Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones - Review
There's several warning signs when it comes to horror movies. The big one is a January release date. Typically, this means that the film's distributors think that the finished product is bad. I mean, if you're going for a big success for a horror movie you release it in the middle of summer or, ideally, October. The other warning is when a numbered series stops counting and instead plugs a subtitle in there. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones has managed to do both of these things.
So, with everything indicating that this was going to be a stinker, was it? Surprisingly, no, it was actually pretty competent. While Paramount might not have had faith in the movie, Christopher Landon has managed to successfully reinvigorate a series that was in serious risk of losing steam after the tepid fourth instalment.
Landon, who wrote the screenplays for all of the series' sequels, strips the problems that were endemic in both Paranormal Activity 2 and number four. Namely, a stupidly big house with a stupidly rich family that almost no one can possibly relate to, along with an unnecessary amount of cameras which in many ways defeated the purpose of the found footage format. Instead, The Marked Ones focuses on the friendship of Jesse and Hector, two young guys from an ordinary working class area in California.
For the first half of the movie, Landon's movie seems rather unlike the previous Paranormal Activity instalments. Sure, there's some setting up of the creepy witch that lives next door to Jesse and a few weird sounds can be heard coming from her house, but the relaxed, rather fun feeling that movie has gives us more time to connect with the two leads. Even when the stranger stuff starts to happen it all starts off in a kind of fun and games sort of way for Jesse and Hector and their pranks and stupid stunts, (aided by Jesse's new found special powers), recalls Josh Trank's Chronicle.
Unfortunately, there's not the same degree of originality given to the scares. There's a clear divide between horror movies that set out to disturb you (i.e. the really scary stuff) and those that are predicated on the effectiveness of their jump scares. Paranormal Activity has always fallen into this second category for the most part and it's disappointing that The Marked Ones doesn't try anything new with its build up and boo moments.
As the film moves into the second half and the threat of this supernatural entity becomes ever more apparent, the film descends into a rather rote formula. After some arbitrary jump scene, they'll then be a bit of incredibly dull exposition (by far the least interesting things in these movies), as we're told, to the letter, exactly what is stalking the film's characters, robbing the ghost/demon of a lot of its menace.
Despite this, there are a few interesting moments. At one point Jesse begins to pull out some black, pretty evil looking gunk out of his eyes, as seen in the trailer, and you wonder whether the film is going to slip into some full on body horror. For some reason though, Landon never chooses to elaborate on these parts and we're soon back to the typical quiet moment/loud noise trick that are this series' bread and butter.
The ending, which includes a few twists and surprises, is something of a mixed bag. Long time fans will likely get more out of it than casual viewers and there's still the issue that the series' lore hasn't moved on at all since Paranormal Activity 3.
The Marked Ones, more so than the previous movies, is the kind of film that benefits from watching with an audience. Its constant barrage of jump scares and earnest sense of funhe are better experienced when you have someone else with you to laugh along with. It's definitely not the kind of film that'll have you leaving the lights on...unless, perhaps, if you're greatest fear is inexplicably loud bangs.
For people that have been following the series from 2007 though, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is likely to provide you with what you were hoping for. If you've never been keen on this very lucrative found footage series though, this isn't about to change your mind.
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones was released worldwide on January 1st.
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