Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (2015) / Horror

MPAA Rated: R for language and some horror violence
Running Time: 88 min.

Cast: Chris J. Murray, Dan Gill, Brit Shaw, Ivy George, Pilivia Taylor Dudley, Chloe Csengery, Jessica Tyler Brown, Don McManus, Micael Kravic
Director: Gregory Plotkin
Screenplay: Jason Pagan, Andrew Deutschman, Adam Robtel, Gavin Hefferman

Review published October 29, 2015

There's a scene in Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension in which a box of old VHS tapes is found, and one of the characters viewing the home video footage (on VHS but somehow hi-def and 16:9 aspect ratio) gets up and walks away, proclaiming, "This sucks!"  When you consider that the scene viewed on the tape is actually from material you could find in a previous entry in this series, I think it's about as telling of the quality of the Paranormal Activity sequels that even characters within their own movies think watching their own found-footage is unfathomably boring to sit through.

The story centers around a married couple, Ryan (Murray, Failing Better Now) and Emily (Shaw, "Nashville"), their precocious young daughter Leila (George. Krampus), and two houseguests, Ryan's brother Mike (Gill, The Wedding Ringer) and Emily's friend Skyler (Dudley, Chernobyl Diaries), who are all counting down the last days until Christmas in their new home in Santa Rosa, California, filming every moment of their lives for reasons barely explained.  In this house, Ryan and Mike find the aforementioned box of videotapes and a unique-looking, still-functioning old video camera that, when used, reveals that it can see and capture strange visions around the house that can't be seen with the naked eye, or any other recording device.  The old tapes reveal a weird cult rituals involving the two young girls from the prior films, Kristi and Katie, and this look into the past begins to manifest itself with strange occurrences in the present, especially tied in with Leila, who begins to sleepwalk and talks to an invisible entity named 'Toby'.   With his newfangled camera and a few other devices, Ryan sets about trying to capture just what's going on, and hopes he can turn away whatever malevolence is affecting his daughter before it's too late.

The Ghost Dimension is the fifth of the official Paranormal Activity series, not counting The Marked Ones, which the producers claim is a spin-off, even though it ties in directly with the mythos of the rest of the films, and even has an appearance from Katie Featherston, something that this entry in the series can't claim.  Regardless of whether you consider this the fifth or sixth film, the good news is that, if you believe producers Jason Blum and Oren Peli, it's reportedly the last one, and considering it's arguably the worst one, it's nice of the producers of the franchise to leave us not wanting to see any more.

Despite still making a decent amount of money as compared to its production budget (The franchise, which only cost about $18 million altogether to produce, has made over $800 million in returns), diminishing viewership isn't likely the reason why they're pulling the plug on the series so much as a sheer lack of interest by most involved to continue to churn out more of the same. The original Paranormal Activity is the only effective entry, mostly because it's the most simple and easiest to identify with in terms of innate fears, as we all know how scary it can be to feel isolated in a house, seeing strange things, and hearing bumps in the night.  Subsequent movies have continued to try to build on the story, never generating any of the initial sense of dread, mostly because the more we know about what's going on, the less scary it seems to be.  As we finally get to see what the demon of the series looks like with this one, all of that dread and mystery is not only gone, but the sight of 'Toby' is a real yawn inducer, even in 3D, which is perhaps the only new facet of this entry that differentiates it from the rest.

The Ghost Dimension is the first directorial effort from Gregory Plotkin, who has worked as the editor of all of the entries in the series from Paranormal Activity 2 through The Marked Ones.  Unfortunately, being intimate with the series doesn't help in his quest to generate suspense, elevate mystery, or even deliver successful scares, as there's absolutely nothing that goes on within the course of this story that is remotely interesting on any level, except for long-time series fans who are looking to see just how the franchise is going to finally conclude.  There is more CGI in this film than in prior entries, but it's a double-edged sword, considering that the entire premise of the series is that we're seeing found footage of supposedly real events, so when there's obvious special effects shots, we're persistently reminded that we're watching a movie.  And, for a found footage movie in which ad-libbing would probably be the norm, the fact that there are no less than four crediting screenwriters attached to this script is perhaps the only surprise to be found.

Considering it's supposed to be the last entry, the least we should expect is for the franchise to go out with a bang, rather than the barely audible whimper that this movie's ending leaves us with, including the fact that it actually doesn't have closure at all.  Whereas the first entry in this franchise kept many a viewer up at night, this last entry is a sure-fire way to put many of those same viewers to a sound sleep.  Without scares, without laughs, without an interesting story, without haunting tension, and without a single one of these dumb-as-rocks characters to care about, The Ghost Dimension isn't much better than watching the home movies of people we don't even know. 

The tagline of the film says, "All you can do is watch."  I'd say that's about as accurate an advertisement for the overall lack of effect for this monotonous and instantly forgettable attempt to try to squeeze out every last drop from a grossly fatigued franchise that had already run out of interesting ideas before the end credits of its first movie.

Qwipster's rating:

2015 Vince Leo