What may be said in defense of Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension — or as I like think of it Paranormal Stupidity: The Goat Dimension? Well, let’s see if such a defense can be attempted. Looked at on a relativity basis, its existence improves other movies in the same genre. For example, I caught the terminally dumb The Last Witch Hunter on Thursday night — and being terminally dumb is hardly the worst thing about it. However, after sitting through Ghost Dimension on Friday afternoon, Witch Hunter looks pretty darn good. In the same vein, these Paranormal Stupidity things every Halloween have long made me nostalgic for the days when we got a new Saw movie every year to mark the season. Far and away, the best thing about this latest is the — apparently serious — claim that this is the last of the Paranormal series. I can think of no better Halloween treat — assuming it’s true.
Now, I know this whole “found-footage” concept has its defenders. To me, it’s simply a way for people with absolutely no discernible talent to make something called a movie. Knowledge of the most rudimentary aspects of filmmaking is not required — nor, it seems, is even the barest concept of story structure. To date, I lean toward the belief that the major cultural legacy of these movies is the invention of the snot-cam in The Blair Witch Project back in 1999. This latest Paranormal entry may, I suppose, one day be remembered for pioneering the 3D puke shot. As it stands, it strikes me as a cynical cash-grab of alarming proportions, though that’s always been the driving force behind these — movies made for approximately 65 cents that can’t keep from turning a profit.
The big wrinkle this time — apart from the nausea-inducing combination of 3D and the shaky-cam — is something approximating onscreen demon action! (No invisible supernatural pool-cleaning here. See: Paranormal Activity 2 — or, wiser still, just take my word that this was one of the ghostly hijinks in that 2010 edition.) You see, the demons — or whatever the various blobs and gobs of ectoplasmic effluvia are — only appear visible when seen through the lens of a specially re-monkeyed camcorder. One might assume that this is a variant on the William Castle gimmick “Illusion-O” in 13 Ghosts (1960), where viewers had to put on their “ghost glasses” to see the enumerated denizens of the beyond. This, however, is miraculously both less fun and more expensive than “Illusion-O,” while managing to be just as lame.
Overall, this is just more of the same. Nothing much happens for interminable lengths of time, followed by a very loud shock effect. People yell barely scripted (despite five credited writers) lines at each other a lot, too. Every so often, a title appears onscreen to tell us how many days have elapsed — and by day seven, I was certain I’d been watching the thing for at least that long. (In all fairness, I first checked the time on my phone at the 15-minute mark. This is possibly a record, I groaned.) Never have I been any happier to see a movie end when it finally permitted itself to do so. My initial knee-jerk response — that it was a rancid, festering pile of llama puke — still seems an adequate summation. Rated R for language and some horror violence.