Well, this is it. the final part of the official Paranormal Activity series. The Word of God itself - Oran Peli and Jason Blum - confirmed that there are to be no more episodes after this one, so I'm sure we're all expecting to get answers to all those unanswered questions, like what the demon army first brought up in The Marked Ones is for, or what the ultimate aims of Toby and the Midwives are. Oh, and it's also in 3D, because at some point nearly every horror series has to take a trip on that bandwagon, no matter how ill-advised. So welcome to Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension.
We start with a quick flashback to the end of Paranormal Activity 3, when poor Dennis got that free spine adjustment from Toby the demon. Toby then decides to do a bit of filming himself and picks up the camera as Katie and Kristi are introduced to another of Grandma Lois' friends, a man called Kent who says he's going to teach the girls how to use new powers to help Toby. We then jump to December 2013 and the family of Ryan and Emily and their daughter Leila. Also around is Emily's friend Skyler and Ryan's brother Mike (who's trying to rock a Tom Selleck moustache but doesn't quite have the face for it). While searching through boxes found in the basement, Ryan finds a whole lot of old VHS tapes and a strange video camera. the tapes are the ones stolen from Kristi's house that contained the story of Paranormal Activity 3, as well as new footage of the sisters being taught by Kent to apparently remote view into the future through Toby's eyes; the video camera is apparently able to capture ghosts on tape. At the same time, Leila starts talking to a new imaginary friend who goes by the name Toby, and her personality and behaviour begins to change dramatically. As the supernatural events start piling up Ryan and Emily try to find out what Toby wants with their daughter and how to stop him...
So then. After six movies and an increasingly convoluted plot (hauntings, possessions, covens with global reach who started in the Middle Ages, demonic armies, psychic powers and time travel) we finally get to find out what Toby's ultimate goal through all of this has been: he wants to become a Real Boy. I have to say, I'm not impressed. No explanations on the Midwives or the demon army they're building; no mention of how all this began, just Toby fulfilling his Pinocchio dream. And it's all been done in such a ridiculously complicated way. I'm pretty sure I could have come up with a far more efficient plan for this with 10 minutes and a pen and paper, but maybe Toby's an old fashioned sort and only believes in needlessly complicated rituals.
The big hook for this movie was that, at long last, we would finally be able to see Toby thanks to the magic camera (and the wonders of 3D). So what does he look like? Well, sometimes he looks like He Who Must Not Be Named, and the rest of the time he's a combination of evil Flubber and the smoke monster from Lost. that was something else that didn't exactly impress me, especially since they had Industrial Light and Magic onboard to do the effects - bumping up the budget to around $10 million in the process. Compared to the budget for the very first Paranormal Activity, that's a 10,000% increase in budget for a significantly reduced profit (The Ghost Dimension's box office was only $78.1 million worldwide. Ouch.)
In the end though, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension is really just the same as Paranormal Activities 1,2,3 and 4 (The Marked Ones gets a pass for at least trying something new with the formula). There's a family, someone has a video camera, supernatural stuff starts happening, obsessive recording of everything happens, and everyone ends up dead or missing by the end. Even the majority of the jump scares are the same - oh look, there's a chandelier swinging. Oh look, there goes every cupboard and drawer in the kitchen at once. My kitten sat in front of the screen for several minutes while I was watching this, and I'm pretty sure I didn't miss anything new during that time. Although I was mildly amused that the movie in which we are finally able to see Toby is the one where he finally gets himself worked up enough to inflict bleeding wounds on people.
There is one thing new in The Ghost Dimension, to be fair - an actual exorcism, by an actual priest... or at least a good attempt at one. No-one's head spins around or makes crude comments about what people's mothers might be doing in Hell, but I did feel a bit like they were trying to make a callback to The Exorcist. I did also feel a certain amount of glee when part of the exorcism involved drawing a Key of Solomon and using salt to try to trap Toby. In the end, their only flaw was that they didn't have enough firepower - I'm sure that the Winchester brothers and Castiel would have sorted Toby out with ease.
So the Paranormal Activity series comes to an end after six episodes as a damp squib, having long-overstayed its welcome and gotten way too far from its roots as a genuinely unnerving zero-budget found-footage horror. Yet another example of how a series gradually decreases in quality as the number of its sequels increases.