Stars: Andrew Jacobs, Jorge Diaz
Back when the first Paranormal Activity film hit back in 2007, audiences across the globe found a new reason to have trouble sleeping at night. The low-budget scare fest gave us too many reasons we should be afraid of things going bump or the subtle creaking we hear from the other room.. Even now I can’t watch the first film all by myself, and I do not scare easily. Shortly after, the series turned into a quick money grab every year like Saw, and just like that series, each entry felt more lacking than the last. Well, after the severe drop-off of number 4, the studio decided a fresh take on the property was in order. This led to the creation of Paranormal Activity The Marked Ones. A film that definitely doesn’t live up to the original, but may be the right start towards a franchise recovery.
In the new film, we’re taking out of the typical white soccer mom suburban world and thrown into a more urban setting. The story centers on two best friends, Jesse and Hector, who are Latin youths that have just graduated high school. We get a lot of sense of their personalities from the start as they celebrate with their families and friends. The family has a party for the graduated boys all outside their apartment. People are drinking and having a great time. This also shows off the culture of the setting and establishes some great character development before the terror kicks off. What I liked about this entry is the writers were terrific at taking the time in letting us get to know the main characters.
Once the festivity and fun settles down, things begin to take a strange turn. Jesse and Hector begin noticing strange behavior from their downstairs neighbor Anna, who is a bitter strange heavy set woman.This all starts when they hear weird screams coming from the vent leading to Anna’s room. Curious as most young gentlemen are, they decide to take a camera and hang it down the ventilation shaft to see what the disturbance is. Of course, they get what they ask for when they see a naked Anna painting a symbol on another naked woman.
Shortly after, Anna is mysteriously murdered and the death is penned on a schoolmate of theirs. Of course, you can pretty much assume what they do next, right? Yep, they make the same mistake all stupid characters do in horror movies. They take a camera and investigate the apartment. However, while down there, they discover a lot of strange items of the ritualistic nature and indicate Anna was into the black arts, including a picture of Jesse. The following morning, Jesse wakes up with a bite mark and begins to feel mysterious changes about himself.
It’s from here that the film takes a lot of different steps that the franchise hasn’t attempted before. For example, a ton of humor is incorporated with the supernatural elements before taking an extremely dark turn. I see a lot of people attacking the new film because of these decisions when I personally feel it’s the first time the series is having fun with its own mythology.
Much like the Fast & Furious movies, the series is becoming entirely self-aware and embracing how ridiculous its become. Another detail is small little creative choices we haven’t seen utilized in these types of movies. You have to give the writers props for having characters talk to a spirit and or demon via Simon™ game, rather than the obvious and overused Ouiji board.
The 5th entry is not without its cons. Looking back on where the franchise started, I must admit it lacks the realism of the first. In Paranormal Activity The Marked Ones, all that is pretty much left at the door. In fact, it crosses into borderline fantasy in its final act. For some this will undoubtedly be a deal breaker. This only made the film more entertaining for myself, but that unsettling idea of something in this movie actually happening is no longer present.
The franchise also might be suffering in realism due to its continued success at the box-office. When the first film was made, everything was executed at a shoe string budget and the film benefited greatly using practical effects. Here it is quite apparent that Paramount utilized some resources in visual effects. One scene in particular, which I can only describe as “room-bending,” immediately threw the believable nature of this series out the window.
As much as these faults will annoy some people, it’s clear the creators made these decisions to push the franchise in a new direction. Paranormal Activity now shares a lot of the same qualities as The Fast and the Furious franchise. Like Fast & Furious, the series needed a fresh idea, so Universal stopped making the series about street racing, and made Fast Five a heist film.
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones attempts the same, just not as successfully. Instead of exploring the parents, we get to see what happens to the children when they grow up. So it’s not so much about the hauntings but the marked children fulfilling their cursed destiny.
By now, if you’re not a fan of this franchise, then this film is most likely not for you. If you are a fan then there is plenty of connections to the original that you may enjoy viewing. Especially if you have unanswered questions like I did after the last terrible sequel. I hated the fourth film considerably, but after Paranormal Activity The Marked Ones, this franchise has potential to become one of my new guilty pleasures. Depending on how they return with the 5th film, you might end up sharing the same opinion as well. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is built more on providing entertainment than scares. As long as you walk in with this knowledge, you’ll have a great time.