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Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (New Unrated Cut) Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Review

Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (2015) movie poster Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension

Theatrical Release: October 23, 2015 / Running Time: 88 Minutes (theatrical), 97 Minutes (extended), 95 Minutes (extended with alternate ending) / Rating: R (theatrical), Unrated (extended & extended with alternate ending)

Director: Gregory Plotkin / Writers: Jason Pagan, Andrew Deutschman (screenplay & story); Adam Robitel, Gavin Heffernan (screenplay); Brantley Aufill (story); Oren Peli (film Paranormal Activity)

Cast: Chris J. Murray (Ryan), Brit Shaw (Emily), Ivy George (Leila), Dan Gill (Mike), Olivia Taylor Dudley (Skyler), Chloe Csengery (Katie), Jessica Brown (Kristi), Don McManus (Kent), Michael Krawic (Father Todd), Hallie Foote (Grandma Lois), Aiden Lovekamp (Hunter Rey), Cara Pifko (Laura), Mark Steger (Tobi)

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Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD DVD Instant Video: Theatrical Unrated

The Paranormal Activity series ended with a whimper last fall when Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, strategically advertised as the final installment, grossed considerably less than all four of its direct predecessors and a spin-off too. There was another factor at play: Paramount Pictures,
wanting to shorten a theater-to-digital window, received blowback from major theater chains and only booked about half as many venues as it had for previous Paranormal sequels. But clearly, too, the series had worn out its welcome. The novelty of found footage, largely revived by 2009's original blockbuster made for just $15,000, has long since vanished and generally diminishing returns (with the exception of Paranormal Activity 3's puzzling bump) demonstrated that the public's appetite for these self-documenting domestic scares was drying up and quite reasonably so.

Ghost Dimension opens with a prologue set in Santa Rosa, California in September 1988 involving the unusual upbringing of sisters Katie and Kristi. We then jump to late November 2013, where freshly-dumped Mike (Dan Gill) is moving in for two weeks with his brother Ryan (Chris J. Murray), Ryan's wife Emily (Brit Shaw), and their young daughter Leila (Ivy George). Taking place around the holidays, a setting it embraces, the film has Mike and Ryan discover a box of things evidently belonging to the house's former owners (Katie and Kristi's family).

Video game maker Ryan Fleege (Chris J. Murray) discovers a stash of home movies from 1988 through 1992 in "Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension."

The box includes a bulky old VHS camcorder which somehow picks up otherworldly presences as like a cloud of dust that getting near feels like submerging under water. The box also contains an extensive collection of home movies from 1988 to 1992 that shows Katie and Kristi being trained by some kind of cult leader and discussing an invisible presence known as Tobi. In the presentish-day (originally supposed to open in October 2013, this was delayed two years), Leila begins talking about Tobi too and concerning her parents with her erratic behavior, like saying "Bloody Mary" backwards, burying a rosary, and trying to burn a Bible. The family calls in Father Todd (Michael Krawic), a jeans-wearing priest to help and he identifies the problem as a demon, who has latched onto the family and won't leave them alone by simple relocation.

Cameras are set up to capture various disturbances, as Ryan scours the old tapes for clues to the family's current plight.

Ghost Dimension constantly shows and explains, eliminating the unsettling, unidentifiable terror that was so believable in the frightening original film. The script, credited to four screenwriters and a fifth story contributor, takes creative efforts to build upon and expand the lore of this universe, harking back to the less memorable sequels (especially the '80s-set and oft-excerpted here Paranormal Activity 3) more than that attention-grabbing start. I guess you appreciate that the writers and longtime editor turned first-time director Gregory Plotkin try to hatch some explanations instead of just going for more inexplicable jump scares. But there's not much about the film that is fun or clever or scary. Visual effects abound (this time in 3D, a series first where available), as the original's paltry budget has grown nearly 100 times to this one's still modest $10 million production tag.

After Leila (Ivy George) exhibits some uncharacteristic behavior, her family brings in Father Todd (Michael Krawic) for a consultation.

