Film: ‘Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones’, While Familiar, Brings Life Back to Series

By Will Ashton | wa054010@ohiou.edu| @thewillofash
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones
| Directed by Christopher Landon | Rated R
RATING: 3/5

Paranormal-Activity-The-Marked-Ones-PosterAlthough there are now five installments in the Paranormal Activity franchise, it wasn’t really until Paranormal Activity 3 that they really got it right.

Taking the mantel from the seemingly endless Saw series back in 2009, the Paranormal Activity movies have become the new horror franchise that keeps spinning out sequels until fans simply yell enough or move on to something else. Well, at least, until the remake or reboot comes out.

While the first two movies were fine in their own right, to me, it was the third one that truly got the formula down tight. Not only were the characters more likable and realistic this time, but there was some genuine creativity going on behind-the-scenes, and it brought to life a series that was just sort of average before it. Unfortunately, the rather mediocre Paranormal Activity 4, despite some good moments, seemed to squander that potential and showed a sign as to what was to come for the series.

With that, I couldn’t say that I was all that excited about Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones—the Latino spin-off film. Not only was it coming out in the dumping grounds of January (Paramount has been starting a chain of releasing mediocre—The Devil Inside—and bad—Texas Chainsaw—horror films around this time of year), but it didn’t seem like it was going to be anything more than a cash-grab for the studio, throwing on the brand name and hoping to gather some extra change. After all, it cost next-to-nothing for the studio to put these found-footage movies together, so their not really losing a profit on any of them in the history of ever, I believe.

However, while certainly not flawless, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is still a surprisingly creative and fun entry in the series.

Instead of following Katie or anyone in her family history, this time around the film follows Jesse and Hector, a couple of young Latino boys who like to spend their time jerking around and having a good time. But after a mysterious incident happening in their building, they find a series of disturbing and unusual activity going on around them, which seems to have an impact primarily on Jesse’s life and well-being.

Ultimately, all found-footage movies are internally flawed. In an effort to provide a feeling of realism, they have to work around the fact that people don’t carry cameras around them 24-7. Even the best in the genre, like Cloverfield, fall back on this problem one way or another. While Paranormal Activity 3 ultimately worked itself around this the best of the series, The Marked Ones is perhaps the second best at trying to fit this formula around its characters.

Primarily, the reason why 3 and this one work the best, for me, is because they are the ones that feel the most genuine. What surprised me the most about Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is that they finally gave one of these movies a sense of humor. Watching some of the kids’ shenanigans actually reminded me more of Chronicle then any of the previous Paranormal Activity movies, and actually helped in making these characters appear more honest and genuine. In addition to how they were written, the acting all around this time is better, and helps encompass a more authentic sense of character development.

Like any story in any genre, films are dependent on their characters.  This is especially true in horror, which is odd considering that they are always uniformly weak. If we, the audience, don’t care about is happening to the characters, then we aren’t able to be sacred for their well-being. As a result, there are some decent jumps and decent scares in this film, found from, like in 3, some creativity behind-the-scenes. As well as from a sense of pacing and suspense, which is something, for better or worse, the series has always been able to create.

What’s perhaps is the biggest flaw in the film is, beyond some of its stereotypical Latino characters, is that the film never is able to escape from its story tropes that have been established in the past couple films. It probably doesn’t help that Christopher Landon, who wrote Paranormal Activity 2-4, writes and now directs this installment. Especially when the film comes into its third act, the film falls back on some of the third clichés in the series that made the last installment boring. It’s more disappointing this time around after the promise and freshness found in the first act.

Additionally, the film continues its tradition of brining up more questions than answering anything it asked for its audience before. Predictably, the film ends with a big cliffhanger, just like in all the installments before. At this point, it’s getting old. Either expand on your mythology or don’t. Don’t go halfway.

With Paranormal Activity 5 also, supposedly, coming into theaters later this year, I can’t promise that this is a sign of things to come. But Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, if anything, shows that the series isn’t as dead and tired as initially thought. There’s still some rumor for creativity here. Whether the filmmakers live up to it or not is still up for debate, though.

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