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Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

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By Frank Ochieng March 13, 2017

There are certain film franchises that just cannot take a hint and go away. The idea of milking the stale novelty of the on-going queasy saga of repetitive horrifying hedonism is something that both the movie-makers and movie-goers are guilty of perpetrating that ultimately feeds into the chronic sequelitis of misbegotten movies refusing to surrender the spotlight. This is definitely indicative of the Paranormal Activity movie series that stretched its one-time legitimate creepy credibility into a tired and tacky frightfest that overstayed its welcome. Hence, the arrival of the latest extension in the veteran found footage phenom machine entitled Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension. Basically, audiences needed another Paranormal Activity installment much like a creaky skeleton needs its share of body fat. Thus, this so-called "final entry" makes its macabre mark in the mediocrity of mayhem.

After four previous Paranormal Activity fear-inducing flicks (with Paranormal Activity 4 being released three years ago this month in October), the fifth entry for Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension looks to grind out what is left to pick apart in this grainy and grating creeper. Unfortunately, The Ghost Dimension drags and drowns in its desperate and dull attempt to parlay the familiar foundation of sketchy scares and manufactured jitters as it tries to jump start the stark memories from the other predecessors. The problem is that the Paranormal Activity editions have not sustained itself adequately after the original blueprint. So there is nothing to really build in terms of varying degrees of suspense and shock when the last couple of sequels were thanklessly watered down.

One would not mind so much if Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension was a viable swan song that wrapped up its continued bump-in-the-night theme with something unique and invigorating as it looks to wave goodbye to its former reputation as a distinctive chiller thriller. Sadly, The Ghost Dimension feels clunky and goes through the motions while not missing a beat in presenting the same old hair-raising high jinks. This is business as usual and even the most ardent defender of the Paranormal Activity film experience deserves more than this stillborn haunted house boofest.

It is a shame that the original brilliance of Paranormal Activity has been lost in the shuffle following a series of continued creepy-minded chronicles that single-handily ruined such an innovative premise. The blueprint for PA started out promising as it delved into the haunting shenanigans of its found footage gimmick that appeared so refreshingly raw and arresting. Plus, the unseen terror and imagined goosebump goings-on solidified this scare tactic piece of cinema as the "reel deal" of shock cinema at the time. It looked as if the PA influence would revolutionize (or at least lend some innovative spark) the horror genre to a different degree of expectation.

The premise in The Ghost Dimension finds a family man Ryan Fleege (Chris J. Murray) and his loved ones in wife Emily and young daughter Leila (Brit Shaw and Ivy George) moving into a new house as they get situated in their exciting place. Soon, Ryan and his brother Mike (Dan Gill) come across something most unusual--a leftover box containing a camera and VHS tapes (NOTE: it is worth mentioning that the tapes detail the harried happenings that occurred in Paranormal Activity 3). Strangely, Ryan and Mike come to the realization that this most peculiar piece of equipment has a bizarre power in that it can record what they are doing and broadcast it to other sources for whom they are viewing thus creating a link to past and present goings-on. Furthermore, this weird camera has captured the roaming and ominous spirit in the household. The threatening revelation, of course, is that the spooky presence of this ghostly figurehead is drawn to little Leila. Naturally, the concern is an open and shut case: the family must obviously protect the child from the pesky apparition as they are determined to get to the bottom of the mysterious camera that has caused this sudden sense of domesticated dire.

Other than serving as a mere bridge to connect the previous PA outings to pad the proceedings in this current edition, The Ghost Dimension has really nothing to offer in terms of developing its own path of peril. This "retread of dread" feels needlessly wasted and we never are invested totally in what appears to be another routine rousing romp fortified with basic stares and scares, predictable knee jerk reactions, silly-minded atmospheric special effects and the typical "child gloom-doom possession" tactic that has been overused countless times before. Sure, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension promises to answer some of the lingering questions that were presented in this movie's so-called folklore and does indeed touch upon some key factors that PA fans were curious about previously. Still, the film's pay-off in the later part of the story feels concocted and unsatisfying. Indeed, The Ghost Dimension feels like some elaborate patch job as opposed to a solid scream-dream thriller hoping to tie all the pieces together in a film fright series that has inexplicably lasted over the last several years. Simply, the ensuing PA chronicles has been overwrought with meager menacing indifference.

Director Gregory Plotkin (whose credits include editing some of the PA flicks) helms this narrative with a run-of-the-mill flair that does not help an already pedestrian exposition short on its share of daring chills. Surprisingly, The Ghost Dimension has an impressive handful of screenwriters with decent track records of scripting serviceable psychological gems yet their collaboration seems ineffective and incomplete. Perhaps an appropriate case of too many cooks crowded in the kitchen of creativity? The one saving grace, thank goodness, is John Rutland's delicious cinematography that is vividly shot with imaginative urgency. As for the 3-D special effects that are scattered throughout The Ghost Dimension, they somewhat resonate but it is nothing that one would label compellingly expressive from a visual standpoint.

If the Paranormal Activity legacy has a Ghost of a chance to preserve its movie-making memories, it should take its final curtain call with Dimension and allow any found footage of these churned out sequels to speak for itself in the haunted house genre it contributed to so convincingly in its heralded heyday.

Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (2015)

Paramount Pictures

1 hr. 28 mins.

Starring: Chris J. Murray, Brit Shaw, Ivy George, Dan Gill, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Jessica Brown, Chloe Csengery, Tyler Brown

Directed by: Gregory Plotkin

MPAA Rating: R

Genre: Horror/Psychological Thriller/Haunted House Suspense

Critic's Rating: * 1/2 stars (out of 4 stars)

(c) Frank Ochieng (2015)

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