By Thomas Simpson
It doesn’t feel like Halloween without another entry to the Paranormal Activity series. Many may roll their eyes however Blumhouse Productions have raked in a fortune from these films while keeping their production costs low. Producers Jason Blum and Oren Peli have confirmed that Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension will be the final chapter. After five films of pretty much the same, director Gregory Plotkin is going to present the supernatural haunting like we’ve never seen it before…in 3D. Stop rolling your eyes, it’s good.
Set two years after the events of the woeful Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, the Fleeges family is introduced for the demon we know as Toby to torment. When the father, Ryan, discovers an old camera and some home videos in the garage, he can’t help but play about with them. The tapes show some familiar characters from previous installments while the camera is picking up some ghostly activity of its own. When the spirit turns malevolent, attacking Ryan’s wife Emily and targeting their daughter Leila, rather than flee the premises Ryan sets up some cameras to document the events. Cue hijinks.
Previous directors have lived by the “less is more” school of filmmaking. Plotkin sheds this idea by showing us the invisible force that is causing all the mayhem. This provides a unique spin on a tired franchise but it eliminates any of the suspense and terror that the series was founded upon. Toby looks creepy as a black liquid tar figure or death, but the films always scared best when it was our imagination that was tapped into.
Plotkin does rectify this at the midway point by injecting some dread into scenes, pulling back on the visuals and allowing the pressure to build. The 3D is utilized well, wielded as a gimmick to accompany the film as opposed to being 3D for 3D’s sake. It doesn’t totally immerse you but it’s a neat little trick that emphasizes the jump scares.
If this is indeed the final installment, the story doesn’t offer too much in the way of a resolution. The overall problem with the strung out plot was that it got stretched more and more with each film when it could have easily lived and died as a one off haunted house horror. Fans of the series won’t be expecting a happy ending but at the same time it’d be nice if the writers (all four of them credited – Jason Pagan, Andrew Stark, Adam Robitel, and Gavin Heffernan) tried something different in the script.
With a budget of $10 million, this makes Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension the most expensive film in the series and accounts for more than a third of the overall budget for all six installments. Early box office projections have been poor but I doubt this will be flop and it doesn’t deserve to be as it’s the best entry since Paranormal Activity 2. The scares have been cheap and effective for the most part, but it’s probably best to quit while you’re ahead.
Thomas Simpson is a writer and filmmaker based in Glasgow, U.K. Find him on Twitter: @Simmy 41.