An interesting thing happened during the trailers to Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones. They abruptly stopped, the lights came on, and I thought there was either a problem with the projector or the theater was doing some kind of gag involving the movie. I turn around to see a few security guards and the theater management asking everyone to have their IDs and ticket stubs out. Apparently someone noticed that there were a lot more people in the theater than the amount of tickets they sold, so they knew that underage teens (this is an R-rated movie) had likely bought a ticket for another movie and then snuck in. They escorted about 30 kids out. I've seen a few people get kicked out of movies recently, but never to this extent. I wonder if the theater chain is getting pressure from corporate or outside sources to cut down on allowing kids into R-rated movies.
Anyway, it's no secret I'm not a fan of the Paranormal Activity series. I thought the first was one of the most overhyped, boring horror films I've ever seen. It had little going for it outside of the found footage gimmick; nothing more than poorly written characters reacting to pots falling, the wind blowing doors shut, and sounds off-camera. Terrifying! By the third film, I thought the series had totally run out of steam. At least with the fourth installment, the writing and acting improved and gave us some likeable characters. The newest film continues on that course.
The Marked Ones gives us a new locale and family to follow. Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) is celebrating his graduation from high school in Oxnard, CA. Shortly after a party in his apartment complex, his downstairs neighbor, who many believed was a bruja, or witch, is shockingly killed by class valedictorian, Oscar (Carlos Pratts). Jesse and his best friend Hector (Jorge Diaz) break into the victim's apartment and find various black magic paraphernalia. The next morning Jesse finds a strange bite mark on his arm. He then develops bizarre abilities and his behavior becomes increasingly erratic and violent. Desperate to find what's happening to Jesse, Hector and their hot friend Marisol (Gabrielle Walsh) investigate and find that Jesse isn't the only person this has happened to.
One of the more fun aspects of the film was how Jesse experimented with his abilities. They have fun with them at first, and it will remind many of the earlier parts of Chronicle. There's creative use of the old electronic Simon memory game as a Ouija board that I thought was a clever twist. As I mentioned earlier, the writing and dialog is an improvement over the first three films. There's some very funny, and natural banter between Jesse, Hector and Marisol. We don't learn much about them personally, but they aren't annoying. They drink, smoke pot and try to get laid. You know, the type of behavior you'd expect from kids their age. As far as the cast goes, newcomer Andrew Jacobs did a good job and it's the kind of performance where you get that feeling he's got a bright future ahead of him.
Unfortunately, The Marked Ones is full of predictable jump scares that weren't remotely scary. It was so obvious when one was going to happen, I would say to myself, "Cue someone jumping out of nowhere in 3..2..1!" At this point, they need to be able to deliver more than cheap scares. The whole formula of these films is stale. You know they're going to end up in some house where witches ambush them and they can't get away. The only question I had was were they at the house from the end of Paranormal 4 or Paranormal 3. I'm pretty sure it was from Paranormal 3, but it could be the same house for all I know. There is a really funny part during the climax that had me saying, "Finally!" Unfortunately, it's short lived and falls back into the same crap from the others.
They're trying their best to link these stories together, but I'm at a loss what that the goal is. It continues to be muddy to me. That's really the issue with any film like this. What are these demons/ghosts after? They don't seem to want more than to mess with people and then occasionally kill those that dare investigate the weird events around them. Seriously, it's been five movies now. What's the end game? Has anything been answered?
I don't know what it is, but I have a really strong urge to buy a GoPro after watching The Marked Ones. Oh that's right, it's because most of the footage was filmed with either with a handheld or a GoPro. Man, those GoPro cameras have sure gotten a lot of mileage in horror films, eh? Seriously, it's a pretty useful piece of technology.
And I'm still dying to know who's actually been finding this footage...
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones might change things up slightly, and isn't quite as boring as the other installments, but it's still more of the same, predictable jump scares. It doesn't provide any genuine chills and fails to haunt or leave any lasting impression. I can only recommend this to existing fans of the series who want to stay up to speed, but I'd recommend fans of genuine horror to look elsewhere.
2 (out of 5) Death Stars