Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones Movie Review
Written by Ted McCarthy
Written and directed by Christopher Landon
2014, 84 minutes, Rated R
Released on January 3rd, 2014
Andrew Jacobs as Jesse
Jorge Diaz as Hector
Gabrelle Walsh as Marisol
Renee Victor as Jesse’s grandmother
As much as I love the horror genre, I’m not necessarily what you’d call a completist. I can’t comment on the endings of Psycho II, Nightmare on Elm Street 5 or Jason X because I’ve never felt compelled to see them, nor the dozens of other franchise sequels out there (I even gave up on the Saw series midway through part three). The main reason being, I generally don’t see the artistic point to try to rehash or one-up movies that are already clear classics. You can’t tell me that any of the Halloween or Hellraiser sequels even approach the originals, yet there’s a ton of them. Simply put, you’re rarely going to capture lightning in a bottle twice, let alone three, five, or eight times.
The Paranormal Activity franchise is the latest to suffer from the inevitable law of diminishing returns. The first film came out of nowhere, was a huge financial success, and is actually scary. It is a short movie with a simple haunted house story that wraps itself up with a perfectly fine ending. There was no need for a continuation (this isn’t Lord of the Rings here), and yet we got parts two, three, and four. To be fair, I’ll give a pass to part three as a prequel, but the others reeked of studio greed. Now we have a fifth entry, given the subtitle The Marked Ones instead of the generic “part five” because it’s not a direct sequel so much as a spinoff.
Moving from the San Diego suburbs of the first two films to the city of Oxnard, California, the film centers on recent high school grad Jesse (Andrew Jacobs), who notices increasingly strange goings on after the death of his eccentric downstairs neighbor Anna (Gloria Sandoval), who was rumored to be involved in witchcraft. As he and his best friend Hector (Jorge Diaz) investigate, he begins to change, exhibiting superhuman strength and telekinetic abilities while also becoming more emotionally distant and volatile. It seems the appearance of a familiar (to us, not them) bite mark has made him a target (“marked one”) for a coven of witches seeking to possess firstborn sons in hopes of creating an army of demons.
As most people have said, the best thing this movie had going for it was, “It can’t be as bad as the last one.” Very true, as Paranormal Activity 4 was one of the worst movies I’ve ever paid full price to see. And while it’s a huge step up from that, it is handicapped by the simple fact that it’s part five in a series that has relied almost entirely on jump scares and “Gotcha!” moments to be effective. After so much of the same, viewers have been conditioned to mentally prepare for the loud noises and threatening characters that suddenly appear out of nowhere. Sure, I jumped at most of the proper points, but the scares feel tired. So, if you can’t make the movie scarier, the next best thing is to make it funnier, and this is where I give the filmmakers credit. While the other films are punctuated by some giggles, Marked Ones has easily the most humor in the series, which is its biggest saving grace. Most of the laughs come from Diaz as the buffoonish friend/sidekick Hector, and his interactions with Jesse, but the biggest kick I got was from a scene where the old Milton Bradley “Simon” memory game suddenly becomes the world’s most ghetto Ouija board. Honorable mention goes to the moment that a group of Latino gang members strap up with sawed off shotguns and Uzis before moving in on the witches’ house and say, “Let’s go smoke these bitches.” That’s actually the line, and will make you either cheer or cringe, depending on how much you’re enjoying yourself by that point.
The movie has some clever tie-ins to the rest of the series, but its climax borders on impressive in its silliness, and is the very definition of a deus ex machina. I’ve seen some eye-rolling endings, but this one seemed so absurd and over the top that I actually, in a very small way, kind of enjoyed it. I felt similarly about the film overall, and would tie it with Paranormal 3 as the second most entertaining entries in the franchise. Still, it doesn’t make me look forward to Paranormal Activity 5 coming later this year (WHY?!).
Video, Audio and Special Features:
Video, audio and special features will not be graded as this was a screening.