Twenty-five years after the events of Paranormal Activity 3, Ryan Fleege (Chris J. Murray), his wife Emily (Brit Shaw) and their daughter Leila (Ivy George) are about to celebrate Christmas when Ryan’s brother Mike (Dan Gill) moves in after breaking up with his girlfriend. While setting up the house, Ryan and Mike stumble across a box that has a camera and a number of old videotapes containing footage from Paranormal Activity 3.
The camera, as it turns out, is not just any ordinary camera, but one that is capable of capturing bizarre floating particles that Emily’s sister Skyler (Olivia Taylor Dudley) believes to be spirit energy.
‘Cause the folks at Blumhouse have to figure out some way to throw pointless 3D crap at us.
As Ryan and Mike begin investigating the videos and using the camera that now appears to be something from out of Zak Bagans’s toy chest, things go from slightly creepy to just get out of the house already when Leila begins to interact with the entity named Toby.
Well, here we are once again with the dead horse that is Paranormal Activity, a franchise that has varied in degrees of suck since the first sequel (yes, that includes Paranormal Activity 3 which everyone seems to be all gung-ho about). Reportedly, this is supposed to be the final film in the series, one that was slated for release two years ago, then delayed to last Halloween, then delayed again to this past March before finally securing a release date this October. The way it strains like a constipated bear to tie all the films together suggests that’s true. Films like Freddy’s Dead: The “Final” Nightmare, Friday the 13th Part IV: The “Final” Chapter, Jason Goes to Hell: The “Final” Friday, Children of the Corn II: The “Final” Sacrifice and The “Last” Exorcism beg to differ.
Nitpicking here, but the subtitle, The “GHOST” Dimension, is inaccurate. Most, if not all, paranormal experts make a clear distinction between ghosts and demons, the latter of which has been the main antagonist of the franchise. Not that I expected this series to be smart enough to know the distinction, but… whatever.
Long time franchise screenwriter Christopher Landon, who wrote the second through the fifth entries, has now been replaced with four screenwriters. Yes, it took four screenwriters to rehash what every other damn Paranormal Activity movie has done. For a franchise that felt it needed six films to tell its mythology (which as great as the first film is, I never once thought it merited an entire franchise’s worth of backstory), it is awfully repetitive. Family lives in a swanky upper middle class home; dad stumbles upon some video equipment; kid starts talking to a demon (more on that later); crazy crap starts happening in the home; God forbid they leave the house (to be fair, that was established in the first film, but do we really need it repeated over and over again); film ends with the demon going ape-shit, possessing someone in the family and usually it’s the dad/boyfriend that draws the shortest straw and gets killed off.
Wash, rinse and repeat.
In his directorial debut, Gregory Plotkin (who served as editor on the second through the fifth films) relies heavily on jump scares that are so predictable it needs to be accompanied by a loud sound effect that’s twice as bombastic as a Hans Zimmer score in order to startle its audience. In a move that’s much more misguided than any cheap jump scare, Plotkin has demonic mainstay Toby manifest itself in the form of some black gobbledygook that’s best described as a floating, pissed off Etch-a-Sketch. It’s a laughable effects decision meant to utilize today’s superfluous 3D technology, but it strips the film of any suspense of what’s not seen but there.
Of course, there’s plenty of character stupidity to go around here, and this film takes it to levels I once thought were beneath even a Paranormal Activity film. Does anyone even bother to call a priest or Dr. Venkman (well, Stantz or Spengler might take them a tad more seriously) or the Ghost Adventures crew before it’s too late? Nope. Do Ryan and Emily bother to clean off the pagan symbols their sweet little 6-year-old girl colored across her bedroom wall? Nope. Do Skyler and Mike make an effort to be in and out when returning home to pick up a few essentials after Toby goes ape-shit? Nope, they figure a little more investigating wouldn’t hurt.
To her credit, Ivy George effectively portrays a creepy child (to be honest, the capable performances are far from the worst thing about this movie), though it would’ve nice if she initially showed the slightest bit of fear upon encountering Toby instead of just casually chatting it up with the demon like she does. I mean, when I was a kid my bedroom had a wood stain that resembled something I apparently thought was the most terrifying thing in the world when the lights went out; I can’t imagine I, like many other kids, would’ve immediately befriended a demon.
My bed sheets might’ve gotten soaked though.
Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension has a couple thrills here and there, but overall offers nothing new to the long dead franchise. It’s the same plot points, same beats and same idiotic character decisions, all leading up to the same conclusion we’ve seen in the previous films. If this is in fact the final entry in the franchise, and we all know when the studio says final they really mean it, it’s long overdue by about five sequels.
I give Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension a D (★).