Blu Release – 3.5/5
Director – Oren Peli (Area 51)
Starring – Katie Featherston (Psychic Experiment, The River), Micah Sloat (Paranormal Activity 2, The Death and Return of Superman), and Mark Fredrichs (Emerald Nights, Wristcutters: A Love Story)
Release Date – 2007
Rating – 1/5
It seems like my November has turned into the month for found footage. A few days back I reviewed the new indie found footage flick Blamed and then followed that up with Human Hibachi sequel Human Hibachi 2: Feast in the Forest. After reviewing a couple other films sent my way I decided to go ahead and dive into the Paranormal Activity: The Ultimate Chills Collection blu set that was sent over to me for review in the middle of October.
Due to the large amount of films I received last month for review I wasn’t able to check this set out until now. I was curious about it because I’ve never actually seen a Paranormal Activity film before. I know the first Paranormal Activity is one of the most popular found footage films to exist behind The Blair Witch so I was kind of looking forward to checking it out.
**Spoiler Alert** The film follows a young couple, Katie and Micah, who move into a new home. Katie reveals that she suspects that an otherworldly presence has been following her for her entire life which prompts Micah to buy a camera to record her in hopes of capturing paranormal activity on film. When he doesn’t get the results he expected he start antagonizing the spirit by mocking it before eventually purchasing an Ouija board. That’s when things take a more sinister turn and he gets the footage he was looking for but it’s the last thing he ever does. **Spoiler Alert**
Before I get too deep into my review of Paranormal Activity I will admit that I’m impressed by the story and the idea behind the movie. However, this movie is damn near unwatchable to me. The awkward dialogue, the dull scenes where we watch the couple sleep, and the “scary” moments that are almost laughable made this movie one hell of a chore to finish. Honestly, I can’t figure out why anyone would enjoy this movie.
The “acting” in this one is fucking rough. The characters are unlikable and painfully generic. The performances fall flat for me and their emotional range feels like it was modeled after Kristen Stewart. The cast is small but their interactions with one another feel forced and not natural at all. The story for this one is simple and has so much potential to be something more than what it is. I know it’s an extremely popular found footage film but from a movie standpoint this movie fucking sucks. The snail’s pace the story unfolds, and the awkward dialogue makes this movie feel like it is a lot longer than it actually is. What makes this movie so boring is it’s attempting to seem like a legitimate found footage film by over doing the bullshit scenes of them talking, gasping as noises throughout the house, and laying in bed. The film would be top tier horror if it explored the entity haunting her instead of focusing on bullshit scenes that lead to nothing.
Finally, if you sit through this mess of a film and expect to find some blood and gore then you will be very disappointed. The film has some cheap gags here and there to make you think the house is haunted but those of you looking for some fun practical effects and memorable kills will be very disappointed. Overall, Paranormal Activity is one of the biggest found footage films to date and one of the most lucrative franchises but I don’t see the appeal. The movie was barely watchable and the story is a huge missed opportunity. This is one I cannot recommend.
Paranormal Activity 2
Director – Tod Williams (Cell, The Adventures of Sebastian Cole)
Starring – Katie Featherston (The Lonely Host, Big Little Lies), Micah Sloat (Paranormal Activity, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones), and Molly Ephraim (A League of Their Own, Modern Family)
Release Date – 2010
Rating – 1/5
Paranormal Activity is one of the most popular horror properties of our generation with no signs of slowing down. To date the franchise has seven films, a feature length documentary, another film scheduled for release next years and talks of a television series. It’s a wildly popular series that I’ve never had an interest in. When I received the Ultimate Chills Collection set I was excited to check them out. However, after finally watching the first film I have to say that I don’t have high hopes for the rest of the set. Either way, I went into Paranormal Activity 2 with an open mind and found myself once again struggling to finish.