That very modest price tag plus a respectable $60 million from foreign markets ensured that Paramount did not lose much, if anything, on this finale's theatrical release. But the brand has clearly taken a dive and suddenly appears to be without any kind of passionate following. The studio seemed to recognize that after Paranormal Activity 4 disappointed at the box office and the Latino-flavored 2014 spin-off Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones failed to re-enthuse even in the forgiving month of January.
It remains crystal clear that the original film written and directed by Oren Peli (who has stayed on as producer but not written or directed anything else until 2015's limited release flop Area 51) was never intended to sustain a franchise. It was a standalone feature that caught you off-guard in a way similar to what The Blair Witch Project had done ten years earlier. The first two sequels proved better than expected, extending the concept without stretching it too thin, but the series always seemed to be on borrowed time, Paramount's envisioned successor to Lionsgate's lucrative, annual Saw tradition.

It worked better than the now tentpole-driven studio could have hoped, with Paranormal becoming an extremely low-budgeted property with zero risk and high reward. But the movies have gotten consistently worse, glaringly so on the disappointing fourth installment, and the series has felt moribund ever since.

Despite the contention-breeding shortened window that had an obviously negative effect on their theatrical returns, Paramount stuck with a pretty traditional wait for physical media, bringing Ghost Dimension to DVD as well as Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D combo packs in January, two and a half months after it opened in theaters. The Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack, reviewed here, presents the film in three different edits: the original 88-minute theatrical cut, a new extended cut running 9 minutes and 19 seconds longer, and that extended cut with an alternate ending (which places codas in a new house and at Leila's birthday party after Father Todd's chaotic, climactic "elimination"), which gives it a runtime in between the two of 95 minutes and 9 seconds.

Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

1.78:1 Widescreen
BD: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, Portuguese, Descriptive Video Service)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish, Descriptive Video Service) Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese; BD Film only: English SDH
Extras Subtitled
Release Date: January 12, 2016
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD ($52.99 SRP), standalone DVD ($29.99 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video: Theatrical, Unrated

VIDEO and AUDIO

True to the series, Ghost Dimension tries to make its found footage look like found footage, but only to an extent. The giant 1980s camcorder still shoots in widescreen and looks pretty terrific (there are faint lines), while the other cameras are deftly handled. The only issues to this Blu-ray's 1.78:1 widescreen presentation are ones in there by design. Similarly, the default 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack delivers jolts you wouldn't expect from a consumer camera's mic, let alone one from the 1980s. The mix is marked by jump scares, ghostly rumbles, and other bursts designed to garner notice.

Young Katie and Kristi's indoctrination by this ponytailed fellow features at the start and throughout "Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Paramount has budged a little from the found footage conceit being enforced in the previous movies menus, but they still keep things minimalist with a silent poster image serving as the static main menu.

Beyond the three cuts of the film,
the "Extras" the menu speaks of amounts to just a single thing: "lost footage", or what other movies would call deleted scenes. A total of nine scenes run 20 minutes and 8 seconds. It offers quite a bit more of adolescent Kristi and Katie, Emily finding a crown of thorns among Leila's possessions, more disturbances, a tape showing Leila visiting 1992, Leila telling everyone that "Santa's coming", and lots of profane flipping out.

Par for the studio, the DVD includes the theatrical cut only and no bonus features at all.

The plain gray DVD and blue Blu-ray share an eco-friendly keepcase with a Digital HD insert, topped by a glossy slipcover featuring the same artwork with the brand's signature black, red, and pale blue color scheme.

Uncle Mike moves in for the holiday season, changing the house's dynamic for nanny Skyler (Olivia Taylor Dudley) and Leila (Ivy George).

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Give The Ghost Dimension credit for trying to build upon the established lore of Paranormal Activity.
Unfortunately, the original's scares never lent themselves to such mythology and it's painfully obvious that not only this approach -- of visual effects, camera trickery, and heavy exposition -- but any approach would feel stale by now.

Paramount's Blu-ray combo pack admirably treats the film to three different edits and with a substantial amount of deleted scenes, but few will wish to endure the film that many times and at that length. Aside from those compelled to complete the collection, this is one you can pass on without guilt.

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Blu-ray Combo / Blu-ray 3D Combo / DVD / Instant Video: Theatrical Unrated

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Paranormal Activity 2 Paranormal Activity 3 Paranormal Activity 4 Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones
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Reviewed February 14, 2016.



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