“Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” proves to be much, much better than “Paranormal Activity 4,” and it succeeds in reinvigorating a franchise which was starting to look like it was running on fumes. In terms of story, it’s not very different from the previous films and you do have a good idea of where the story is heading, but Christopher B. Landon who wrote the screenplays for “Paranormal Activity 2, 3 and 4” and directed this one is very deft at positioning the scares to where they come at you before you know it. Thanks to a terrific cast and a good dose of humor, it proves to be one of the best entries in the long running franchise.
“Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” is not a direct sequel to “Paranormal Activity 4,” but instead a spin-off which features a family not white-bred like all the others featured in the franchise. When the film begins, we are introduced to Jessie (Andrew Jacobs), a young Latino who has just graduated from high school along with his best friend Hector (Jorge Diaz). Soon afterwards, we see the whole family partying at their apartment complex and having a grand old time as they bid farewell to the hell that is high school.
But then they learn their downstairs neighbor has died under suspicious circumstances. With nothing better to do, Jessie and Hector break into the apartment to figure out what happened. What they discover are a bunch of items used in black magic rituals as well as all those videotapes which formed the basis of “Paranormal Activity 3.” The next day, Jessie wakes up to discover what looks like a huge bite mark on his arm, and it’s a sign that his troubles are only about to begin.
The idea to focus on a Latino family for this “Paranormal Activity” was a smart one as it gives this entry a fresh feel we really take notice of. The family presented here is a great one, and while Landon is really just out to give us a fun and scary time, he is also smart in giving us a group of Latinos not dominated by stereotypes. Some might complain the film does traffic in stereotypical behavior, but I disagree. While many have a view of inner city neighborhoods as being violent hellholes, few seem to realize how close knit the families who live in them are, and many of them are not involved in a life of crime.
Part of me was hoping the filmmakers would dare to film the whole movie in Spanish with subtitles, but since this is a “found footage” movie, they are apparently not allowed to do so. Still, this was a small complaint in the large scheme of things.
Another one of the main differences between “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” and the previous films is the amount of humor in it. This is not to say the other films lacked humor, but I was surprised at how much I found myself laughing with this particular entry. A lot of this is thanks to Diaz who comes close to stealing the movie as Hector. Watching him get all super excited at the things happening to and around his friend Jessie are a gas to watch, and he ends up becoming the real star of this movie as a result.
I also have to say that the ending of “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” is one I did not see coming. It ends up turning the whole franchise on its head as you wonder what realm these “Paranormal Activity” movies truly exist in. After watching this spin-off, it’s clear the series is not simply relegated to the found footage genre.
Landon, who finally gets to direct a “Paranormal Activity” movie after having written many of them, knows we have become familiar with where to expect the scares to happen. To his credit, he plays on what we expect to see and provides us with some jump out of your seat moments we don’t quite see coming. Whether or not you think this particular entry is or is not as scary as the first three, it definitely has its moments if you patiently wait for them.
I got to see “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” with a preview audience, and their reaction was contagious as was their enthusiasm. Many movie franchises, regardless of the genre, live and die in regards to how audiences react to them, and this one shows there is still life left in it. Just when you think this series has reached its peak, this entry makes you excited for what will happen next, and I am ever so curious to see which direction this one will take from here. That’s a very good thing as this series works best on what fans are not expecting.
For me, I’m still waiting for the “Paranormal Activity” movie where the executives of Paramount Pictures become victims of similar hauntings as a result of profiting off the tragedies which have befallen the families featured in these films. If they want people to keep believing these found footage movies are real, then they should seriously consider this because the franchise appears to be heading in this particular direction.
* * * out of * * * *
Check out the interview I did with the stars of “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” which I did for the website We Got This Covered down below: