With the cinema release of the creepy Paranormal Activity Ghost Dimension comes a supposed end to a film series which has had its harsh critics but survived through six films that began in 2007. So popular it became that in Japan homage’s were produced, Paranormal Effect & Paranormal Activity Tokyo Night. It was the unlikely amateur look that ramped up the fear. None needed high cost filmmaking, none had name actors, none have had an abundance of good reviews, all have been money making hits causing heated conversation, conjuring scares.
Ghost Dimension is the final part of an off kilter timeline of events involving sisters who have been followed by a demon known as Toby into adult life and causes a chain reaction of further paranormal effects to other people around them including friends and neighbours. These spirits don’t discriminate, they just want to scare the life out of you through a variety of supernatural forces where sleepwalking can double for death.
The genre known as found-footage was set alight by the trailblazing Blair Witch Project (1999), a theatrical film billed as a true documentary looking at a missing person’s case in the Mid-American woods. It was in fact a hoax not revealed until well after the film made box-office millions. It spawned a hybrid of horror found-footage concepts including the unlikely phenomenon Paranormal Activity.
2007: Paranormal Activity, written and directed by Oren Peli who filmed inside his own house with two unknown actors as the leads. Hollywood royalty Steven Spielberg gave it his personal recommendation and in Australia it was backed by Mel Gibson’s company Icon Film. The story of Katie and Micah is told through the lens of a hand held video camera, sometimes left on at night or when the pair are not at home. The film was uniquely distributed to cinemas in certain areas whom demanded it via an internet campaign to generate word of mouth interest. The one off midnight screenings worked creating much buzz while some cinemas had hidden cameras catching the terrorised reactions within the auditoriums, clips were later used in trailer promotions. A simple scene using talcum powder was heart stopping. The film was fully released in October against an already proven Saw sequel to become a bigger hit.
2010: Paranormal Activity 2, set a short time before the first film has Katie with her sister Kristi Rey experiencing frightening activity after a baby is born into the family. Following the formula of long silences and low lit rooms, there are some really upsetting moments that had audiences again screaming while others shrugged off the movie as boring. Security cameras capture most of the events including disturbing scenes around the swimming pool.
2011: Paranormal Activity 3, went back in time to when the sisters were pubescent. Katie and Kristi encounter Toby the imaginary friend and progressive demon for the first time. With the young girls acting unusual, concerned mum Julia and her boyfriend install cameras around the house including one on a revolving fan moving in left to right. Black magic sacrifice is apparent.
2012: Paranormal Activity 4, the most inventive of the series became the biggest box office hit of the lot. Taking place after Part 2 teenager Alex and her family experience a haunting focusing on little brother, social outcast Wyatt. It seems these events began when Katie and her mysterious son move in to the house across the street. Webcams, iPhone images, and best of all Kinect video game tech are used to highlight the ghosts amongst them. This installment has an extra scene after end credits that was unfathomable at the time but lead into Part 5.
2014: Paranormal Activity Marked Ones, was a spin-off to the series that did not transcend into the legacy of earlier occurrences. Following residents of a Latino housing community using the trusty view from a hand held video camera have no idea what is happening when spirits begin to scare up the care free apartment block. Different supernatural angles are tried including an unplugged Simon Says retro game warning of impending doom. Viewers of the previous films will recognise many clues leading up to when and why the ghosts attack in this hapless hood.
2015: Paranormal Activity Ghost Dimension, the first with a 3D option, long awaited by many due to delays in release and not thought of by others. This so-called finale is a jolting, spooky, deranged addition to the long gestating, still very much alive found-footage genre. An all new family are hearing bumps in the night after finding an old video camera equipped with a bunch of VHS tapes full of content linking to the possessed sisters Katie and Kristi.
Causing a stir already, many cinema owners across the US have boycotted the film, refusing to screen it whatsoever as funding studio Paramount announced that they will release it through online digital streaming services and VOD (Video on Demand) a mere 17 days after opening day. This is a popular practice and a strategy not unfamiliar with smaller independent titles but with a major studio blanket release it is almost unheard of. Largely debated it could work to the film’s benefit as bulk of box-office is always opening weekend often only extending to week two before often evaporating off screens into week three. Time will tell if ghosts are the new zombie.
Shane A. BassettSydney Unleashed is one of Australia’s premier entertainment publications exploring the latest in lifestyle trends. From Sydney’s finest restaurants, cafes and bars to the hottest in gadgets, products, and home entertainment, Sydney Unleashed is your one-stop lifestyle platform.