★★ out of ★★★★★
Directed by Gregory Plotkin.
Sometimes less really is more. And sometimes way less is really way more. Eschewing all prior entries in Paranormal Activity franchise, and more importantly questioning the simple aesthetic of the found footage horror sub-genre. Enter Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension. For those of you keeping track at home — and sadly, at this point, you really need to keep track to follow this franchise — this is number six.
Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension exists as both a sequel and a pre-pre-prequel and that’s largely its strength, but it also functions as a massive Achilles heel. Following picture-perfect family with husband Ryan, wife Emily, and effectively creepy daughter Leila, as they settle in to the Christmas holiday. Their picture-perfect holiday is punctuated by their picture perfect house that…THAT IS BUILT ON THE SAME PUTRID GROUND AS THE HOUSE FROM PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3!!!
Video junkie and all around swell dad, Ryan and his visiting lay-about brother Mike, discover a box of video tapes from 1988. The videos track straight back to Paranormal Activity 3 and they quickly realize that there’s a ghostly connection between Ryan’s daughter Leila and paranormal stalwarts Katie and Kristi — yes, those possessed little girls. In addition to a gaggle of VHS tapes they also discover a very weird and strangely modified camera that’s able to pick up electromagnetic fields. Sadly, the “tell don’t show” stylistic choice that’s made in the first three films is readily violated over and over in the sixth installment. The ghosts, spirits, and monsters no longer lurk in the shadows, or just off screen, they’re now in fully boring and non-scary view.
Ryan and Emily quickly discover that they have a possessed little girl on their hands and the possession is not coming from inside the house, it’s coming from INSIDE THE VCR! Katie and Kristi are traveling from 1988 through a ghostly VHS portal that is working to abduct Leila and kickoff the freaky demonic happenings in the Book of Revelations. As Ryan and Emily work against the clock to save their daughter they end up employing the assistance of a local priest who’s convinced there’s something wrong, but instead of giving Leila the full blown exorcism, he just dashes a little holy water on her stuffed animals and calls it a day.
The films clumsily ends with a demon punch-out sequence and a demonic appearance by Kristi and Katie. Weirdly, or maybe be design the film doesn’t opt to tie up the cloven-footed plot, but instead ends with a more than a few hanging threads. Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension exists as the shark jumping point in this franchise. Others might argue that this seminal moment happened way before Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, but it’s clear by the unnecessarily hyper-complicated plot line and awkward connection to prior films, that the Paranormal franchise has run aground.
Knowing when to quit is one of the hardest things to recognize. Humans are terrible at this self-realization task and Paranormal Activity is no exception — as evidenced by the fact that Paranormal Activity part 7 is coming our way in 2021. Proving our point that less is almost always more.
Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension is Rated R and available for rent at Amazon.