The PARANORMAL ACTIVITY series comes to a close with the preparations for a diabolical goal.
Always one to do my research (stop spluttering at the back), I watched all the films in the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY franchise in order to be able to compare, contrast and critique THE GHOST DIMENSION. I actually came away from the films confused and exasperated, but with some great ideas for interior decoration (no carpeted bathrooms in the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY universe); unfortunately only some of my questions were answered by THE GHOST DIMENSION, the final film of the franchise.
THE GHOST DIMENSION treads much of the same ground as the other films – quite literally, when we discover the house in which the film’s events take place is built on the same ground as the house from PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3, the Eighties-set prequel of the franchise. A nuclear family move into a big house, unexplainable and creepy things happen, people die and we see these events via ‘found footage’. The footage which begins the film is less believable than that in previous films – apart from some cute interactions with the demon-susceptible moppet, Leila, people seem to be filming each other for the hell of it until we get to the salvaging of an older camera from 1988 and things start to get weird.
Despite a slow start, the film eventually picks up in pace and the jump scares are regular and shocking – so much so that I emitted a burp of surprise at the first scare. There’s also an underlying feeling of menace, mainly thanks to the great CGI and sound effects which create ‘Toby’, the demon. The fact that the demon can only be ‘seen’ by the older camera contributes to unsettle us. What we see of the demon and how it changes in form during the film shows how much ‘Toby’ gains strength and power over Leila and the other family members, leading to a decently frightening final reveal of the demon, during an exorcism. The similarity in appearance between Leila in 2013 and Kristi in 1988, while not commented on by any of the characters, also adds to the film’s creep factor.
Sadly, there’s more that’s wrong with THE GHOST DIMENSION than what’s right. As the franchise’s finale film, it could be worse, but it could also be a lot better. Treading the same old ground again doesn’t make for a good film and while I now have some great ideas for kitchen storage, the franchise might have ended on a better note with a change of setting. The goal of the demon, ‘Toby’, should be horrifying to consider – instead, it’s lost in confusion, call-backs to previous events and characters, a lack of proper build-up and some pretty dire acting from some of the cast. The film’s conclusion feels tacked-on and as if we’ve missed out on an important moment in favour of creepy, black-eyed children and a mish-mash of panic. A finale film deserves a bigger, better ending than THE GHOST DIMENSION has and I was left underwhelmed and apathetic.
A low point of the film is when we end up watching the characters watch back what we’ve just seen – we watch a repeat of a recording of them watching a tape and rather than the terror this moment should inspire, just working out the logistics of it is enough to make the audience lose focus. The creep factor of a ‘did that just happen?’ moment is lost by the film going back and confirming that it did indeed happen, rather than encouraging a sense of uncertainty in the audience. The time-travel seen in THE MARKED ONES makes an unwelcome and unnecessary return, disturbing the flow of the film and only opening up more questions and confusion about the series as a whole.
As a standalone film, THE GHOST DIMENSION isn’t bad to watch – there are some good jumps, excellent effects and Ivy George stands out as one of the film’s better actors, going from sweet moppet to priest-biting mini-creep. However, it’s not a film that’s friendly to those who haven’t seen the other films in the franchise – the name-dropping of various characters from previous instalments quickly becomes boring and the film’s beginning is a mess for those who haven’t seen PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3. Even if you are a fan and know the franchise’s lore, the name-drops feel unnecessary and previous films are undermined by the events depicted in the box of tapes from the late Eighties and early Nineties; those who know the series are likely to feel cheated out of a decent conclusion.
The sixth and final film of the franchise lacks clarity and originality, paling in comparison to the first PARANORMAL ACTIVITY and replacing simple terror with doubling back and overcomplicating matters. Like my burp, the film is all hot air and no substance.