Paranormal Activity 4 comes to Blu-ray Disc from Paramount featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 31 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 3.5 Mbps.
Being a found footage “documentary” as seen through the eyes of “video cameras”, “web cams” and “smart phone cameras” this film uses both hand held and stationary camera perspectives often switching back and forth. As such many times the video rarely resembles high definition/film although this is intentional and adheres to the thematic tone set by the filmmakers. Conversely there are a handful of shots (captured by the high definition video camera) that look very good and reveal discerning levels of detail and dimension. When appropriate colors are natural, contrast is well balanced and black levels are notable. Shadow detail is quite good as depth of field in the plethora of low level sequences is gratifying. I observed some minor macro blocking in a few instances where dim foreground light illuminated background in the distance. This was as seen through the “camera phone” so I couldn’t discern whether it was added to create the intended effect but it was a problem. Otherwise I had no complaints with the stylized video quality which contributed to the source material.
The lossless audio presentation had no trouble conveying the predominantly front loaded elements present in the soundtrack recording. Dialogue reproduction was strong with clear intonation and fair room penetration. The mix did a nice job of handling the various directional cues associated with the hand held camera’s perspective and near field simulation. There is some off camera and atmosphere creating sounds mixed to various points in the sound field and the effect is seamlessly blended. Dynamic range, clarity and bass definition was excellent. Jump scares were palpable and jarring which served to elevate the level of anticipation quite nicely. I had spooky good time with it.
- Theatrical and Unrated versions of Paranormal Activity 4
- (HD) The recovered files – 29 minutes
- Bonus DVD
- Ultraviolet Digital Copy
As a fan of the Paranormal Activity films I looked to checking out the fourth installment despite the fact that it didn’t hold the promise of anything new. Unfortunately there is nothing contained in Paranormal Activity 4 that differentiates it from its predecessors as the continuing storyline has a one note direction that needs revitalization. Regardless, I still found it entertaining enough to place it alongside the first three films in my video collection. It comes to Blu-ray Disc from Paramount Home Entertainment featuring satisfyingly good high definition video quality, excellent lossless DTS-HD Master Audio sound, and a barebones supplemental offering. If you’re a fan and haven’t seen Paranormal Activity 4 it’s worth checking out on Blu-ray.
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JVC DLA-RS55 3D Ready 1080p High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6 Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16x9 Screen
Onkyo PR-SC5508 THX Ultra 2 Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies - 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo BDP-103 Universal Disc/3D capable Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Panasonic DMP-BDT310 3D capable Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton "Ergo" Series speakers
Axiom Audio QS8 Quadpolar speakers
SV Sound PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
APC AV S15BLK Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components - CP-CP102 cooling package
"In looking at the chronology of the events the order of the films would be PA 3, PA, PA2, PA4. "
It's not quite that simple. PA2 is actually primarily a prequel but also a sequel with PA1 encapsulated inside it. In a cool twist, the bulk of the events in PA2 are what lead to an unfortunate decision that causes the events of PA1, the aftermath of which recoils back to cause the horrific ending of PA2. That twist is what made the second movie slightly more interesting than the first to me.
"Man, I told you we shouldn't have shot Niedermeyer"
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