Sunday, October 25, 2015

Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (2015)

Nobody could have possibly expected Oren Peli's Paranormal Activity would have been such a huge hit after Paramount Pictures plucked it from film festival obscurity and released it nationwide in the fall of 2009. It grossed nearly 200 million dollars and spawned a number of sequels, a Japanese spinoff, and a mockbuster from The Asylum while practically killing the Saw franchise in one fell swoop. But like many franchises before it, the Paranormal Activity saga started running after steam after a while. As much as I enjoyed the first three, I was ultimately burned by the tremendously disappointing fourth and fifth chapters. And with the release of a sixth chapter in the form of Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, I find myself drawn to it not by any real desire to see the progression of the story or to have any unresolved questions answered, but by a feeling that I've seen all the other ones, so I'd might as well keep going. Besides, how often does one get to see a found footage movie in 3D? Outside of that fleeting possibility, however, The Ghost Dimension just isn't worth bothering with.

Christmas is fast approaching, and Ryan (Chris J. Murray) and Emily Fleege (Brit Shaw) are preparing for the holiday season in the new suburban California home with their daughter Leila (Ivy George). As Ryan and his brother Mike (Dan Gill) decorate the house, the pair finds a stack of decades-old VHS tapes and an oversized video camera. The tapes depict young Katie (Chloe Csengery) and Kristi (Jessica Tylor Brown) being indoctrinated into a cult, while Ryan notices that the camera is picking up strange things around the house that are invisible to the naked eye, realizing that it was custom built to be capable of spectral photography. That'll come in really handy, as a series of strange events start happening around the house, each of them having an odd focus on Leila, whose behavior grows more and more strange with each passing day. Ryan sets up a video surveillance system to capture these occurrences in conjunction with his investigation into the tapes of Katie and Kristi. It quickly becomes evident that the demon we've come to know as "Toby" is in their house and has nefarious plans for Leila.

Wow. Just... wow. I don't know where to even begin describing just how disappointing this movie is. And that's really saying something, considering I wasn't expecting much to start with. The movie is painfully dull, the plot is nonsensical, the acting is mediocre at best, and as I sat in that theater watching, all I could think during the entire movie is that I wanted to stupid thing to hurry up and end so I could go home. It might not be as frustrating to watch as The Gallows, but Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension is almost as lame.

Gregory Plotkin makes his directorial debut here, and his efforts are poor, poor, poor. I say that because Plotkin breaks violates the cardinal rule of the horror genre: it's not scary at all. There are no scares, no suspense. The scene where Toby chases Ryan and Mike into the kitchen comes close to mustering up a little tension, but it's dashed away almost immediately by a character making a stupid joke and the fact that the scene just stops. The chase has no payoff, no moment where Ryan and Mike barely get away and Toby is briefly repelled. It just cuts to the next scene like nothing happened. Even the token "boo!" jump scares are ineffective, serving only as an annoyance because it feels like the movie is shouting at the audience instead of trying to scare them. Throw in some of the most laughably bad CGI this side of the ending of Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, and you've got a horror movie that was doomed for failure from the start.

Plotkin doesn't even try making franchise transition to 3D worthwhile. The majority of the movie is actually in 2D, believe it or not, with only a few brief instances of depth coming from the bits and pieces being shot from the spectral camera. And even then, the 3D's never used well. The franchise was built on a very angry demon throwing around everything it can get its hands on. Hell, the most indelible moment of the very first movie was Micah Sloat getting thrown at the camera at full force. That would make you think that a jump to 3D would be a perfect fit, right? But nope, The Ghost Dimension is actually relatively tame by comparison to the other movies in the franchise. There are one or two big moments, but outside of those, not a lot happens and the 3D goes underutilized for the most part.

Plotkin's direction may be underwhelming, but he isn't helped by the script, credited to Jason Harry Pagan, Andrew Deutshman, Adam Robite, and Gavin Heffernan. For starters, I am genuinely surprised that it took four people to write this movie. It really needed that many people to come up with this piece of crap? Did they each write their own script, then lump them all together in one great big pile? I can overlook the movie featuring stupid and unlikable characters since that's actually par for the course with the Paranormal Activity movies, but I can't get over just how abysmal the story is. It's all over the place, as if it were having a panic attack brought on by the vague mess that is the franchise's mythology. None of it makes any sense, and some parts actually seem contradictory to the point that I think I'd honestly have to sit down and come up with some kind of flow chart to make heads or tails of any of it.

The acting suffers too, with Chris J. Murray only really standing out from the rest. The majority of the cast are just kinda there, going through the motions, while I was actually upset that Toby didn't kill Dan Gill's character early into the movie. Gill is annoying as the movie's token comic relief, a clich├ęd character that I'm getting tired of seeing in movies like this.

I think it's ironic that Paranormal Activity dethroned Saw as the horror franchise du jour. Both began with strong first chapters, their sequels starting out good too. But each franchise started going downhill from a creative standpoint starting with their fourth respective chapters, finally coming to an end with a so-called "final chapter" released in 3D. And much like Saw 3D, I walked out of Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension asking myself, "Is this it? Is this really the way they wanted to end these movies if this really is the last one?" Because if The Ghost Dimension really is the end, then it's a really lame note for the franchise to go out on. I'm stunned by just how genuinely boring and ho-hum this movie is; the majority of it feels like it's just doing a half-assed copy of things we saw done better in the first five movies. Hell, that forgettable Japanese spinoff was better than this. And that's the really disappointing part; the Paranormal Activity movies got off to such a promising start and ended up here. The movie's tagline is "for the first time, you will see the activity," but you know what? I wish I hadn't.

Final Rating:

1 comment:

Amy Burton said...

I actually enjoyed this one it explained everything plus the ending as always was messed up making u thank there's gonna be another one