SPOILER WARNING! This review contains a brief synopsis of the film. If you haven’t seen the movie and wish for it not to be spoiled, watch the film and then read. If you have seen it, read the review and watch it again!
Being a huge a fan of the “Found Footage” horror films (Don’t ask me why I am a fan of them. I don’t even truly understand why. I just find them fascinating.), I wanted to check out the final installment in the Paranormal Activity series- Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension. This is the sixth installment in the series and is supposed to bring the story full circle. The big thing about this movie compared to the rest of the series is that the audience will finally get to see the “Activity.”
Ryan (Chris J. Murray), his wife Emily (Brit Shaw), and their young daughter Leila (Ivy George) are just finishing decorating the house for Christmas, when Ryan and his brother, Mike (Dan Gill), find some old VHS tapes and an old video camera that has been altered. The camera has the ability to pick up fragments floating in the air. The family notices that Leila begins to act strange and begins to talk to an imaginary friend, Toby. As the days grow closer to Christmas, Ryan and his brother watch the videos, which are of Katie and Kristi, (the original victims of “the activity”) as they are trained to serve Toby. It’s also during this time that weird things keep happening around the house and the camera is beginning to pick up more and more things. Ryan observes that in the videos, Katie and Kristi are able to see into the future, even describing Ryan watching the tapes. It’s at this point that Leila’s behavior really starts to change. With Leila’s behavior becoming more erratic and Toby growing more violent, the family seeks the help of a priest. The priest determines that Leila is being manipulated by a demon of some kind. The family then learns that the house they live in was built on Katie and Kristi’s old house before it burned down and that the real estate agent who sold them the house was actually, adult Katie. Realizing that the family may have been set up and that the ghost is getting more and more dangerous, the they try to flee the house, but Leila sneaks back and actually enters a portal in her room. As Toby begins to attack the family more frequently, the priest returns to perform a type of exorcism on the house that will remove Toby. As the family prepares and attempts to trap Toby, the demon attacks and kills the priest. After taking over where the priest left off, the family is finally able to trap and rid themselves of Toby. With Toby gone, Leila turns back to normal… or so it appears. Suddenly, Toby returns and begins to kill the family. Leila escapes back to her room and enters the portal. Emily chases after her, and discovers that the portal took them back to Katie and Kristi’s house in 1992. Emily frantically searches for Leila, being taunted by children in the process. Emily finally finds Leila in the garage and they immediately hide from Toby, who has now grown strong enough to take a physical form. In the final scene of the movie, Toby grabs Emily by the throat and strangles her to death, then takes Leila by the hand and walks away.
Being the sixth film in any franchise, there is always the concern of “will the film stand up to the rest in the series?” Films 2-5, while introducing the elements of the family story, the witches and the marked ones, relied way too much on many of the same tricks and ideas of the original. There are only so many ways to build the suspense and scare the audience with the antics of Toby (That’s the name of the demon, for those not familiar with the series.). However, this film definitely raises the stakes and changes the formula by now showing the activity through the special camera. This is the real first time, outside of the occasional shadows in the past films, that you actually see the activity in a physical form. This element changes the formula of the film enough to help it stand out from the rest of the films.
I also found the addition of the time travel aspect of the story to be very interesting. I wasn’t expecting for a doorway to be opened that traveled to the past. Throwing in something like that could ruin a plot line for a movie. However, I felt that it was used in a great way that did a fantastic job bringing the entire story of the franchise together.
Yet, is time travel and showing the activity enough? While it makes for an interesting change to the overall franchise, there is definitely a loss of suspense with the movie. The audience is more interested in seeing the ghost/demon move rather than being scared or intrigued by the story.
The acting in the film is good. Like the others in the series, and as for most “Found Footage” films, there is a degree of improvisation. This gives it a more “real world” look. No one really stood out in a great or bad way. The kid is creepy though.
The big loss to me in this film is that it’s only one in the series to not feature actress Katie Featherston as Katie. While her character appears in the film as a child, it was a real disappointment not to see the actress in this one. She has been integral to all the main entries, especially the first film.
The Paranormal Activity franchise has been one of the most successful film franchises in recent years. The first film was released nation wide in 2009 and there was a sequel released almost every year until the final film in 2015. In terms of success, all the films combined have made almost $900 million, on a combined budget of under $30 million. Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension had the largest budget in the series, $10 million.
The thing about “Found Footage” horror movies is that they are either really good or really bad. We keep getting drawn to them because the ones that are really good, use the film style so well that we want to see more. As a result, we willingly try other films. Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension and the overall Paranormal Activity series have been one of, if not, the most successful franchises to use the “Found Footage” technique. They have found a way of making a difficult technique fun and successful.
Overall, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension is an okay movie. It’s different than the other films, better than the other sequels in the series, but it is nowhere as good as the original, and for me at least, there isn’t much of a re-watch value. It’s worth watching, but not more than once.