Synopsis: Using a special camera that can see spirits, a family must protect their daughter from an evil entity with a sinister plan.
Release Date: October 23, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13
When Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension was first announced, series producer Jason Blum promised that it would answer all of the questions that have been brought up by the first five movies. Well, considering the ambiguity of some of the franchise entries, that’s a bold statement.
Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension starts out promisingly enough, with a young man named Ryan Fleege (Chris J. Murray from Bad Roomies) moving into a new house with his wife, Emily (Brit Shaw from “Nashville”), and young daughter, Leila (The Veil‘s Ivy George). While unpacking, Ryan and his brother, Mike (The Wedding Ringer‘s Dan Gill), find a box left by the old residents. Inside the box is a strange camera and a bunch of VHS tapes. The tapes are essentially the cassettes from Paranormal Activity 3, showing young Katie (Chloe Csengery from “Up All Night”) and Kristi (I Do‘s Jessica Tyler Brown) doing all of the spooky things from that movie. Things get weirder; while reviewing the tapes, Ryan and Mike discover that the Kristi in the tapes can see them watching her, creating a kind of A/V loop between the past and present. All of that is nothing compared to what the camera can do; the unique piece of equipment is able to see a spirit around the house that seems to be drawn to little Leila. The family struggles to solve the mysteries of the camera, the tapes, and the apparition before any real harm comes to their daughter.
Although it references the other movies, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension is pretty much a direct sequel to the third movie; while it doesn’t exactly pretend that Paranormal Activity 4 and Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones never happened, it doesn’t rely heavily on them for plot points, either. The Ghost Dimension was directed by Gregory Plotkin, who edited all the previous movies except for the first one, so the film does have a cohesive Paranormal Activity look and vibe to it. However, the story feels convoluted; the screenplay was written by Jason Pagan & Andrew Deutschman (the team behind Project Almanac) and Adam Robitel & Gavin Heffernan (the guys who did The Taking of Deborah Logan) from a story by Pagan, Deutschman, and Brantley Aufill (Road Side Insistence) that was based on the original Oren Peli movie’s characters. That’s a lot of names, and it seems as if they all had a little trouble getting synced up on the same page. The story seems as if no one could agree on any ideas, so the writers just took the easy way out and turned it into the same run-of-the-mill possession movie that everyone has seen a million times over.
Everything that is wrong with Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension comes to a head at the end of the movie. Whereas the last twenty minutes or so of the other Paranormal Activity movies always delivered what the viewer had been waiting to see regardless of how good the rest of the movie was, the final act of The Ghost Dimension is a cop out. It devolves into a stock run-and-scream movie, full of silly effects and mediocre scares. Worst of all, they give a form and shape to Toby, the demon that has, so far in the PA series, gone invisible. The best thing about Toby was how enigmatic he was – was he a little boy, a grown man, or a horrible monster? That’s one question that Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension answers that really should be left a mystery.
Speaking of questions, yes, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension answers many of them, particularly addressing became of Hunter after PA4 and revealing what Katie and Kristi did for the years between PA3 and PA2 (remember, the first 3 movies in the series go backwards chronologically). However, in its attempt to provide closure to the mythology, the movie ends up raising even more questions – questions that, if Blum’s insistence that this is the last PA movie is correct, will go forever unanswered. But maybe that’s a good thing; if Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension is any indication of the direction that the franchise would take if it continued, maybe it’s better to leave those questions unanswered after all.
Many people, this reviewer included, were skeptical of how Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension would pull off the 3D found footage angle, but that is the one thing that the movie gets right. The movie was shot by John Rutland (Lovely Molly, Exists), and for the most part, it’s a typical lo-fi found footage movie, with the camera alternating between being sturdily locked on a tripod and nauseatingly carried around by the characters. The special camera that Ryan and Mike find, the one that can see the spooks and specters, is the one that shows 3D footage, and that camera’s footage represents the only time that 3D is used in the film. The 3D effects never get old or tiresome because they’re only onscreen for a fraction of the movie. The visual effects in the 3D segments are iffy, going from stereotypical to downright corny, but, as with any CG effects, that’s to be expected. The fact that Rutland and director Gregory Plotkin were able to make the 3D found footage thing work is a huge feather in the cap of Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension.
As far as being scary goes, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension is pretty disappointing. The film has a slight air of suspense, but it’s not even close to the same palpable tension that is created by the earlier PA movies. There are a few scares, but most of the jumps are caused by cheap sudden loud noises, the kind of startling scares that cause more laughter than screams. Part of the reason might be the fact that, after five movies, the PA gimmick is old hat, but quite honestly, as far as scares go, audiences are used to getting much more from a PA movie than The Ghost Dimension delivers.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Gregory Plotkin
- Producer(s): Jason BlumOren Peli
- Screenwriter(s): Adam RobitelGavin HeffernanJason Pagan
- Story: Andrew Deutschman
- Cast: Chris J. Murray (Ryan)Brit Shaw (Emily)Ivy George (Leila) Dan Gill (Mike)Olivia Taylor Dudley (Skyler)Chloe Csengery (Katie)Jessica Tyler Brown (Kristi)Don McManus (Kent)Aiden Lovekamp (Hunter Rey)Cara Pifko (Julie)Mark Steger (Tobi)Rebecca Larsen (Moira)
- Editor(s): Michel Aller
- Cinematographer: John W. Rutland
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Lisa Lovaas
- Casting Director(s): John McAlaryTerri Taylor
- Music Score:
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA