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Lacks Any Dimension

Paramount Pictures
 88 Minutes
Rated: R
Directed by: Gregory Plotkin 
Starring: Chris J. Murray, Brit Shaw
Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension

It would seem obvious, even to the casual moviegoer, that trying to use 3D photography in a found footage movie would be the equivalent of mixing oil and water. After all, the premise behind the found footage gimmick is that someone actually recorded the images that viewers are seeing now, and, as we all know, any type of video footage is most definitely 2D. The producers of Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension do offer an extremely lame explanation of why ghostly images seem to come out of the screen a few times during the movie, but what they’re far more likely to be offering are refunds to angry filmgoers who actually plunk down an extra $3-4 for one of the worst examples yet, both creatively and technically, of 3D imagery.


Actually, the bad 3D, fortunately limited to about fifteen minutes of Ghost Dimension’s 90 minute running time, is only one of the many things wrong with this inept excuse of a movie. The original Paranormal Activity was an enormous financial and critical success because writer/director Oren Peli figured out how to use the still fresh found footage gimmick to generate haunted house scares. Audiences overlooked the facts that the plot was extremely simplistic, character development was nearly non-existent, and the acting quality was at times amateurish. But as the series went on, the producers had to invent reasons why new families were having the exact same things happen to them, and, eventually, a complex supernatural backstory involving a centuries-old demonic cult emerged. And as the storyline got more complex, with sequels, prequels, and offshoots, the scary moments themselves became few and far between, largely because audiences learned to anticipate how the directors would try to scare them. Obviously, something you know is coming on a theater screen is rarely frightening.


Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension represents the absolute nadir of the franchise. It is set in the present day and features a new family and a new haunted house. There’s Dad  Ryan (Chris J. Murray), Mom Emily (Brit Shaw) and daughter Laila (Ivy George). George bears a striking resemblance to the younger daughter in both versions of Poltergeist, an obviously intentional bit of casting, considering the fact that the plot of Ghost Dimension, such as it is, brazenly rips off Poltergeist. Ryan’s brother Mike (Dan Gill) is staying with his brother’s family while he sorts out problems in his own life, while Emily’s friend Skyler (Olivia Taylor Dudley) shows up from time to time. The actual reason they are present in the film is to have extra people around to be terrorized at opportune moments and extra hands to carry the various cameras needed to make the found footage gimmick remotely credible.


So that the characters and audience can understand what’s going on, the brothers discover the stash of videotapes left over from the earliest film in the Paranormal Activity timeline. These tapes reveal a young girl who looks remarkably like Laila being trained to enter the demonic cult. And, in the one mildly creepy moment in the entire film, the girl on the 30-year-old tapes seems to know that someone will be watching her in the future and actually describes what the brothers look like as they do so.


Other than that inspired bit of business, the rest of Ghost Dimension is exactly the same as the other Paranormal Activity movies. Long, unbroken surveillance shots are interrupted by things appearing out of nowhere, dimly lit shapes scurry across the screen at odd intervals, and there are loud bumping noises on the soundtrack. The problem of course is that audiences are fully aware just what’s going to happen and are simply trying to guess when that will occur. Considering that the movie has a tight, 88-minute running time, audiences rarely have to wait too long.


Considering that this family knows what’s happening whereas the victims in the earlier Paranormal Activity films didn’t, the stupidity factor alone makes it impossible for audiences to develop any empathy with them. They merely go on about their business after each scare and continue to walk around with video cameras when things get spooky. Admittedly, they did summon a priest to consult about a possible exorcism, but that move seemed more of an attempt to incorporate the exorcism mythos into the story line as well. ,By the end of the movie, I was hoping that Laila would be abducted as quickly as possible so the movie could actually end.


I should probably comment on the 3D in case someone is tempted to plunk down the money. The script explains the use of 3D by having Ryan and Mike discover a supernatural camcorder along with the old videotapes. This camera supposedly detects the presence of whatever type of aura or ectoplasm these ghosts give off and actually records what can’t be seen to the naked eye. When seen through the 3D glasses, shapes looking like thousands of tiny oil globules come together to form a misshapen figure that, in 3D, flies off the screen for a few seconds. In either 2D or 3D, this figure is about as scary as Casper and his buddies. And, as usual with mediocre 3D, the gimmick merely makes the action on the screen darker and murkier, not scarier.


After six films, there’s simply nothing left to see in the Paranormal Activity franchise. Every single scene in Ghost Dimension seemed overly familiar, and every attempted scare was completely telegraphed. Worse, some of these scares involved lengthy hidden camera shots so that the audience became utterly bored before welcoming the non-scare as a means of bringing another pointless scene to a close. The only thing scary about Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension is the thought that there might be a seventh film lurking in the background. Instead, it’s time to banish the entire franchise to the ghost dimension.  

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Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (2015) on IMDb