Bad Movie Tuesday – Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension
By Bill Nelson
Well, last week got off to a rousing start with Dumb & Dumber To. After looking at one of Hollywood’s bigger bad movies, though, it seemed like it was time to take a turn down a more familiar route. Horror movies are the life blood of bad cinema. I’ve said it more times than I count and it just never stops being true. Why? Well, because they’re usually reasonably cheap to make and almost always return at least a modest profit. In other words, ever Tom, Dick, and Igor can go out and make a terrible zombie/alien/monster movie and, with little to no marketing, make a few bucks.
This week we’ll be taking a look at one of the movies I was really hoping would be good in 2015, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension. By now, if you don’t know the basic premise of the series you’re probably new to the planet, but just in case here’s a brief primer. Spooky stuff happens while people are filming. People get freaked out and get super serious about trying to capture the spooky stuff on film more. The spooky stuff escalates and people die. To be less oblique, the Paranormal Activity movies are a found footage series of horror films. The initial film, written and directed by Oren Peli and starring Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat, was a surprise hit in 2009. Primarily the series follows an unseen demon (finally named Toby in Paranormal Activity 3) who torments various families in their homes. Of the six films produced in the series, only the first and third are really any good. The second one has a good twist ending that ties it nicely back in with the first but doesn’t do much to earn it. The Marked Ones stands as an interesting but ultimately dull side story to the main film series and the fourth one is just terrible. Where does The Ghost Dimension fall in this, though?
Ultimately, I would argue that this flick is actually a little better than the last main entry in the series, Paranormal Activity 4, but worse than pretty much everything else in the series. The story is more interesting, if only just barely, and the scares are a little more effective. It’s basic: a family finds an old box of videos in their attic showing the indoctrination of young Katie and her sister Kristi (the sisters at the heart of Paranormal Activity 1, 2, and 3) into the coven of witches introduced in the prior films. As the family watches the videos they make the eerie realization that, despite being filmed over twenty years earlier, the girls are somehow aware of their presence, reacting to things in the video that happen as they are being watched. At the same time, a presence begins stalking the house, attaching itself to the family’s young daughter, Leila. The presence, the invisible demon known as Toby, can only be seen through an old, highly customized camcorder found in the box with the videos. As the family realizes that their daughter is changing and something in the house has it in for them they begin filming everything that happens at night in order to find and put a stop to Toby for good.
There are some clever moments in the The Ghost Dimension. The ‘spectral’ camera is definitely put to better, scarier use than the infrared dots of the XBox Kinect system in Paranormal Activity 4. And, while the movie never really shoots for anything more than jump scares, I will give them credit for being better handled than most modern horror flicks. The problem with the movie is that for all that it wants to be different and unique from the rest of the series while wallowing in the same tropes set up in those prior entries, it never really gets any further than a bad Exorcist wannabe.
I really, really wanted to like this movie. I remember discovering the first Paranormal Activity back in 2010 when it used to be on Netflix. It was late at night and pitch black except for my TV and I was thoroughly hooked by the simple premise and genuinely creepy atmosphere of the film. As the series aged, though, elements started popping up that could have made for an interesting mythology but were just never fleshed out enough to make sense. The Ghost Dimension was supposed to answer all the questions in the series and wrap it up with a bow, but I walked away still not quite sure exactly what the point was other than it had something to do with time travel. If you enjoyed the earlier films in the series, you’ll probably have some fun with this one but otherwise, you’re better off just watching the first 3 again.
Stank Ranking –