Paranormal Activity has become the touchstone for the found footage movie genre that originated in The Blair Witch Project in 1999. It’s prompted several sequels as well as spurring on a host of other films keen to follow suit, the list of which has apparently yet to end. But isn’t it about time it did?
The concept was once innovative. Blair Witch stands as a cult favourite and for good reason – it was brilliant for its simplicity. Unfortunately, today – thanks to so many attempts to cash in on a low-budget, high-profit formula – the effect has lost its edge somewhat.
General consensus on Paranormal Activity is varied, but it’s discredited more often than not. To be a fan of the franchise you’ve got to be willing to suspend a little belief, granted, and appreciate it for the scares it does provide. Notwithstanding critical acclaim, these films are passable – you get what you pay for, and that’s jumps aplenty.
The latest instalment of the series, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, features a new family, consisting of father Ryan, mother Emily, and 8-year-old daughter Leila. Ryan’s younger brother Mike is visiting, and family friend Skyler is also staying in the house. The two brothers discover an old video camera in the basement that picks up spirit photography, along with tapes that feature sisters Katie and Kristi (mainstays of the franchise, if you haven’t seen the previous films) as children, instructed by the leader of that cult we keep hearing about.
There were, as there would have to be six films down the line, some new elements. The bumps in the night are upgraded to real spectacles of black spindly goo, and instead of only culminating in some broken backs and a limp camera, you get to see a CGI baddie or two. The FX aren’t particularly high grade but it makes a change.
Visual spectacles aside it is much of the same thing – strange happenings that go from suspect to out in the open, all wrapped up (or not so much) with nebulous references of the occult. At this point it is hard to care what happens to another ill-fated family in a spacious suburban house – you’re in it for thrill and the thrill alone. Investment in the actual characters has all but died.
The Ghost Dimension neither disappoints nor excels. It has the air of a final showdown and is marketed as supposedly the last entry in the series. Hopefully it’s true: it’s time we bid farewell to formulaic found footage horror.
Image: Allstar/Paramount Pictures