Review: PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE GHOST DIMENSION

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Run, don’t walk, to catch this latest and last installment in the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY franchise…

While the last several PARANORMAL ACTIVITY films have been (let’s face it) a bit lackluster, this latest edition of the franchise surpasses all expectations and is frighteningly and intensely intelligent. Instead of a run-of-the-mill cheapie, found-footage grab for cash during the Halloween season, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE GHOST DIMENSION is a startling and visionary film that can only be described as a work of art worthy of modern savants such as Lars von Trier and Gasper Noë.

Much like Fritz Lang’s classic silent science fiction film METROPOLIS, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE GHOST DIMENSION is an allegory of Marxist alienation pitting the ruling classes against the proletariat while exploring the danger and horror of unbridled personal passion and mob rule. Most of this intellectual and artistic observation is due to input from prolific screenwriter Adam Robitel (his 2015 avant-garde horror film THE TAKING OF DEBORAH LOGAN is known as one of the most thoughtful meditations on denial of dialectic desituationism and affirmation of cultural post textual theory in the 21st Century).

Protagonists Ryan (Chris J. Murray) and Emily (Brit Shaw) are a happily married, heterosexual white bourgeois couple with a mentally disabled daughter named Leila (Ivy George, who does an impeccable job playing an eight year-old with the mental capacity of a three year-old). Isolated in their extremely large and sprawling house, and with no interaction with the outside world, they spend their days staring at blinking lights and at absurdly numerous television and computer screens. Ryan’s upper middle class employment as a gaming developer forces him to work remotely, estranged from not only his product but his fellow man, on a screen barely one foot across. Despite the absolute exploitation of his own creative spirit, the game (which never materializes) is interpolated into a post cultural paradigm of expression that includes art as a whole.

Ryan’s brother Mike (Dan Gill) randomly appears one day in the house and plans to stay with the family, to which they oddly don’t object. While Mike quips existential, Kafka-esque one-liners designed to question the validity of their subconceptualist rationalism and structural materialism, the two parents don’t seem to react and remain sequestered in their glass-walled, white, suffocating bourgeois interior. The beautiful Skyler (Olivia Taylor Dudley) is also trapped in the house, with no apparent relation to anyone. This surreal experiment soon makes Skyler the primary caregiver to tiny Leila while Emily is tasked with repetitively removing groceries from brown bags, over and over, despite the fact that she never leaves the house or goes grocery shopping. The family never eats the food she unpacks, indicating her own failure to connect to her fellow man as anything but a consumer and her inability to connect to her family as anything but an object of slave labor in the kitchen. This obviously Freudian deconstruction is a touchingly simple way to denote Emily’s dissatisfaction with her own role as Mother.

Eventually, Ryan finds a video camera from 1992 in a box in the garage, his only window to the outside world and to other people. In his desperation to connect with other human beings, he begins obsessively watching the video tapes left with the camera, drawing Emily and Mike, and eventually Leila and Skyler, into his demented and manic need to go back to 1992 and prevent his own class alienation under the guise of saving Leila from the inevitable downfall of capitalism. Unfortunately, the entire family is being stalked by the specter of Marxism in the form of a ghastly black entity seeking to steal Leila and force her back into 1992 where a coven of Marxist witches will enact a ritual designed to destroy the power of the bourgeoisie by giving political support to their revolutionary leader named Toby. To the upper-class family, this leader seems to be little more than a demon designed to point out the inherent immorality and inhumanity in their lifestyles; he seems to want to destroy everything they have in order to redistribute their wealth to the Marxist witches (their house is built upon the destroyed ruin of the coven’s original home, torn away from them by the fires of capitalism and trickle-down economics). However, the absurdity, and some would say the failure, of subconceptualist rationalism which is a central theme of Rushdie’s SATANIC VERSES emerges again in PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE GHOST DIMENSION when a portal to 1992 opens up in Leila’s bedroom, forcing the family to take drastic measures to protect her from the dark forces of the futility of class consciousness.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE GHOST DIMENSION’s filmmakers designed gorgeous natural lighting thoughtfully intended as homage to Stanley Kubrick’s BARRY LYNDON. The large house is various shades of pale light whites and grays polluted by the blackness of night when the family is under attack from Toby.

Just like the sans-culottes during their reign of terror in the French Revolution, the coven of witches and Toby assault the family and threaten to execute them physically and morally in order to restore a working-class Jacobin socialism in which witches can freely practice their demonic conjurations without fear of capitalists burning down their home.

Ultimately, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE GHOST DIMENSION is a Nietzsche-esque escalation between good and evil, a battle between Id and Superego, in which allegorical demons battle the soulless, amoral darkness of bourgeois identity. The filmmakers force the audience to choose between the post cultural paradigm of expression and cultural rationalism; this “ghost story” promotes the use of structural materialism to attack outdated, elitist perceptions of narrativity and denotes the role of the viewer as participant in this tale of terror rather than simply creator. Mainly it is the many 3-D jump scares that really accomplish this.

Run, don’t walk, to see this beautiful Camus-like example of modern existential and political art, which I suspect will be on many people’s short-list for the Oscars in March.

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Weekend: Aug. 15, 2019, Aug. 18, 2019

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