Initially Unsettling Ghost Dimension Fails to Reinvigorate the Activity
Ryan (Chris J. Murray) and Emily (Brit Shaw) have gotten a sweet deal on a new house. It’s almost Christmas, and they’ve just moved in, and much to the excitement of daughter Leila (Ivy George) dad’s brother Uncle Mike (Dan Gill) has come to stay with them. Mom’s best friend Skyler (Olivia Taylor Dudley) is also staying, all of them excited about spending the holidays together as one big happy family.
There is a reason Ryan and Emily got such a great deal on their home, the fact the prior one on the lot burned down due to mysterious circumstances back in the early 1990s a red flag their realtor should have disclosed. Only reason they’ve learned about it at all is thanks to a cache of VHS tapes and a mysterious hi-res camera that has an odd ability to photograph things that are not there, the tapes themselves showing two little girls named Katie (Chloe Csengery) and Kristi (Jessica Tyler Brown) being schooled in the paranormal by some kind of cult.
Reportedly the final film in the franchise, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension is a moderate step up in quality over the previous two episodes, Paranormal Activity 4 and Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones. While what is happening will likely shock no one, the initial 45 to 50 minutes of the film are seriously unsettling even if fans of the series will have a pretty good idea what is going on, director Gregory Plotkin (the editor on all four of the previous films) doing a nice job keeping viewers on collective pins and needles. He toys with many of the visual tricks and audio stylings that have become typical for these features, the crafty use of 3D as it concerns the demonic menace slowly taking shape, trying to transform Leila into its friend and ally, rather effective
Problem is, even by cycling backwards to Paranormal Activity 3 (while also answering – kind of – what happened to little Hunter from Paranormal Activity 4), even with the intention of taking viewers behind the curtain into the ghostly realm hinted at but never seen in the other films, there’s nowhere new for any of this to go. The last 20 minutes follow the same general template of the other films, doing so in a rather rushed fashion that almost feels as if Plotkin wants to get it all over with so he can hopefully unsettle everyone with his final terrifying image. It gives things a sadly forgettable aura that’s faintly disappointing, and considering just how much I enjoyed the initial half to three-quarters it is a regrettable turn of events indeed.
It’s also something of a cheat. The writers – there are way too many this time around to list – don’t shake things up enough, and even though all are new to the franchise (most being veterans of similar endeavors like Project Almanac and the excellent The Taking of Deborah Logan) they don’t seem to have anything original to say. On top of that, the idea that they are going to take viewers into this so-called “Ghost Dimension” is something of a lie, anyone expecting a full-blown descent into the otherworldly unknown (much like the recent Poltergeist remake did attempt to do, if not successfully) certain to walk away from the sequel disgruntled.
I still think the first three in this series are remarkably effective, and even if this sixth effort fails to maintain tension there are sequences that got under my skin marvelously. But at a certain point the characters transform into bigger idiots than usual, and while the reason first-person filming continues unabated (it’s the only way to see that ghosts and demons going after Leila) that’s not enough to justify some of the more outlandish and absurd bits of running around Ryan, Emily and the rest find themselves engaged in during the climax. While not a total loss, it’s still clear Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension is indicative of a franchise running on fumes, the scares just not strong enough to warrant another jaunt into this particular version of the unknown anytime soon.
Film Rating: 2½ (out of 4)