Title: Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones
Directed By: Christopher Landon
Starring: Andrew Jacobs, Jorge Diaz, Gabrielle Walsh, Gloria Sandoval, Carlos Pratts, Richard Cabral
“Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” isn’t half as scary as three of its four predecessors, but its strong characters and clever story layers do prove the mythology is worth expanding.
“Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” kicks off at Jesse’s (Andrew Jacobs) high school graduation. After the festivities wrap up, Jesse talks his way into holding on to the family camcorder and uses it to spy on his creepy neighbor, Anna (Gloria Sandoval). It’s all harmless fun until Anna is murdered and Jesse gets the bright idea to snoop around her apartment. Turns out, eerie bloodstains aren’t the only things Anna left behind; unbeknownst to Jesse, she also left her mark on him.
“The Marked Ones” is far from a franchise favorite, but it is an adequate installment. Gone are the days of the late night time-lapse. “The Marked Ones” is almost entirely handheld and while the camerawork is a bit dizzying, the change is refreshing. The whole film is shot by Jesse and his buddy Hector (Jorge Diaz) and while you may wonder why they don’t drop the camera to run for their lives, unlike many found footage films, that thought won’t cross your mind until after it’s over. The high school graduation is a very sensible way to land the camera in Jesse’s hands and then from there, Jesse and Hector do exactly what you’d think two teenage boys might do with a camera – slide down a staircase in a laundry basket and spy on their weirdo neighbor. By the time they’re recording the scary stuff, the movie’s already established a strong tone and beat, so you’re never compelled to question their motivation to keep filming.
You’re also inclined to go along with it because Jacobs and Diaz create two believable, likable leads. Jesse is a total charmer, Hector is his goofy sidekick and they’re a pleasure to spend time with. In fact, “The Marked Ones” even has the power to conjure an emotional response because it’s truly upsetting to watch a helpless Jesse decimate that friendship.
In terms of characters and relationships, “The Marked Ones” is right up there with the first three films, however, when it comes to the scares, it definitely suffers from the franchise’s long run. The non-security camera perspective does keep things fresh enough, but when you’re inching closer and closer to a dark doorway or empty window and that low rumbling kicks in, you know what’s coming. There are some scares that will catch you off guard, but overall, “The Marked Ones” is more of a thrill than a nightmarish scenario with the power to keep you up at night.
Even though the series has lost a lot of its novelty, writer-director Christopher Landon does an excellent job expanding the mythology. He’s the guy responsible for penning the scripts for the second, third and fourth installments and it shows. There are quite a few nods to the originals peppered throughout the first three quarters of the feature, but the third act blowout will absolutely have every franchise fan on the edge of his or her seat. Admittedly, the ending could decimate “The Marked Ones” for “Paranormal Activity” newcomers with no knowledge of past events, but as a series devotee, the grand finale made this movie.
“Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” isn’t particularly scary, but it does excel in ways that bode well for the franchise’s longevity. First off, these films are fun to watch when they’ve got charming, likable leads at the core and secondly, there’s more story to explore. “Paranormal Activity” third act reveals aren’t just cheap attempts to squeeze out one last wow-worthy moment before sending you on your way. They give you something to think about and even though that something to think about in “The Marked Ones” doesn’t entirely make sense, it’s still fun to consider and that leaves you wanting more.