‘Paranormal Activity: the Ghost Dimension’

'Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension' poster

Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (2015). Directed by Gregory Plotkin. Starring Chris J. Murray, Brit Shaw, Dan Gill, Ivy George, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Michael Krawic, Chloe Csengery, Jessica Tyler Brown, Hallie Foote.

Ahh, yes, the ever so divisive Paranormal Activity series, one of the main reasons that naysayers of found footage movies say their “nays”. I imagine they’re pretty happy to see the series end with The Ghost Dimension, the final entry in the franchise. Honestly, I don’t think these films are that bad overall. I am aware of their flaws. That rumbling sound that is our signal to anticipate something scary is about to happen is annoying and each movie is more or less a copy of the one before. Still, there have been a couple of clever tricks and even some genuinely creepy moments. Unfortunately things didn’t get any better after the third film and if this final entry is any indication of what we’d have see more of, the end of this franchise is occurring just this side of too late. It is time to move on.

If we need any indication that the overall story has been running in place for two films, seeing this sixth and final movie pick up from the closing shot of the third is it. We arrive just in time to once more witness an unseen force break Dennis’s back as young Katie (Chloe Csegnery) and Kristi (Jessica Tyler Brown) gaze on, unmoved by this bit of gruesomeness. Grandma Lois (Hallie Foote) takes them upstairs where we see the sisters meeting with a man who seems to be the head of this coven or cult or whatever it is whose intentions are still unclear. Then we cut away to 2013 so we can meet our new unlucky family.

Ryan (Chris J. Murray), Emily (Brit Shaw) and their daughter Leila (Ivy George) are every bit as bland as you’d expect to find as the main focus in the Paranormal Activity series. They live in a huge, fantastic house where Uncle Mike (Dan Gill) has arrived for an extended Christmas holiday visit. Another house guest is family friend Skyler (Olivia Taylor Dudley), who is staying for reasons that are unclear, but she is some eye candy so Uncle Mike doesn’t seem to mind having her around to creep on.

While the guys are decorating the house for Christmas they discover a mysterious cardboard box that holds a large video camera and a bunch of video tapes. The footage on the tapes appears to be raw footage from PA3 and then moves on to recordings of  Katie and Kristi hanging out with the bearded cult leader dude some more. The girls appear to be receiving some kind of training involving the demon named Toby and that can’t mean anything good for any of us.

Ryan and Uncle Mike find the camera even more fascinating. Looking through its lens reveals some strange things that cannot be seen by the human eye or other video cameras, such as a swirling mass of black, sparkly demon snot floating in the air. Turns out the camera is able to see this stuff because it has been customized with six picture tubes instead of three and an extra, mysterious focus ring. Who knew it only took a hardware upgrade to be able to see into another dimension!

At first they have no idea that what they’re seeing is our demon buddy Toby come to befriend young Leila for some nefarious purpose. Their interest is piqued enough that, as you might have guessed, they set up the camera to capture the paranormal activities overnight, which raises the question just how many hours of footage can these old tapes hold?

Watching a long, tall pillar of black goo sulk around the house at night isn’t all that scary. Not even when it’s hovering over Leila’s bed and communicating with her do we feel like there’s any danger. We know the deal; Toby doesn’t hurt the kids. On one hand it is a bit of a relief that we don’t have to strain and scan the screen for whatever household object might make the smallest, nearly undetectable movement. Yet it turns out that not seeing the demon is a large part of what built tension in the previous movies. Toby does make some lunges at the camera from time to time for some obvious jump scares but so what?

The finale of the The Ghost Dimension is more intense and violent than the previous films, and includes what I grudgingly admit is a series highlight when someone dies from being vomited upon but it’s too little excitement way too late. I cared less about these characters than any from the other films. The culmination of the mythology behind the series isn’t that original, nor is it very cohesive, but what do we expect from a franchise that repeated the same story over and over? I’m still not sure why time travel was required. And finally, why is it called the Ghost Dimension when it’s a freakin’ demon who’s at the root of all the activity?

Goodbye to Kristi and evil Katie. Sayonara to poor Hunter and Leila. Rest in peace Alex and Dennis and all who have passed on in sacrifice to the terrible demon. Adios to you most of all, Toby… who is apparently stuck in 1992, twiddling his thumbs, waiting for Katie and Kristi to move on and forget everything that happened so that they can become adults and set in motion the events that send Leila and Hunter back in time because…. oh, who knows? Who cares? Say “good night”, Toby.

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