October 23, 2015
Written by Jason Pagan (story & screenplay), Andrew Deutschman (story & screenplay), Adam Robitel (screenplay), Gavin Heffernan (screenplay), Brantley Aufill (story)
Brit Shaw as Emily
Chris J. Murray as Ryan
Ivy George as Leila
Dan Gill as Mike
Olivia Taylor Dudley as Skyler
It’s the sixth and supposedly final installment in this long-running and uber-successful horror franchise. Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension is a worthy and fun finale to a sometimes good/sometimes not-so-good series which has played out over the last eight years.
Dismiss The Marked Ones, as it was a detour from the franchise’s main story. With this final chapter, we’re back in with the worlds of Katie and Kristi and the original storyline.
Emily (Brit Shaw) and her husband Ryan (Chris J. Murray) have recently moved into a sprawling home in Santa Rosa, CA (the site of which has connections to the previous installments) – with their young daughter Leila (Ivy George). It’s a few weeks before Christmas and Emily’s friend Skyler (Olivia Taylor Dudley of The Vatican Tapes) has come to stay. Ryan’s brother Mike (Dan Gill) is recovering from a recent devastating break-up, so he hunkers down with his family for a couple of weeks as well. As they’re decorating for the forthcoming holiday, they discover the awkward and bulky VHS camera from the franchise’s third installment – as well as many of the tapes with footage of young Katie and Kristi. As is to be expected, things start to go downhill in the house, so Ryan sets up cameras in several nooks and crannies – soon discovering that the greatly-modified old-school camera actually captures footage of the presence, otherwise known as “Toby”. Many of the questions from previous chapters find closure.
It’s the first time the story has been told in 3-D and it makes for a fun viewing. It’s also the first time we actually see the paranormal figures themselves – our beloved “Toby”. His reveal is creepy, but nothing out of the ordinary. Just take your pick from any number of other horror films with black, drippy and wispy – mostly formless figures. Sadly, we’ve seen it before.
Performance-wise, everyone’s pretty solid, with extra kudos going to young Ivy George as Leila – the demon’s “object of affection” for this chapter. She’s adorable and with her wide eyes, she makes us fall in love with little Leila. As things in the family’s household turn ugly, Ivy brings on the acting goods. Of particular note is the scene where her mother insists that they leave Ivy’s bedroom (“I don’t like it in here”) to play somewhere else, to which Ivy pointedly replies over and over, “I’m fine in here, Mommy.” She brings the appropriate amount of somber, “hypnotized” blankness to her later onscreen moments, and it certainly lends a sadness as you see this cute and spunky little girl fall into the demon’s traps.
Dan Gill plays Uncle Mike. It’s his bitter sarcasm which helps this character to steal the show. It’s nice to see that Mike’s loyal to his brother and his brother’s family – and that he sticks around even when things turn violent and unbelievable. Gill sells everything in the tougher moments, but it’s his wit which will have you laughing out loud (the moments of humor throughout are just as effective as the “boo” moments”). In particular, as Mike and Ryan watch the 1988 VHS footage of Katie and Kristi, one of the girls sits in the background writing, to which Mike offers, “Is she taking minutes?” Brilliant.
And if you’re looking for those scary “boo” moments, look no further. I didn’t go in with some wacky, heightened expectations for the best horror film experience of my life, but I did sit down and expect to be scared. On that level, I got what I wanted. Sadly, by this time in the franchise, there’s not that underlying dread as the film marches on (the original made me cringe every single time we’d settle in for another night of spectral craziness), but this last outing does offer plenty of enjoyable jolts. The audience sitting with me simply rolled with the punches and you could tell they were there to have a good time, not to witness the second coming of… let’s say the original Poltergeist – to which this film owes a debt of gratitude.
With the final revelation and journey into the ghost dimension (not a spoiler, my friends – it’s in the title!) there’s definitely room for another chapter, should the powers-that-be choose to continue. And when the hype of this final bit of “activity” inevitably brings in the mega-bucks, you can imagine that the stars and spirits will align for an additional episode.
Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension premiered at the 2015 Screamfest Film Festival closing night, and opens today in theatres everywhere. If you’ve been a long-time fan of this ongoing story, then you’ll want to take a look and get a few answers to your burning questions. If you’re coming in with no history with or knowledge of these characters and situations, you won’t be totally lost, as they do explain some backstory.
Look, the minds behind this franchise have this down to a science. As an audience, I don’t think we’re looking for someone to reinvent the wheel on a fifth sequel. We know what we’re getting into. In the end, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension is all about the scares and not much more. But honestly, what else were you expecting?