*NEW* PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: GHOST DIMENSION REVIEW *NEW*

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The relentless fright fest franchise finally comes to an end. Did it deliver? Does anyone even care?

BE WARNED. This will be a brief exorcism of the franchise in its entirety. For those who have yet to see the sequels, avert your eyes.

I loved the first Paranormal Activity. It revitalized the found horror footage genre and became the new Blair Witch Project. A supernatural sleeper hit that inevitably spawned a ridiculous franchise.

These films were always a guilty pleasure BUT that’s not to say that I’ve enjoyed every offering. The second Paranormal entry was a mess. A mere re-tread of the original with weaker results. I know. Some of you will say, “Isn’t that every Paranormal sequel?”. BUT Paranormal Activity 3 brought an actual story line and introduced the creepy entity Toby and his mysterious cult of devil worshipers.

It was a crucial turning point and sparked my curiosity. Intrigued to see where this would go. Tragically the fourth film was just like the second with a new family. And the fifth, The Marked Ones, felt like something completely different BUT out of sync with the rest of the movies.

That was until the closing minutes which introduced another aspect that cleverly (if rather loosely) tied the movies together. The notion of a ghost dimension through a devil door. Opening portals and merging time frames. Insane.

So I endured this mixed bag of a franchise. Finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Desperate to see how this would end. Would everything finally be explained? The cult, Toby, the ghost dimension? In a nutshell, no. It crashes and burns.

The first 15 minutes of The Ghost Dimension was just like all the others. The same old concept with yet another new family. BUT the set up didn’t mess about. They have had six attempts to nail it. Family moves into house. Strange things happen. Find old camera and videos of creepy kids and mystery cult. Stay in said house and film everything. You know.

For a minute, I looked around the cinema. Wondering, “Why the hell was I wearing 3D glasses?” BUT luckily once the old camera was turned on, the 3D soon hit you. It may have been a stupid gimmick that shouldn’t have worked BUT it did. Creepy shadows sweeping past the screen. Tables and chairs flying at you.  Faces jumping out. Brilliant. Not enough.

Chris J. Murray and Dan Gill were entertaining and highly comical as the brothers delving into this strange cult. What I did like was the fact that the writers knew how parodical the franchise had become and subtly poked fun at the more hokey parts of it quite well.

The weird time frames and creepy video messages with Katie and Kristi certainly kept things interesting. And even when that inevitable NIGHT #1 credit came up, I still had that anxious feeling of dread. The slow burning tension as the activity gets creepier and more noticeable.

The videos only really tied in the Paranormal 3 arc and briefly mentioned why the girls were chosen to serve Toby. The more Don McManus’ unintentionally comical cult leader Kent spoke about Toby, the more questions I had. Why them? Why was there a 20 year gap?

It just made more plot holes by loosely trying to connect everything to appease the silly die hard fans (Like yours truly) who actually wasted their money and time to see it through to the end. Katie Featherston’s character was only mentioned in passing. She didn’t even make an appearance. The writers couldn’t even make the effort to go full circle. What was the point of Hunter? The baby that was stolen at the end of Paranormal Activity 2? None apparently. Even he didn’t make an appearance.

Michael Krawic’s Father Todd only provided a name for this mystery cult. A rubbish one. Never mentioned the story line from the Marked Ones. Even though they had stolen the devil door element from it. BUT then didn’t even bother to explain that either.

After a reasonably watchable and jumpy 40 minutes, the film desperately ran out of ideas and the finale was a joke. It may have been fast, frantic and tense. BUT it was also lazy, abrupt and insulting. If anything, it made the franchise a waste of time. I sat through the credits expecting more. Something.

I respect the makers for producing this multi-million dollar monster franchise from a neglected festival entry. BUT it felt like a case of “Oh well, we made our money’s worth. It’s the last one. Do whatever”.

Hopefully this mess will kill off the found horror footage franchise for a while. A nightmare and a horrific end note for all the wrong reasons. Watch if you dare. BUT please. Don’t.

2/5

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INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3 REVIEW

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Spook me once, shame on you. Spook me twice, shame on me. Spook me thr- If you can do that, then you’re doing something right.

They still got it! The third (Well, first) installment of the relentless Insidious franchise haunts the silver screen yet again. And let’s just say, I wasn’t screaming for my money back.

A prequel set before the haunting of the Lambert family that reveals how gifted psychic Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) reluctantly agrees to use her ability to contact the dead in order to help a teenage girl (Stefanie Scott) who has been targeted by a dangerous supernatural entity.

