The Paranormal Activity franchise has been an undeniably successful one. Successful financially, successful in scaring us and successful in its manipulation of the horror landscape so that found footage films are such the norm now as to be almost ho hum. It didn’t create the found footage genre (that honor will go to The Blair Witch Project) but it did utilise it in a unique way with the static camera at the end of the bed documenting moments of terror unbeknownst to the protagonist until a later date if at all; which was different to the ‘main character carries around camera’ we saw on Blair Witch. In this way the scares were more subtle and the repercussions more drawn out. Very effective.
I have to admit that the original Paranormal Activity scared me in a way a horror film hadn’t since I was a kid, and each sequel provided its own scares also (albeit with slightly diminishing returns), it was a solid franchise of guaranteed chills.
Until this installment.
I approached this film somewhat optimistically, the story getting a tad long in the tooth but still reliably entertaining and reasonably creepy, the film-makers must have nevertheless felt it stull had more to give and that’s why they green-lit this – part six.
PA: The Ghost Dimension concerns Ryan and Emily who move into their new home with adorable child Leila in tow, only to discover an old camcorder that seems to film the ghostly realm unseen by the naked eye. Before you know it Leila has an ‘imaginary’ friend (Toby from previous installments) and is clearly being groomed for a trip to ‘the ghost dimension’. Ryan’s friend Mike is also along for the ride and to be the voice of reason (”Just turn off the tape!”) when Ryan seems to be all but inviting evil into his home.
There are some very thin straws holding this story to the others – the house is where young Katie and Kristi grew up (part 3), and suddenly Hunter’s blood (part 4) is not enough because Toby needs Leila’s blood too. I hate it when future writers go back and try to rewrite scenes and stories from previous films; it feels like a cheat, and a cheap way to shoehorn your own story into someone else’s.
This is well acted by all concerned with Dan Gill as Uncle Mike a clear stand out; but I almost felt sorry for the actors trying so hard to make this film scary when it clearly wasn’t.
The issue was the screenplay, it was too convoluted for a horror as it contorted itself into all different directions to make it coherent to the films thus far, in doing so it lost its own voice and any sense of clarity. It also seemed to forget what worked so well in the previous films. PA was effective and creepy as hell because of what it didn’t show, because of its ability to make a slowly closing door or a pool cleaner being found in the yard each morning, scary. These are the real fears we have, it isn’t the obvious monster in the room, it’s the simple footprints in powder leading to your room. In showing us (in cheap cgi glory I might add) the ghostly dimension itself, this film totally shoots itself in the foot – I don’t want to see the man behind the curtain, it just kills my imagination and dread.
It’s a shame to end this franchise on such a dud note but I truly hope this is the end of the run.
This horse is dead guys, stop flogging it!