Review: Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones
PLOT: Two teens- Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) and Arturo (Richard Cabral)- are playing with their new video camera when one of their neighbors is apparently murdered by one of their classmates. When they investigate the death, they stumble upon a plot involving black magic as Jesse begins to show signs of an otherworldly possession.
REVIEW: Over the years I've made no secret of my dislike of the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY series. The first one was an interesting micro-budget experiment, and the third was fun by virtue of being set in the eighties. Overall though it's a series I've never been keen on and I find its continued success at the box office mystifying.
Imagine my surprise upon discovering that PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE MARKED ONES is actually a surprisingly decent little horror flick as far as this series goes. A so-called side-quel targeted at the Latino market (hence the reason it's not called PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 5, which is in production) THE MARKED ONES benefits enormously from the fact that writer-director Christopher B. Landon has been allowed to branch the story out a bit by focusing on characters only loosely related to the family featured in the rest of the franchise.
Of all the actors in the series so far, star Andrew Jacobs is the most charismatic and makes for an appealing lead (who could potentially break out beyond the series). The character is surprisingly three-dimensional in that he's a young guy trying to live a straight and narrow life while living in the midst of gang-activity. He's a likable kid, and a lot of time is spent following him and his buddy Arturo around as they dote on his grandma (sharing a couple of shots of Tequila with her in a funny scene) and try to pick up girls in his neighborhood while dodging gang-members that don't like them carrying around a camera.
Horror fans don't despair- it's not all character development and comedy, even if it there are more (intentional) laughs out of the first half than you'd expect in a found-footage horror flick. While most of the films rely on people hearing bumps and moans in the night and asking what's that? while reviewing tapes, this one steers clear of those recycled scares. Once Jesse's possession kicks in, the movie almost turns into a kind of horror movie version of CHRONICLE as he starts to enjoy the perks of possession including super-strength and what seems like a guardian angel on his shoulder. Obviously things take a dark turn, but I was surprised as just how dark. Despite their r-ratings, the series has always been pretty tame, but THE MARKED ONES feels like a much harsher movie with bigger scares as it movies into its final act. There's nothing here that's particularly inspired or even really scary, but it still has some energy that felt lacking from the other films. Of the series, THE MARKED ONES feels like the closest to being an actual film, rather than another of the rush-job sequels.
If you're a fan of the series, then THE MARKED ONES is obviously a no-brainer as it's a nice rebound from the absolutely atrocious fourth entry. If you're like me, and you were never sold on the series, you might actually like this one thanks to the above-average cast for a found-footage film and some nifty set-pieces courtesy of new director Landon. The found-footage gimmick is still tired and in need of a hiatus, but as far as these movies go THE MARKED ONES isn't bad at all. In fact, I'd even go so far as to say that it's surprisingly decent.