If you had asked if there were any decent horror films about these days? Insidious and The Conjuring would have probably been the only examples my brain could muster. Okay maybe Paranormal Activity (The original and the third at a push).

I went in to the first Insidious expecting nothing after so many demonic duds and was rewarded with nail biting tension, jumps, a story and characters I actually gave two monkeys about. Understandably it fared well. Bringing back the old school haunted house horror genre with a bang!

I liked how writer/director Leigh Whannell put a fresh spin on the whole thing by incorporating the idea of the paranormal dimensions and The Further. It really stood out for me even when the scares may have been a little lacklustre. Inevitably a sequel was soon green-lit and a franchise was born.

I won’t spoil too much for those who haven’t seen the other films or Annabelle (The less we say about that, the better. The only disappointment of Whannell’s creepy collection). If anything, this would probably be the best one to start with.

Recurring characters and little references may spoil the experience a little but you can fill the blanks quite easily. BUT the opening of Insidious 3 didn’t really get things going and I could feel my hopes wading fast. NOT even the opening score that used to scare the living daylights out of me did anything. It seemed like someone had forgot to turn the volume on. Normally, I dread the opening titles. Can’t remember. Let’s remind you . . .

A weak Lin Shaye performing a reading with Scott’s peppy acting student was cliched and slow. Not a great start. We had to watch minutes tick by as Scott spoke about her family and the recent passing of her mother. It was all by the book and predictable.

The broken family dynamic with Delmot Mulroney’s dreary (No seriously. Was he on something?) dad unable to cope was unintentionally comical. Scott’s flirty exchanges with the boy next door. Sigh. Boring. Thankfully Whannell didn’t bother focusing on that love angle at all. A relief.

BUT then strange things began to happen. Weird figures waving (No seriously. What was the deal with the waving?) Disappearing and reappearing. AND out of nowhere. BAM! One nasty accident. The film found it’s form. And I was an anxious mess.

Before I knew it, the jumps flew in thick and fast. The tension and suspense may have been predictable but it still got my heart racing. The sly hand across face to wipe hair that wasn’t there. Just in case something lashed out from under the bed or something.

Scott played the role well and managed to make a memorable turn. It was just a shame that her character was so cliched and when she had the leg cast, there wasn’t much she could do. If anything, this wasn’t really her story.

It was the story of one of my favourite characters in the franchise, Lin Shaye’s medium Elise Rainier. As soon as she appeared in the first Insidious, I was intrigued. A well written character that had an interesting and mysterious back story.

Whannell finally shows us that very back story that the previous two merely hinted at. He also creates a new creepy demon to give people sleepless nights with The Man Who Couldn’t Breathe (Michael Reid MacKay). The demon that has taken a shine to Scott’s Quinn.

Despite a slumbering start, Insidious Chapter 3 did something that other horror films have failed to do. Keep me interested. It was tense, suspenseful and creepy. You could argue the build up was predictable. The figures in the curtains. The faint little voices. The OTT and incredibly loud movie score making you tremble if the scare didn’t.

BUT believe me there were a quite few scares that got me. Normally I can sit there and deliver a countdown before a jumpy bit emerges. Not this time. It’s good when you fear that all the best bits have been flogged in the trailer. Only to be proved wrong in the first 30 minutes.

For Insidious fans, we finally understand Rainier’s reluctance to help the Lambert family from the earlier films (No, get this right. Later films). If anything, you have more respect for her. Either that or you’ll think she’s even more bonkers for venturing into the Further again.

Tom Fitzpatrick’s The Bride in Black makes a very unwelcome return. Only because the b*stard kept making me jump. No seriously, he made me jump twice doing the exact same thing. And be warned a certain Darth Maul looking like demon does make a surprise appearance.

The only problem with The Bride in Black was that the more he appeared, the funnier it got. An encounter with Rainier should have a pivotal moment but it came off like something out of A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. I would show the clip BUT the horror, the horror!

And of course, we get to see how Rainier got together with Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson). Their presence did lighten things up but didn’t spoil anything. To be honest, the film was strong enough without them but it was nice for Whannell to make everything come full circle.

The pace may have been patchy. The opening a little slow. More could have been made from Rainier’s past. BUT once it got going, I was one happy horror fan. And I felt the film got stronger like it’s demented host as it drew to it’s frantic (and slightly corny) close. I actually preferred this outing to Insidious Chapter 2.

And you know what? I can’t wait for another spooky encounter.

3/5