† H a p p y H a l l o w e e n †
We finally made it, ladies and gentlemen! We finally managed to beat on the dead horse with the severed leg of the cash cow we just milked so hard that there is now a real Paranormal Activity 5 as opposed to the spin-off thing we had last year’s January. We all wish The Marked Ones, and its lack of popularity, was enough to signify that it’s time to kill off this tiresome and repetitive franchise by now, but sadly, people are still gullible enough to wanna pay for more cheap jump scares and trite cinematography gimmicks if the film in question gets released around Halloween. Even so, you need not worry, ‘cuz this IS supposedly the true grand finale of the series. Note the “supposedly”.
But this one, quite frankly, doesn’t even seem they get the point of its own franchise. It tries to make up for the lack of events in previous Paranormal Activity films by throwing in more powerful visuals and crazy effects, even though that goes against the mimimalistic nature that used to be what made these films cool and also defeats the purpose of the found-footage idea by making the visuals more obviously faked. Oh and also: it’s in 3D. Great, now everything’s much better.
The official title of Paranormal Activity 5 is Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension. As is bound to happen when you’re forced to churn out one of these flicks per year, the plot isn’t anything particularly intriguing or too huge an addition to the universe of the franchise. We meet the Fleege family – a game developer, his wife and child, and his brother – who move into a house in California where not everything seems to be quite normal. One might say the house displays signs of being… PARAnormal! Zoikns, Scoob!
Nonetheless, things get more unsettling when the brothers stumble across a collection of video tapes that document the spooky childhoods of, you frickin’ guessed it, Katie Featherston and her sister Kristi from the previous installments, plus everyone’s favorite demon: Toby! Does it sound like I’ve accidentally described the plot for another Paranormal Activity movie instead of talking about the one I just saw? ‘Cuz I haven’t. The movies are actually like this.
To be fair, there are as usual some new twists they’ve added in their darndest attempts to “stay cool”, such as Katie being able to see the Fleege brothers through the video they’re watching, which is somewhat chilling, and the fact that they find a camera that can apparently pick up supernatural activity invisible to the human eye. I would praise that last plot element as a legitimate saving grace to both this movie and to the found-footage fad in general, but there’s one problem: Always Watching and hundreds of Slenderman vlogs already did it. Maybe just go back to using the camera that panned back and forth creepily from Paranormal Activity 3, eh?
Beyond that, there’s of course the VFX work, and the way they’ve used CGI in this film does distract from the illusion that these movies are basically feature-length “TOTALLY 100% REAL GHOST SIGHTING” videos. This sounds like a weird critique but I’d argue that this movie actually works against itself by trying to be more epic and eventful than the other films.
I said in my review of Paranormal Activity 4 that I’ve managed to remain interested in seeing where this story is headed. Now that we’ve reached the grand finale I don’t find it to have been worth the trip, provided we can trust that the folks at Hollywood are really done cashing in on this.
A true finale or not, the movie isn’t very good, nor is it horrible. It’s just tiresome, and in some ways that’s less fun than “horrible”. But oh well, as redundant and predictable as these movies are for those of us who can see through gimmicks, there’s always going to be a surefire way for something like Paranormal Activity 5 to make its budget back since there’ll always be a demographic that’s impressionable and easily-scared enough to buy what’s being sold. Multiple times.
I’d try to be less condescending if these suckers didn’t fall for the same trick 6 damn times in a row and continue ruining every screening of these films by screeching like children after every cheap pop scare (fake-out or not) or instance of a door moving semi-ominously in the distance. A film series this checklist-driven shouldn’t be able to fool this many movie-goers, but that’s the way it is. This year they pay for lazy jump scares in 3D. Soon they’ll pay for Five Nights At Freddy’s for the Oculus Rift.
I’ve been dealing with a lot of found-footage films this year and I didn’t even review them during October. I liked the aforementioned Always Watching because, yet again, it felt like the found-footage shtick was well-used and also because I’m just such a gosh darn dedicated Marble Hornets fan. I was harsh on Unfriended when it came out, but after watching a more generic found-footage film like The Ghost Dimension again, I’ve grown a new appreciation for what Unfriended was doing, despite the idea of “horror film about Skype” still sounding goofy as Hell to me. Though while I’m comparing this to other recent found-footage movies, I guess I can also throw this film a bone for just being eye-rollingly formulaic and boring instead of being as baffling as The Visit. What a year it’s been.