Starring Olivia Taylor Dudley, Chloe Csengery, Maria Olsen, Brit Shaw, Aiden Lovekamp, Jessica Tyler Brown, Ivy George, Chris J. Murray, Nathan Brewer, Michael Krawic
Directed by Gregory Plotkin
Here it is. The one you’ve been asking for. Unfortunately that doesn’t mean what you’re getting will be good or even what you wanted. The finale of the Paranormal Activity franchise is upon us, and this time you’ll be entering The Ghost Dimension in 3D, of course!
All in all Paranormal Activity has fared rather well as a franchise with the only real missteps being the fourth film and then choosing to release The Marked Ones as a Latino spin-off instead of just Paranormal Activity 5, which it certainly was. Still, as good as Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones was, there’s no denying that franchise fatigue had set in. People had become too used to the subtle scares and slow build-up. Momentum slowed.
Contributing to the problem was the fact that with every movie, Paramount chose to raise more questions over actually giving us answers. With Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (a title that doesn’t even makes sense given we are not dealing with ghosts, but instead demons), the studio has promised:”All answers will be revealed.” Does this sixth film do that? Well… yes, and – unfortunately – mostly no.
We’re introduced to the Fleeges – father Ryan (Murray), mother Emily (Shaw), and their young daughter, Leila (Ivy George) – a brand new family who have just moved into their dream home. After finding a box containing some old VHS tapes and a peculiar looking camera, it’s not long before things start going bump in the night, and a nefarious plan – five films in the making – is revealed.
There’s just one nagging problem…
While Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension succeeds in being an okay spookhouse scarefest that is at times home to mile-a-minute frights and chills, it doesn’t succeed as a Paranormal Activity movie at all. Mostly due to a 900-pound gorilla of a problem that I shall not address due to its spoilerific nature. This problem ultimately leaves the audience blowing in the wind. It’s senseless and hurts the film as “the finale.”
Instead of being part of the franchise, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension feels more like its own movie about Anonymous Family #4. Did we really need to go through that again? Wait until yet another family catches up to where the audience already is and has been? As goofy as Paranormal Activity 4 was, it at least added something to the lore of the series. Here, both it and The Marked Ones are completely ignored (other than a fleeting reference to a “Nevada family”), leaving us instead with a family riddled with lapses in logic that does not communicate. One where the parents seem totally okay with letting their daughter sleep in a bedroom with occult symbols scrawled all around her bed. One who can’t be bothered to watch any of the footage they’re recording and barely raise an eyebrow when a dark manifestation is captured on camera. Ryan and his brother, who happens to be visiting, painfully attempt to be natural and goofy with each… and fail miserably.
Even non-family members have character development issues, including a priest who goes from knowing “very little” to commando exorcist/demon exterminator with the thinnest of explanations given and some blonde chick (another houseguest) who disappears for long stretches randomly throughout the movie. One bright spot is young George, who shines as Toby’s newest “friend,” but the other cast members don’t fare so well.
That being said, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension is without question the single most visually impressive of the franchise with some of the best timed jump-scares I’ve ever seen. The usage of 3D is brilliant and honestly the only way to watch this movie. Unfortunately, the script is ultimately brain dead and doesn’t complement director Gregory Plotkin’s talent or timing at all. The man is spot-on and cocksure in his direction, but in this case he needs a script that is equally as smart, and he just doesn’t have one. What he does have – and makes the most of – is a story that, unlike every other entry into the franchise, isn’t even remotely grounded in reality, which is a huge problem given that reality, as crazy as things have gotten over the years, was this series’ biggest strong point and basis of the frightening events. Here realism is relatively absent in favor of lots of loud “BOO” moments.
If this were called ANYTHING other than Paranormal Activity… a series that has become rooted in lore and mythology… I probably would have dug it more. It tries extremely hard to be jump out of your seat scary and wears its hokey “let’s scare people in the dark and have a great time doing it” heart proudly on its sleeve. In fact, it goes so far in the third act that it pulls out all the stops… but they’re all the wrong stops.
In the end… this is one of the few movies I can honestly say that I both kind of liked and vehemently disliked at the same time. The casual audience will likely eat up Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, but fans of the franchise will once again leave feeling empty and unfulfilled.
The Cured Review – Ellen Page Fights for Her Life
Written and directed by David Freyne
Taking a cue from AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” the new Irish horror film The Cured begins where most zombie stories end. Drawing more comparisons, the themes of mistrust and social upheaval are front and center here as well. We’re the real villains, and the infectious disease turning humans into monsters is only there to hold up a mirror to show the worst sides of ourselves. The Cured uses the zombie mythos as Romero intended as a commentary on culture, with a little cannibalism thrown in for good measure.
Against the backdrop of a military takeover attempting to reintroduce the recently cured back into society, two people try to return to some kind of normalcy in a war-torn Ireland that’s been turned upside down by the zombie menace. Recently widowed, Abbey (Page) allows her now virus-free brother-in-law Senan (Keeley) to live with her and her son, even though most survivors are forced to live in an army encampment. Under constant surveillance, Senan’s old friend Conor (Vaughan-Lawlor) radicalizes the mistreated survivors of the virus into open rebellion.
The treatment of the survivors isn’t entirely unfair considering that they still have a connection and are not detected by a small percentage of the infected that haven’t responded to the cure. As both sides size each other up, Abbey and Senan are caught in the middle as they try to restore their humanity before the powder keg around them erupts.
