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    Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (2015) - Movie Review

    "Does not look like a finale for what’s supposedly a final instalment.” 

    Oren Peli’s Paranormal Activity (2009) revolutionized the found-footage filming style with its refreshing horror tropes and visual language. It was a huge success, making the conceit a profitable subgenre and thereby launching a string of sequels. Its trick is simple – homes videos are created by families in hopes of capturing supernatural phenomenon. It is catchy but the problem is that the gimmick only works during the first time. Succeeding films become too predictable and most resort to recycling old materials with frustratingly silly twists.

    Gregory Plotkin’s Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension is another victim of the curse. It is the sixth and presumably the final instalment in the franchise. It follows the urban legend of a haunted house in Santa Rosa, California where children Katie (Chloe Csengery) and Kristi (Jessica Brown) were proselytized into a cult that worships a demon entity known as Toby. After being burnt down, the house is rebuilt and its new owners are young couple Ryan Fleege (Chris J. Murray) and Emily (Brit Shaw) with a lovely young daughter named Leila (Ivy George). Christmas is quickly approaching and everyone is excited for the season. Ryan’s recently-heartbroken brother Mike (Dan Gill) comes along to spend the holiday with the family, as well as Emily’s blonde friend Skyler (Olivia Taylor Dudley) who constantly disappears for yoga retreats.

    While decorating the house, Mike stumbles upon a custom-built VHS camera and a stock of tapes in the storage. When Ryan gets the gadget working, the brothers are astonished to see odd energy fields and strange vibrations manifested only through the camera’s lens. Worse, the tapes turn out to be footages of two children being coerced by their grandma Lois (Hallie Foote) and an unseen man into communicating with the spirit world. Soon, Leila begins talking to an imaginary friend named Toby and apparitions escalate in what supposed to be a happy home. 

    Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension follows the same formula that popularized the series, particularly the first three films. Here, edgy homeowners set up a chronology of nocturnal video shoots and handheld camera footages to record supernatural occurrences that plague their loved ones. It is too dependent on loud or weird noises, moving nightly shadows and jump scares to achieve suspense. The present film does exactly what it predecessors did, setting the terror in another suburban family. It also attempts to be innovative by employing the dusty and cloudy look of 80s VHS tech. It brings in a different kind of texture but its effect is not appreciable.

    After five movies, the franchise has developed a complicated and cluttered mythology. The Ghost Dimension strives to answer lingering questions but its effort falls too short. It manages to establish connections, especially with the third film, yet it fails to give better understanding on what prompted the series’ principal characters on worshipping the devil or tapping the spiritual universe. The whys are never suitably clarified and all the scares end up hollow and pointless.

    Expectedly, logical lapses are overabundant and the characters’ slow-witted actions and reactions are exasperating. After getting a bad vibe of their new home, they plant several cameras around the house but obviously never bother to watch them. Despite his growing curiosity, Ryan is too unhurried in reviewing the tapes, progressing with a few footages a day and feeding his discoveries to his family (and us!) piecemeal. They know unearthly forces are haunting the house but they keep going back-and-forth between believing and reverting into it’s-just-coincidence mentality. That's why they never vacate the house, leaving Leila more exposed to the torments of the devil. 

    Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension is just another rehash of the familiar stories in the franchise. It introduces another family and employs the VHS camera to sound new but it remains frustratingly disappointing. It ends with no concrete resolution and its promise to be the last instalment in the series may be another failed effort. 

    Production companies: Blumhouse, Solana Films, Room 101 
    Cast: Chris J. Murray, Brit Shaw, Ivy George, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Dan Gill, Jessica Brown, Chloe Csengery, Don McManus, Hallie Foote, Cara Pifko, Michael Krawic, Alden Lovekamp, Mark Steger 
    Director: Gregory Plotkin 
    Screenwriters: Jason Harry Pagan, Andrew Deutschman, Adam Robitel, Gavin Heffernan 
    Producers: Jason Blum, Oren Peli 
    Executive producers:  Steven R. Molen Steven Schneider  
    Director of photography: John W. Rutland 
    Production designer:  Nathan Amondson     
    Costume designer:  Lisa Lovaas 
    Editor:  Michel Aller


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