**Spoiler Alert** The film takes place several months before the first film with Katie’s sister and brother-in-law welcoming in their newborn into their home. Things immediately start happening but they chalk it up to just strange occurrences and natural phenomenon. However, as their teenage daughter starts to investigate the happenings around the home she learns that a deal with a demon for the first born son’s soul could lay dormant for decades and her brother just happens to be the first male born in almost 100 years on her mother’s side. **Spoiler Alert**
Paranormal Activity 2 is not a better film that the first one but it does start to deliver on something that could be confused as a story. Honestly, I liked where the story wanted to go but the delivery and found footage style once again made this another movie experience that was unbearable. I hate writing negative reviews but I would be lying if I did in this case.
The acting in this one is more of the same as the first film. The cast tries to have casual conversations but it’s extremely awkward to me and the dialogue is horrible. There was several instances where these drawn out scenes with small talk and unnatural dialogue almost had me tap out. I stuck through it for the review but who finds this enjoyable? The story that takes place during most of the film is exactly what we were given during the first film. Shit moving and falling while people joke about being haunted is not enough to hold the viewer for an hour. I did like the demon and first born son angle but that was not fully explored or really explained in detail enough to hold the viewer’s attention.
Finally, the film has a little blood stains on clothes but that is the extent of it. If you are looking for some blood and gore then you will be very disappointed. Overall, Paranormal Activity 2 introduces a little bit of story but it doesn’t save it from the boring scenes and horrible dialogue. This is another one I would recommend skipping.
Paranormal Activity 3
Director(s) – Henrey Joost (Catfish: The TV Show, Secret Headquarters) and Ariel Schulman (Catfish: The TV Show, Secret Headquarters)
Starring – Chloe Csengery (Deadtime Stories, The Good Doctor), Jessica Tyler Brown (NCIS, Hawthorne), and Christopher Nicholas Smith (Wild Bitch!, Storks)
Release Date – 2011
Rating – 2/5
I’ve watched television series and film franchises previously that I didn’t like but I was able to sit through them and hammer out a review in a decent time frame. However, when I started this Paranormal Activity journey, I didn’t expect to dread writing reviews like I do now. The first two films were some of the worst films I’ve watched and reviewed to date which made me not look forward to the following installments. I just didn’t have the drive to dig into the third film right away so after a small break I decided to dig into the third installment.
**Spoiler Alert** The film takes place in 1988 when the sisters from the first two films were just kids. Their father is a videographer and decided to film his family when he notices that there are strange occurrences happening around them. He decides not to tell his wife right away but when things continuously get sinister he decides to finally tell her where he learns about demonology and a tale about a witches coven that force women into having male children to sacrifice. **Spoiler Alert**
Paranormal Activity 3 is the first film in the franchise to not focus on as much on the found footage angle as previous films. Instead, it follows a story first before adding the found footage aspect. Sure, the found footage part does feel over used and drags the story down dramatically but it’s no where near as bas as the first two films. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll never subject myself to this torture again but I would pick it over the previous two entries.
The acting in this one is very similar to the first two films. The film is over flowing with small talk that feels forced and extremely awkward. The cast are fully dedicated to their roles, but the dialogue and character interactions is so weird to watch. This is typical of found footage films and this series really focuses on those tropes and clichés. The story for this one is a little more elaborate than previous installments but it still only touches upon the basics instead of exploring it like a standard film. If you cut out all the small talk and pointless scenes you would be greeted with a film that may run around 20 minutes. It does give us more than normal but it doesn’t give us enough. I liked the demon aspect along with the first born son aspect introduced in the previous film and explored subtly here.
Finally, the film has some jump scares and cheap visual effects but for those looking for blood will be very disappointed. The visuals looked good and fit the film but the jump scares can be seen from a mile away. Overall, Paranormal Activity 3 is an improvement over the first two films but the cleanest turd is still a turd. I highly recommend skipping this one.
Paranormal Activity 4
Director(s) – Henry Joost (Australian Psycho, Nerve) and Ariel Schulman (Project Power, Viral)
Starring – Stephen Dunham (The Mummy, Savages), Katie Featherston (Paranormal Activity, Psychic Experiment), and Matt Shively (The Purge, Santa Clarita Diet)
Release Date – 2012
Rating – 2.5/5
I guess every franchise has a turning point. Most of the time that turning point takes a beloved film series and turns it into a quick cash grab. We can physically see the change in quality and most of the time these films are rushed. While the third film is debatable among genre fans, it’s undeniable that Return of the Living Dead 4 and 5 is the turning point in the RotLD series while Pumpkinhead 3 is where that franchise went off the rails.
