Ahh Paranormal Activity, a hit, but arguably mostly miss franchise; distinguished by a superior first instalment, a forgettable and largely uneventful prequel sequel and a back-to-form frightening third origin tale, which was followed by two inferior instalments – including initially promising Latino semi spin-off The Marked Ones. Despite their shortcomings, all the films had their spine-tingling moments.
This sixth (reportedly concluding) chapter finally decides that the ‘third dimension is terror’ and takes its cue from a replay of the creepy climax of Paranormal Activity 3.
This story starts with a new family, entering a new home and discovering a collection of home movies of creepy kids Katie and Kristi from 1988, along with a video camera that peaks into another dimension – namely the floating, black-speckled Ghost Dimension.
Thankfully, the 3D is not just a gimmick, but also a niftily utilised shock tactic that delivers same surprisingly immersive jolts and semi-regular up, close and personal scares.
The biggest trump card of the series – apart from the Blair Witch-inspired found-footage format, of course – has been the dominant dreaded domestic locales; where darkened corners of the home, creaking doors, sudden shadows and an overly active imagination take on an all too familiar, deeply relatable home-alone-and-paranoid resonance. Who can truly claim to have slept soundly following that eventful night back in 2007 after first experiencing Paranormal Activity?
Unfortunately, despite the bumpy ride, Ghost Dimension doesn’t deliver anything as memorably terrifying; there’s no moment as nerve-shatteringly clever as the burning ouija board in PA1, the bed sheet ghost revelation from PA3, the sudden knife dropping in PA4 nor even the nasty twist climax connection of The Marked Ones for instance.
The biggest scares – including a playfully suspenseful game of kitchen hide-and-seek – are quick on the uptake, but refuse to linger long.
Equally problematic is the promised wish-fulfilment that this will answer all the burning questions the series has left unanswered so far – including finally unveiling frequently uttered, but barely glimpsed arch antagonist Toby.
While the grand demon is indeed disclosed (following an utterly barmy FX spook-induced climax), this instalment really strains to offer anything new and despite being jolted to the max you’ll leave the theatre with an all too familiar, sadly diminished sense of deja vu.
After eight years and six instalments Paranormal Activity has indeed finally run its course. Be thankful that the series goes out with a bang rather than a whimper.