Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension is arguably the best conclusion to this wheezy franchise”

by Steve Pulaski

“So, let’s say Joost and Schulman make the decision to direct the inevitable ‘Paranormal Activity 5’ and ‘Paranormal Activity 6.’ What they should focus on, instead of repetitive, dead-end jump scares, is giving the audience some insight as to what is haunting Katie and her family and how it came to be.”

Above is a direct quote from my review of Paranormal Activity 4, which began my streak of lamenting every new Paranormal Activity installment for neglecting the elephant in the room – what was haunting the family and the characters in this series and why? I became frustrated that, with each new installment, the focus was on some sort of technological gimmick or the increased quantity of jump-scares which, in turn, diminished the quality of them, and that there seemed to be no interest in wrapping up the loose ends and plot-strands that Oren Peli, Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman, and numerous other writers/directors of the series had created.

With Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, which is billed to be the franchise’s conclusion, I can finally rest easy knowing with most of my questions answered rather than panning a slew of open-ended circumstances. Director Gregory Plotkin and a quartet of screenwriters – Jason Harry Pagan, Andrew Deutschmann, Adam Robitel, and Gavin Heffernan – do their best to give audiences new characters with this final installment and provide a coherent timeline of events for the life of Katie, who we saw haunted in the first three films, in addition to other minor characters liker her sister and even Paranormal Activity 2‘s baby Hunter.

Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension
Directed by
Gregory Plotkin
Chris J. Murray, Brit Shaw, Ivy George
Release Date
23 October 2015
Steve’s Grade: C

The Ghost Dimension focuses on the young couple of Ryan (Chris J. Murray) and Emily (Brit Shaw), who live in a lavish home with their young daughter Leila (Ivy George). Also living with them temporarily is Ryan’s brother Mike (Dan Gill) and Emily’s friend Skyler (Olivia Taylor Dudley) while they get their own lives together. Shortly after being acquainted with the home, Ryan finds a large box of tapes and a highly customized, one-of-a-kind video-camera and begins seeing strange apparitions when using it throughout the house. Extensive research into the tapes, which belonged to the mother and father of young Katie and Kristi, shows questionable occurrences and what looks to be demonic activity throughout the home. Overtime, Ryan and Mike notice Leila’s increasingly strange behavior, from simple anti-social attitudes to believing her imaginary friend Toby, a memorable name for any fan or follower of this franchise, is real.

Every Paranormal Activity convention is on display here: jump-scares, long, somewhat listless documents of the night through the use of many camera setups, smart-ass characters, strange behavior amongst children, the knowledgeable priest showing up in the nick of time. By now, you should know how you feel about these conventions (I always keep an open mind, though after the second film, I’ve found them to be as grating as most people). About thirty minutes into this installment, I was mentally preparing a more negative review, saying that this series was going to end on a shrug and a head-shake, until the narrative became more concerned with piecing together the childhoods of Katie and Kristi, even tying in the brainless ending of Paranormal Activity 3.

This is where Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension becomes a fiercely watchable film, and upon piecing together the old, it formulates new inclusions by giving us some seriously strong jump-scares in this film. The 3D doesn’t add a lot to the experience, but it furthers the surprising notion that home-video footage looks quite good when it’s digitally rendered. With all that, this film goes from the same old conventions done in a mediocre manner to making an earnest attempt at concluding the franchise in a way that makes sense and answers most of our burning questions.

The problem, however, is at this point, I don’t think people really care. The saturation of these films and the massive amounts of parodies have made this franchise the laughing stock of the horror world, and the significantly decreased theater counts – due to Cinemark and Regal Cinemas refusing to show the film because of Paramount’s plan to digitally distribute the film once it falls below three-hundred theaters (the same will be done with Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse next weekend) – people have moved on, much like they did with the Saw series, which also found itself concluding pretty abruptly. Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension is arguably the best conclusion to this wheezy franchise we could’ve asked for, and I found myself being in a state I haven’t been in with these films since 2010 – satisfied and content.