Movie Review: Paranormal Activity: Ghost Dimension
Unless you’re a staunch fan, sequels past the third iteration begin to lose any charm or curiosity. But the fact that Paranormal Activity: Ghost Dimension is the last time you’ll see the series will probably draw some curious ones to the screens.
As a disclaimer to the rest of the review: this UrbanWire writer is an immense wimp. Any and all jump scares beget a yelp of fear or a suppressed whine out of him. Also, he missed about 15 minutes of Paranormal Activity: Ghost Dimension because he had to excuse himself to throw up from sheer nausea induced by the unstable camerawork. These are all facts confirmed by the writer’s companion at the movie, who couldn’t stop laughing.
Following a less than linear franchise timeline, Paranormal Activity: Ghost Dimension picks up from Paranormal Activity 3 instead of 4 or last year’s spinoff Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones with all new characters.
Mike (Dan Gill) moves in with of Ryan (Chris J. Murray), his brother, and Ryan’s wife, Emily (Brit Shaw) over Christmas. In the grand manor (that they bought for a suspiciously low price) are also the couple’s 6-year-old daughter, Leila (Ivy George), and their friend, Skylar (Olivia Taylor Dudley).
While decorating the home for the Christmas season’s festivities, Mike chances upon a box of video tapes left behind by the previous owners. The films are of Katie and Kristi (the sisters from Paranormal Activity 3) participating in cult rituals and having premonitions of the future, eerily describing the exact house they now found themselves in.
Soon after the tapes’ viewing, Leila begins speaking to her imaginary friend “Toby” (rather like Carol Anne’s conversations with the spirits in 1982’s Poltergeist) and the occupants start being attacked by a spirit within the manor. The malevolent entity doesn’t even spare a camera, knocking it right off its tripod as it rushes by. Perhaps it’s camera-shy.
We can’t gripe enough about the jittery filming of Ghost Dimension because it causes the film to be physically sickening to watch. It’s terribly hard to focus on the scene when it’s constantly shivering and jumping about. Although you can attribute image unsteadiness to an inherent quirk of the found footage genre, something about Ghost Dimension’s shaky cam is just worse.
Even if nausea doesn’t affect you, the plot might still leave your mind reeling. Logic takes a break and plot conveniences take the lead when you realize the only reason the plot progresses past Christmas decorating is because Mike chances upon a random box.
Were the box not found, the entity within the household wouldn’t have grown in strength by feeding on the fear and attention, because no one would have known of its existence.
And it’s also pretty far-fetched that the priest recruited to exorcize the spirit returns to the house (after consulting some experts) to carry out the ritual alone, despite admitting he has no detailed knowledge of the entity or any experience in confronting it.
However, the most glaring issue with Ghost Dimension for us is that it’s not scary. First-time director Gregory Plotkin’s jump scares are more surprise and shock than legitimate psychological creepiness, and this lowest-common-denominator shock tactic is the only horror tool the film uses. And these were even pre-empted, some for over 5 minutes. Can you believe it?
Ghost Dimension’s CGI does deserve reprieve from criticism though. In 3D, the visual effects of the spirit and its haunting are pretty cool. Of course, what would have been more appreciated is if they were actually frightening. Other than that, we have to say that the acting didn’t make us cringe, which is a rare occurrence in horror films. Perhaps it was just a poor script that rendered the acting bland.
We were looking forward to this finale of an overnight cult classic, too, but Paranormal Activity: Ghost Dimension is a clear-cut disappointment. Its tagline tantalized us with: “For the first time, you will see the activity”, but we left wishing we simply didn’t see the film.
Release Date: 29 October 15
Runtime: 88 minutes
Censorship Rating: NC16
Director: Gregory Plotkin
Main Actors: Chris J. Murray, Brit Shaw, Dan Gill, Ivy George
Photos courtesy of United International Pictures