However, it looks like Paranormal Activity 4 is the turning point for this franchise with the film being better than the previous installments. Sadly, it didn’t take much to achieve this feat and PA4 is nothing special, but it is a superior film up to this point. I would never subject myself to this torture again but it’s nice to see something that resembles an actual movie with this film series.
**Spoiler Alert** The film follows a wealthy teenage girl and her boyfriend. Her boyfriend is very intrusive and records her without her knowing which results in some creepy happenings when their neighbor’s son stays with them while she is in the hospital. Things only get stranger when they find strange symbols painting on her little brother and the talk of an imaginary friend before it’s revealed that his “mother” is Katie from the first three films and they need virgin blood to complete a ritual. **Spoiler Alert**
I went into this one thinking it was going to be just as half assed and dull as the first three films. I was wrong. While the movie doesn’t have many redeeming qualities but it does find a way to actually deliver a story that is coherent and leagues above the previous films. I will not be watching this one again but I can tell this is the turning point for this franchise.
The acting in this one is a little more grounded and less awkward than other installments. The dialogue and interactions here are more traditional and something you would find in a normal movie. The small talk and banter normally found in a found footage film is not a prominent here. I liked the cast and the characters they brought to life. They have more personality than any other PA film up to this point and the cast nailed it.
The story for this one is a much bigger look into the lore that has barely been touch upon in the other films. We learn a little more about the coven and the blood sacrifice while still keeping the found footage aspect intact. The story we do get could have filled the movie’s run time a little better than it did but it’s a step in the right direction for the franchise. I like the demon and coven angle and really hope we get more of this in the follow up.
Finally, we once again get several jump scares and cheesy visual effects that honestly do nothing for the film. Jump scares can be fun if the story works but they missed their mark here and the visual effects are extremely dated and does not really fit the found footage angle like previous films. Overall, Paranormal Activity 4 is a start in the right direction for the franchise, but it still has plenty of room for improvements. I can’t recommend it but it does give me hope for future films in the series.
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones
Director – Christopher Landon (Freaky, Happy Death Day)
Starring – Andrew Jacobs (Lasso, The Wrong Boyfriend), Jorge Diaz (Arrested Development, American Carnage), and Gabrielle Walsh (Lucifer, The Flash)
Release Date – 2014
Rating – 3/5
When I finished Paranormal Activity 4 I was ready to take a deep dive into The Marked Ones. I was actually excited after seeing how story focused 4 was. I know 4 was far from perfect and still difficult to finish but it still had a solid story that I could get behind. However, as soon as I hit play on The Marked Ones I knew this one was going to be different in a good way. This was the film that the franchise needed and the movie they should have started with.
**Spoiler Alert** The film follows two friends who find themselves graduating high school and preparing for the real world when one of them finds themselves in possession of a camera. He starts recording everything and eventually records a former classmate running from his apartment building. Soon it’s revealed that a woman in the building was murdered and he had footage of the killer fleeing. They decide to break into her apartment when the police leave to investigate where they uncover more than they expected with one of them having a closer connection to the deceased than they realized. **Spoiler Alert**
The Marked Ones is one hell of a story that is able to pull off the found footage aspect while giving viewers something they can follow. The movie gives us an even deeper look into the coven and the first-born sons that was previously only mentioned in the films until 4. I really like this story especially now that it is being explored more.
The acting in this one is probably the best in the franchise, at least up to this point. The characters are really likable, full of personality, and the cast does one hell of a job in their roles. The dialogue is a lot smoother than previous films and the awkward scenes are non-existent. The story for this one explores the blood cult and the first-born sons who are called the marked ones in this one. I absolutely love this and how it was approached. It gives us so many layers to the story that the first 3 films lacked while opening the door to the possibility of even more expansion in subsequent sequels.
