Paranormal Activity is one of my favourite horror films of all time. It was like nothing I had ever seen, and I rank it as one of the best cinematic experiences I’ve ever had. When I heard news of planned sequels, I was excited. Paranormal Acitivity 2 turned out to be no way near the same level as its predecessor, and the series only just redeemed itself with the above-average third installment. The following two installments were terrible, but I forgave the producers, as they were obviously trying for a new direction with The Marked Ones. The hype and trailers have promised a frightening conclusion; this time; we’ll finally be able to see the other side. We’ll be able to meet Toby, and see the very things that have been haunting these families over all these years. I went into Ghost Dimension wanting to like it, but came out wishing that the previous five films in the series had never been made.
In this outing, we meet a new family, the Fleege family. And that’s about the only thing that separates this movie from the others. When papa Fleege (Chris J. Murray) discovers an old camera and a box of video tapes in the garage, he notices that when things are viewed with the lens, they give off a strange disturbance. Of course, him and his brother Mike (Dan Gill) take this camera around with them everywhere they go, and soon, they come up with the ingenius and totally unfamiliar idea of placing cameras all around the house and recording the occurrences in every room. I could go into how this film tries to continue the Paranormal Activity narrative, but as terribly boring and haphazard as it is, I wouldn’t want to ruin anything for you.
Found-footage is a genre that, if executed well, can greatly elevate the viewing experience. We’ve seen it done in Chronicle, Cloverfield, The Blair Witch Project, and the painfully underrated The Last Exorcism. The method is a great way at immersing yourself within the drama, and with the right people behind the camera, found-footage films can prove to be massively entertaining; a different, kinetic way of telling a story. But all too often, this method is abused as a way to wring cheap jump-scares out of an audience. Found-footage is a way to make an experience personal, but Ghost Dimension does nothing new with this gimmick, and relies on predictable “boo!” moments for its scares.
I expected this final installment to rely heavily on the narrative established by its predecessors, but even a newbie to this franchise could go in to The Ghost Dimension and be able to piece everything together, and they would still have the same chance as explaining what actually happened as someone who is familiar with the films. Whereas the original film was about atmosphere, suspense, and a minimalist but intriguing plot, these movies have descended into storytelling where the characters are there to do nothing but scream and shout, and the mood of the original is pretty much nonexistent. Although Paranormal Activity 2 & 3 couldn’t match the effectiveness of the first, they still followed the lives of its central characters and tried to carry on with something we could actually care about. The Ghost Dimension script is so poorly written and disconnected from its material base, that I wonder what purpose it serves the franchise at all. (Until I remind myself that teenagers will flock to this film like flies to manure and I’m sure it will gather a worthwhile sum of cash. The “3D” at the end of the film’s title won’t hurt either, although it’s the most pointless and banal use of the technique I’ve ever seen).
Everything in The Ghost Dimension only serves one purpose: to set you up for the next annoying jump scare. The sound design and camera tricks are laughably obvious, and the lame attempts at generating suspense is amateurish. I’ve seen student films with more tension than what I saw in this movie. Blumhouse Productions has worked with incredibly talented directors before, and have produced some great horror flicks. It’s strange then that they couldn’t fight someone to reinvigorate this series for its last hurrah. Director Gregory Plotkin seems to think the more you show, the more effective your scares are. The more successful PA entries prove that subtlety and precision is key to quality horror, but Plotkin throws everything at your face at once, hoping that at least some of his scenes may give you a jolt, but they only ended up making me cringe.
Fans of this franchise will be massively disappointed by this finale. It not only ruins, once and for all, what looked to be a promising series of horror films, but also reminds us what is wrong with modern horror cinema: characters, plot are unimportant, suspense is pointless, shabby jump-scares are key. Oren Peli should have quite while he was ahead.
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