Written by Diane Tillis
Paranormal State is a paranormal reality documentary television series that premiered on the A&E network in 2007. The series follows a group of students from Pennsylvania State University who formed the Paranormal Research Society (PRS) under the guidance of leader Ryan Buell. The students travel across the country investigating instances of paranormal activity at the behest of people looking for answers.
Season four is no different from the rest; Ryan and the team of investigators are on the road again searching for the truth behind the strange. They traveled to New Jersey where a couple was tortured by the violent spirits that inhabited their home. In North Carolina, a three year old girl’s sporadic behavior and sightings of a cloaked demon forced a family to call on the team. A historic hotel in northern Pennsylvania is plagued by myths of three spirits who scare off visitors. With twelve episodes on two discs, the PRS continues to solve the mysteries that have us looking through the phonebook for the local chapter of Ghostbusters.
Disc 1 includes episodes 1 – 6: Suicide Possession, Invitation to Evil, Dead Legends, Boy Pushed Me, Haunted Sex Dungeon, and Dark Practices.
Disc 2 includes episodes 7 – 12 and bonus footage: Satan’s Soldier, Darkness Falls, Shadow Caster, Night Terrors, Lost Souls, and Devil in Jersey.
Over the years I have caught an episode or two on television. I was never drawn into the show for two reasons. First problem is the crew’s use of handheld camera techniques to capture the ‘Dead Time,’ nighttime sequences in which the investigators experience and record the paranormal haunting. Since the shots are at night, the team uses the night-vision setting to allow the audience to see what is happening. A supposed shadowy figure has just run away from behind one of the investigators who saw it, but he does not record it fast enough for us to believe him. This will happen several times every episode. The combination of the handheld cameras and night-vision settings make it almost impossible to see what the investigators claim to see.
Second problem is the use of ambient sounds and eerie music to intensify the shock value of the haunting. Investigators may claim to hear whispers of spirits, but the audience never hears them till they review the footage several minutes later. This is due to the use of eerie music over the ambient sounds which make them impossible to understand. When the investigators review the Dead Time footage and replay sequences of spirit whispers, I have to question if they are real or faked, since it is not until after the fact that we get to hear what the investigator apparently heard.
The episodes are presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The video quality varies depending on the type of camera shooting the scene. The personal cameras with night vision used to capture the Dead Time can be bought at Wal-Mart. Thus they are not of the highest quality. The images are pixilated and green without background lighting. The handheld cameras of the production crew are of a higher quality and use key lighting to illuminate the background.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0. The audio is level throughout the episodes. Considering the problems I have with the overall presentation of the sound mixing, there are no problems understanding the dialog.
Considering this is a season of a television series, I was expecting more in the way of special features. Instead the season only comes with some Bonus Footage from the episodes.
Paranormal State is The Blair Witch Project minus the fear factor. The potential is there, but the show decides to ignore it. Will I ever watch this show again? No, in fact I will probably forget about it the second I post this on UpcomingDiscs.com…What was I writing about?