Finally, the film has some jump scares, a few visual effects, and that’s about the end of it. We might get a little blood but that’s it. Overall, The Marked Ones is the peak of the franchise and I seriously hope the follow up explores what was established here. Hopefully they learned a lesson and that genre fans don’t want to watch rich white people scream over pots and pans falling. I can recommend this one so check it out.
Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension
Director – Gregory Plotkin (Black Mass, Hell Fest)
Starring – Chris J. Murray (Bad Roomies, The Temp Life), Brit Shaw (Bones, Dead Draw), and Ivy George (Rhett and Link’s Buddy System, Killer Therapy)
Release Date – 2015
Rating – 2/5
When I started this Paranormal Activity journey, I expected to find a series of films that I absolutely hated. Found footage is not a sub-genre that I actively follow and the first Paranormal Activity didn’t look that interesting to me. That’s why I put them off for so long. However, I really tried to go into them with an open mind but I’ve been fucking miserable with this franchise aside from The Marked Ones.
The Marked Ones was a fantastic horror film and one of the few found footage films that I enjoy. This made me look forward to the next installment which was The Ghost Dimension. Sadly, this one decided to go back to the way the first three films were made and deliver a piss poor sequel that completely ignore what the previous film introduced.
**Spoiler Alert** The film once again follows a wealthy family that movies into the home from the first film. The father and uncle find a box of VHS tapes (that was stolen in the sequel?) and decide to give them a watch. They soon see Katie and her sister who are being taught and mentored by a man about their “imaginary” friend Tobi. Soon strange things start to happen involving their daughter and everything is caught on camera. **Spoiler Alert**
The Ghost Dimension is easily one of the worst films in the franchise. It’s pretty much the same story as the first two entries where we follow a rich family who panic when pots and pans start falling off their display racks. It doesn’t work and the fact they returned to the same home, or similar home, with another group of cliched and generic white people made it feel like a forced reboot.
The acting in this one is what you would expect. The cast delivers some seriously awkward dialogue and their small talk is so dreadful. I hate when found footage uses this technique to make it feel genuine but after 5 or 6 films at this point they should really focus on story instead of authenticity. The story for this one does take what was established in the first 4 films uses it as a basis for the film but it doesn’t really explore it like it should have. Instead, it reverts back to when the film was more focused on jump scares and shaking furniture. I was riding a high after The Marked Ones and this was a piss poor excuse for a story to follow that film up with.
Finally, the film has some attempts at jump scares and some odd looking visual effects but nothing really stands out. We have a little more of a creature design that we don’t really have in previous films but the way it was done was not thrilling or terrifying. Overall, The Ghost Dimension was a huge waste of time for me and an even bigger disappointment. How can you give genre fans a film like The Marked Ones and then follow it up with this unimaginative dribble? Skip it.
Paranormal Activity: The Next of Kin
Director – William Eubank (The Signal, Underwater)
Starring – Emily Bader (House of the Witch, Charmed), Roland Buck III (Better Call Saul, The Rookie), and Dan Lippert (Superstore, Inside Job)
Release Date – 2021
Rating – 3.5/5
As I dig into the last film in the Paranormal Activity franchise, but not the last film in this set, I find myself seriously dreading writing these reviews. Normally I can watch and review two films a day but it has taken me well over three weeks to finish this box set of 7 films. I was ready to write the franchise off completely after watching The Ghost Dimension. The Marked Ones gave me hope but Ghost Dimension really knocked the wind out of my sails. It would be a few days before I would tackle another PA film which would be last year’s The Next of Kin.
**Spoiler Alert** The film follows a young woman and two male friends who visit an Amish community to film a documentary about her mother. She left this community when she was pregnant before giving her up for adoption. Her quest to learn about her mother and the religious community that shunned her soon takes a dark turn when she uncovers letters written by her mother and the dark secret the community is hiding in a large hole in their church. **Spoiler Alert**
While The Marked Ones was the first film in the set that I actually enjoyed, The Next of Kin is the best film in the franchise. It’s departure from the wealthy family creepily recording themselves as they panic over falling dishes and random jump scares makes it a stand out film, as well as, a movie that you can watch without having to see the previous installments. Honestly, I was ready to wash my hands of this franchise and just review what I had seen with a disclaimer that I couldn’t finish this brainless film series. However, a part of me felt guilty for not giving them all a chance and I’m glad I did. This film was fantastic but doesn’t have much of a replay value.
