REVIEW: PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE GHOST DIMENSION (2015)

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PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE GHOST DIMENSION (2015)

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I’ve enjoyed the Paranormal Activity series and while I admit it was starting to show definite signs of running out of gas with the much maligned part 4, there did seem to be a bit of a second wind with the fun spin-off, The Marked Ones. Now we get Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension which is being sold as the series finale, but really doesn’t answer any more questions than the previous entries and doesn’t really make good on some of The Marked Ones‘ promise.

This entry takes place at Christmas time at the home of the Fleeges family. We have Ryan (Chris J. Murray), his pretty wife, Emily (Brit Shaw) and their adorable little girl Leila (Ivy George). They are joined by Ryan’s recently single brother Mike (Dan Gill) and pretty blonde “Auntie Skyler” (Olivia Taylor Dudley), whose actual relationship with the family is never really clear (Emily’s sister?) other than to provide exposition and look hot in Daisy Dukes. They discover a box with an old video camera and VHS tapes, in the house, which reveal young Katie (Chloe Csengery) and Kristie (Jessica Tyler Brown) from Paranormal Activity 3. Upon watching these tapes they observe some bizarre cult activity with the two girls and strange things begin to occur in their own home. The camera can apparently pick-up ‘spirit photography’ (as per our lovely Auntie Skyler) and Ryan begins to see strange things floating around the house. The activity seems to be focused on Leila and as the activity grows and Leila’s behavior begins to change, the Fleeges begin to fear there is something dark and dangerous in their home…and evidence indicates they have been targeted by something sinister. Somebody call an exorcist!

Series editor Gregory Plotkin directs from a story and script by no less than five people. While he actually doesn’t do a bad job for his first outing, the script doesn’t really give him that much new to work with till the last act and while that adds a few new wrinkles, it doesn’t come close to providing a satisfying finale. Odd that five people working for two years couldn’t come up with anything more then basically just another installment. The spirit camera gimmick looses it’s novelty quickly and since our imaginations can concoct far worse than any FX technician, demon “Toby” is reduced to just another CGI phantom that has become all too common in this digital effects age. He’s not that impressive now that he’s been outed and we are no longer as afraid of him. At least in previous entries we never knew where he would strike from next. Here we can see him coming. Plotkin does give us some legitimate tension and chills, but the movie really doesn’t go too far from where any previous entry went and when we finally find out what the witch coven “The Mid-Wives” want, it’s basically nothing that the demon/exorcism movie of the week hasn’t done before. There is some cool stuff with the dimension portal introduced in Marked Ones and some fun use of PA3 footage, but the film seems to only casually address elements in the last two films with throwaway lines and even uses that same approach with a major character, leaving her fate a loose end. Even the climax leaves us at a point where there is obviously more to the story, so, as a finale, this feels far from final. The usual complaints are still here, too. Such as, why don’t they ever put the camera down, even when in danger and why don’t these people seem anything more then moderately curious when discovering there is a demonic entity stalking their child…and did no one think of Windex-ing the demonic symbols said child drew, off the wall? She’s continually allowed to sleep in a bed surrounded by writing that has been identified as demonic in nature. Bad parenting indeed! Suffice to say, characters do not behave logically or practically as the film progresses and we wonder if “The Mid-Wives” indeed made the right choice as this clan seems to be walking right into their sinister plot perfectly…and with predictable results.

The cast were fine and at least the characters where likable. Murray is fun as dad Ryan who is quite fascinated at first by the camera, tapes and odd goings on. The script doesn’t have him or anyone else as scared or concerned as they should be, but that’s not the actor’s fault. Gill is amusing as Ryan’s goofball brother and provides the comic relief, which is welcome at times. Ivy George is adorable as little Leila and escapes annoying child syndrome, so, we like and care about her. She does good work for a tyke. The Paranormal Activity series continues the tradition of hot mom’s and good looking supporting characters with Brit Shaw’s pretty girl-next-door mom Emily, who seems a little more concerned about the lurking demon than her husband and Olivia Taylor Dudley (also seen recently in The Vatican Tapes) whose character’s purpose may be questionable, but she’s hot, so we’ll tolerate it. We also get familiar faces such as Chloe Csengery, Jessica Tyler Brown and Hallie Foote returning as young Katie, Kristie and Grandma Lois respectively. Notice anybody missing?…grrrr!*

Didn’t hate it, but it is a big disappointment for those looking for a solid finale and tied up loose ends. New director Gregory Plotkin doesn’t do a bad job, but is working from a script compiled by five people and it does teeter on the edge of mess at times. The flick has a few new wrinkles that are amusing enough, but falls back on familiar series tropes and makes a bit of a mistake in revealing it’s series villain as just another CGI spook, after five films left him to our own overactive imaginations. There are…as usual with this series…just as many loose ends as there are questions answered, leaving the door ajar in case this makes a boatload of cash and Toby returns once more.

*As a personal gripe, how can you end a series without it’s lead character (aside from Toby) is beyond me. Boo!

-MonsterZero NJ

  2 and 1/2 spooks…it earns a few ‘hottie in Daisy Dukes’ extra points.

paranormal activity 5 rating

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 (2011)

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PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 (2011)

I like the Paranormal Activity series. It’s a minimalist smoke and mirrors approach that let’s your imagination conjure up a good deal of the scares and a pleasant change from some of the more gruesome stuff I love and entertain myself with. But, with a third installment, the question is, can they keep the formula fresh and your imaginations properly manipulated? The answer is yes! PA3 directors Henry Joost and Ariel Shulman (directors and writers of the indie hit Catfish) take the reins and take us back to 1988 when sisters Katie (Chloe Csengery) and Kristi (Jessica Tyler Brown) are little girls and all the bumps in the night began. And these two know how to manipulate the formula and crank it up while also adding some welcome humor to the mix. Where 1 & 2 were a slow burn, PA3 starts almost immediately. When strange noises start to occur and Kristi starts talking to an imaginary friend, their single mom Julie’s (Lauren Bittner) boyfriend Dennis (Chris Smith), a wedding videographer, sets up cameras in the house to capture what’s going on and… we all know what comes next…and the makers of PA3 are counting on it. They know we know what to expect and when and cleverly use that against us. That and they use a fantastic gimmick involving a camera mounted on an oscillating fan base and with it Joost and Schulman take us on a roller-coaster ride of delightfully scary fun.You literally sit there eyes darting all about the frame trying to anticipate where the next scare is coming. And Joost and Schulman lure you in every time. In the film’s final act we do go into slightly new territory for this series and in some truly bone chilling sequences get an idea as to why Katie and family are targeted by this malevolent force. To say anymore would spoil an extremely nerve-wracking and nail biting climax that is as haunting as it is revealing. Most of the cast are new and perform well, especially the little girls who really handle their difficult roles with surprisingly strong performances while Bittner and Smith make a very real and charming couple. We like this bunch and therefor care about them. Series star Katie Featherston also does appear briefly as adult Katie, as does Sprague Grayden as Kristi, which helps us better link this with the previous two flicks. The FX are minimal as usual but, really effective and the POV camera style still works just fine with a little suspension of disbelief. A fun addition to the series and while I do understand why they don’t appeal to everyone, I have a good time with these, especially in a packed movie house where horror movies should be seen. The home media release includes a director’s cut that is a bit longer and has some amusing bits added in.

3 and 1/2 spooks!

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