January 4, 2014

Movie Review: Paranormal Activity - The Marked Ones

Long gone are the days of slasher franchises like Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street churning out near annual doses of populist horror. These days we have been relegated to the now defunct (maybe) torture franchise Saw and the Where's Waldo of the horror world, Paranormal Activity. Something doesn't seem to match up. But whatever, times change. Fortunately, I do enjoy the Paranormal Activity films. While they do not offer me much in the replay factor, I think they are perfectly enjoyable creepers, if you allow them to be. This latest outing is not exactly a direct sequel, but it does fit the franchise nicely. Enter Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones.

This fifth film steps away from the Where's Waldo elements of the prior entries and brings in a little bit of Chronicle's found footage superheroics. The result is a movie that is a bit more interesting in the actual on screen action department, but is also lower on the actual scare content. It has a couple of decent jumps, but nothing like what was in the other entries. On the other hand, never fear, it does continue the trend of an ending that comes and goes so suddenly that it will leave many in the audience confused and angry. I think one of my favorite things has been hearing audience reactions to the endings. Brilliant.

The Marked Ones opens with a high school graduation in California. One of the graduates is Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) who luckily for the movie gets a new camera as a graduation gift. While he and pal Hector (Jorge Diaz) do some stupid things, they hear some strange noises coming from the downstairs apartment. Rumor has it she is a witch. Well, one day, they see a fellow graduate flee from the apartment and then learn the woman has been murdered. Far be it for these kids to let things go, they investigate and this I where things begin to go sideways for Jesse.

Jesse then finds a mark on his him (as per the title) and things change. He discovers superhero like abilities, quickly moving onto mood changes and lost time. Meanwhile, Hector is trying to figure out what is going on. Not to give too much away, but it does involve the coven of witches we learned about in prior entries and there are mentions of prior films characters and events.

Much like the first handful of films, most of the plot and exposition is left for the last act, while there are some juicy bits earlier, the first chuck is left for the oddities and character introductions/development. Now, while this one is certainly different from the other films, it is not going to win over any new fans. So long as you accept early on that one character or another will be carrying a camera beyond any sense of reason or decorum and you will be fine. It does strain believability as I do not think anyone ever feels that compelled to record literally everything and that everyone would want to be recorded all the time. Perhaps these movies are a government ploy to make us all used to the idea of always being recorded. Hmmmm....

I am far from the biggest Paranormal Activity fan, but I loved the first one and enjoyed each of the sequels. I like how they have little interlocking pieces in each, I like how they have these quiet moments paired with jump scares, I particularly like how they have, thus far, been able to maintain a certain level of interest with what was initially a very simple concept.

Again, this is not going to make new fans, but it does work as a piece of entertaining supernatural hokum. It has some characters I actually liked, and a conclusion that sheds some light on past events, while also revealing a bit more about the overarching tale of the franchise. This last point is an interesting one, as I have seen one of the film's criticisms being that you need to be familiar with the prior entries to understand the climactic moments here. What an idea, a sequel that makes you have to know the earlier outings. Who would ever come up with something so diabolical.


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