The acting in this one is probably the best in the franchise. The characters are well written, and the cast clearly has on screen experience which really helps this one be more story focused than previous films. The story for this one is fucking wild and because the film doesn’t spend so much time trying to feel like an authentic found footage flick we get more time to watch the story progress and build. I find religion and cults to be extremely terrifying so this one really hit the mark with me. The slower scenes are not over burdened with awkward small talk but they do help build the story and character development. With that being said, when the film does find it’s stride and deliver the goods we get it in such a rushed and dramatic fashion that we can’t fully enjoy the atmosphere and creature design.
Finally, the film doesn’t really rely on jump scares as much as other films in the saga. Instead, it relies heavily on atmosphere, tension, and the creature design on the last leg of the film. I liked the design of the creature even though it was giving off Descent vibes but I am a little annoyed by the fact that we couldn’t see it more. Overall, The Next of Kin is an extremely fun found footage film that doesn’t over stay it’s welcome. If the franchise continues with films like this then I will count myself a fan but if it digresses back to previous installments like the first three films and the Ghost Dimension then you can count me out. I highly recommend checking this one out.
Unknown Dimension: The Story of Paranormal Activity
Director – Joe Bandelli (Cabin Fear, Gone Viral)
Starring – Jason Blum (Get Out, Halloween Ends), Oren Peli (Paranormal Activity, Area 51), and Kate Featherston (Paranormal Activity, The River)
Release Date – 2021
Rating – 3.5/5
I’ve reviewed several horror docs over the years with almost all of them being docs that I was interested in. A few were rather redundant and went over facts that have infiltrated pop culture, but they were still enjoyable for the most part. If you would have asked me what film series deserved a documentary about it, I would have never in a million years suggested the Paranormal Activity franchise yet someone decided this was a good idea.
When I was sent the Ultimate Chills, box set for review I didn’t know it included the doc Unknown Dimension: The Story of Paranormal Activity. However, I was looking forward to checking this out over the actual films and once I finished the series I decided to go ahead and knock the doc out.
**Spoiler Alert** The documentary explores the limited beginnings of found footage from Cannibal Holocaust to The McPherson Tapes before we jump to video game designer Oren Peli who decides to cast unknown names and film a movie in his home. From there we move into Jason Blum getting attached and the impact it had on the genre before moving down the line and taking a look at each installment including a small look at last years The Next of Kin. **Spoiler Alert**
Unknown Dimension is one of the many horror documentaries that kind of sniff their own farts. They praise the franchise from every stand point while not delivering a different perspective on the franchise. Regardless, it was an informative doc on a franchise that I just spent three months grudgingly watching. I respect it for what it was able to accomplish but it’s not a fun series of films.
The interviews are from various producers, directors, actors, and fans. I loved hearing how the franchise started and spiraled into the found footage juggernaut that it is. However, I know that as popular that the film series is that there is still at least half of the community that dislike it. It would have been pretty entertaining to hear genre fans talk about what they don’t like about it. The topics explored were interesting, but I feel like it was a bit one sided. Now, hear me out before you head to the comment section and start blasting me because I was disappointed in a doc about Paranormal Activity spent too much time discussing PA. The film begins going over the history of found footage in general but that is only a brief moment. I would have loved if more time was spent on this. I did like the history behind each PA film but it does become a bit repetitive once we reach the behind the scenes of the third or fourth film.
Finally, this is a well put together doc with a lot of polish and smooth transitions. We have great pacing and the chronological approach to the topics made it easy to follow. Overall, Unknown Dimension may not be a Paranormal Activity film but I would rather watch this over five of the films in the franchise. It’s informative and highly entertaining which is more than most of these films can say. Check it out especially if you are fan.