Given its far out premise, the story stays firmly grounded in reality, focusing on the growing resistance and its political implications, drawing parallels to the protest movements such as the “Black Block” that have dominated some recent news cycles. When the virus divided the population, it was easy to know what side you were on; now, the cure has created a new class structure where the lower class is maligned until they cross the line and overthrow the uninfected. Clearly still affected and haunted by the heinous acts they committed when they were infected, the cannibalistic rage they still carry reflects the rage felt by the mistreated masses hellbent on overthrowing the powers-that-be.
Whether for budget reasons or simply a style choice, the eating frenzies that occurred before the cure are never fully shown so any gore and graphic images that could’ve been showcases for effects are left to the imagination. Maybe they weren’t shown because these acts were so unspeakable that they are too horrific to see and too painful to fully be remembered by the survivors. The top-notch sound design ratchets up instead and roars to life to the point where just hearing the carnage is enough to make you turn away.
Page’s performance is the emotional core of the film as she goes from understanding to fear to dealing with the ultimate betrayal. It’s important for a slow-developing story like this to have an actress with some star power, and director David Freyne and his team were fortunate to have a high caliber actress ready to deliver in some of the film’s quieter, more intense moments. Freyne directs these smaller character moments with care and also delivers once things open up to show the inevitable anarchy brimming under the surface.
The Cured may feel too closed off at times to allow its bigger ideas to fully breathe, but it never pretends to encompass a more epic scope that would be more in the vein of something like World War Z. Without ever addressing it directly, Freyne, as an Irishman, seems well aware of the history of the country; and he and cinematographer Piers McGrail inject their film with a pathos that makes Dublin come to life inside the world of the undead.
The Cured is a gritty take on the genre that fits nicely into the new type of storytelling that these stories need to embrace in a post-Romero world.
Bad Apples Review – Rotten Fruit, Indeed
Starring Brea Grant, Graham Skipper, Alycia Lourim
Directed by Brian Coyne
Like a seriously bad rash, some films stick with you regardless of whichever topical ointment you slather in generous fashion over your regions – ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce today’s orbital irritant: Bad Apples.
Directed (rather misdirected) by Brian Coyne, this lamentably sterile piece of celluloid follows a couple of murderous sisters, donning horrific (and not in a good sense) masks, and generally putting the sharp edges to random folk on Halloween night…case closed. Only problem here is this: the film has no pulse, no interesting characters to speak of, and basically nothing to redeem or recapture the time that you’ll have spent watching this complete dud. A husband and wife duo has a spotlight on them as well, but their tempestuous relationship makes rooting for them about as pleasing as sitting through 3 hours of Olympic curling…absolutely brutal. Also, you’re reading the babblings of a guy who loves to put the boots to any film that has been deemed “unwatchable”, but this complete wreck of a production is entirely that – something so remedial and uninspired that to type an endless array of rightful vitriol would be an utter waste of time.
So I’ll go on a bit longer with my public display of vehemence, as the casting seems WAY out of whack, and the production? Whoa…don’t even get me started on this – okay, I’ll go on a bit. With differing levels of sound editing, you’ll get the feeling at times like you could pick up a needle drop inside of a concert hall, and other frames of dialogue are so muddled they’re incomprehensible (not like you’ll feel the need to know what’s going on). Wonky camera angles and following shots are so horrendously captured, you’ll be wishing to watch your Mom and Dad’s old home movies just to gain a sense of stability. I normally pride myself on not begging this particular audience to take what I say to heart, or to shy away from something that could potentially ruin their eyesight, but believe me when I plead with you: do not waste your valuable time on this shipwreck – even if your time isn’t all that valuable: don’t waste it. Find something else to do and take a big ol’ pass on this wannabe slasher.
I don’t mean to pick on the low-hanging fruit, but these Apples should be batted away with a Louisville Slugger.
Edge of Isolation Review – A Movie with a Simple Message: Don’t Trust Anyone
Starring Michael Marcel, Marem Hassler, Alexandra Peters
Directed by Jeff Houkal
Sometimes, relying on the kindness of strangers is the thing that’ll do your gullible asses in – kindness? Strangers? Come on – think about it! Even further proof of said warning comes in the form of director Jeff Houkal’s brutally blatant film, Edge Of Isolation – won’t you come inside and grab a seat? You see! You fell right into another trap – jeezus, people…don’t trust just anyone, will ya?
Set up in a simplistic format, we’ve got a traveling couple (Lance and Kendra) whose Jeep, conveniently enough decides to shit the bed along a desolate stretch of roadway, leaving them at the mercy of the Polifer family, a slightly odd bunch of backwoods residents. This particular clan isn’t exactly wrapped too tightly, and they’re not afraid to let their freak flags fly, that’s for sure. You see, the family has been deeply-rooted in these here woods, and their “hospitality” has kept them fed for quite some time, and with a fresh supply of unsuspecting commuters stopping in at varying spells, their stomachs never truly seem to growl out of sustained hunger…oh, that kindness will bite you in the ass every single waking moment.
As I mentioned earlier, the film is constructed fairly simple, yet effective in its barbarism, and those who dig survivalist-horror will be wringing their mitts in anticipation for this one. While some editing does look a bit hokey, the practical effects more than make up for an at-times bit of strewn-about plot navigation, but who’s keeping score? Certainly not me, that’s for sure. I absolutely revel in low-budgeted films that don’t necessarily have the looks and feels of such, and Edge Of Isolation is one of those presentations that is certainly worth its weight in blood and guts – do yourself a solid and give this one a look when it becomes available to the masses, and for f**k’s sake, don’t take up anyone’s offer to chill at their place when your ride breaks down – get AAA and save your life (the previous statement was in no way affiliated or endorsed by the Triple A Automotive group – just sayin’).
Edge Of Isolation doesn’t need a full-blown allocation to keep future stranded motorists from losing their heads – all they have to do is push “play.”
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