Review: Paranormal Activity – The Marked Ones / Cert: 15 / Director: Christopher Landon / Screenplay: Christopher Landon / Starring: Andrew Jacobs, Jorge Diaz, Gabrielle Walsh, Carlos Pratts / Release Date: Out Now
The Paranormal Activity franchise, while painted by some as a mere cash cow, has been surprisingly durable since the original haunted its way to critical acclaim back in 2009. However last year saw one of the first activity-free Octobers, so to celebrate new year here is the delayed Latino themed spin-off, The Marked Ones. After the worst film of the franchise, Paranormal Activity 4, which delivered some fun jolts and frights but no distinctive developments, we now have a film that does exactly the opposite. Say what you like about the Paranormal Activity films but they have built their own mythology admirably and in that regard this film works pretty well.
The film sees recent graduate Jesse (Jacobs) and his family get involved with forces he does not fully understand. Especially when their outcast neighbour Anna (Gloria Sandoval) is spontaneously murdered by another student and the strange activity and forces that surrounded her come to rear their malevolent head. Early opinion from the avid fanbase called this a definite reinvigoration of the series, which is a bit of a stretch. However, this spin-off, despite its lagging moments and sparsity of scares, just about makes up for it with some fun scenes of haunting and a very neat and intriguing direction for the series’ mythology. Of late, certain horror films have overdone this sort of thing.Grave Encounters 2 felt pompous and Insidious: Chapter 2 over-explained, but this film (part 4.5 if you will) leaves enough ambiguity and interest to keep things moving until this October’s Paranormal Activity 5.
The biggest issue with this film is really much more basic. Landon has indeed crafted an interesting MacGuffin but the scares are really starting to get threadbare. The first film tested patience pace-wise but delivered a low-fi idea that worked on the big screen, the second spiced things up with better camera work and action, and the third (the best of the entire series) delivered shocking terrors and a powerful climax. Even Part 4 had its moments, but this film is somewhat predictable. You can see the scares a mile off and aside from the odd twist (mainly in an enjoyably OTT climax), you know where much of this is heading scare-wise. The start is slow too, even by the previous films' standard, but overall the film is just about fun enough to work.
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is by no means a great horror film but it is interesting and lively enough addition. Exclude a few unnecessary scenes and you have a reasonably effective feature that doesn’t feel drowned in Latino clichés. If you were to describe it, this is like a fun episode of American Horror Story: Coven with influences from the likes of Chronicle, just without the meatiness of either. It’s not the best of the series but at the same time it isn’t a damning indictment of it. The character of Jesse is a rationally sound core for the drama and in spite of the film’s inability to force you into leaving the lights on for days, fans will be happy to see the narrative tie-ups. Which is more than many horror franchises (Halloween, Leprechaun, Saw, etc) could say at this point. Lets just hope that this October’s fifth instalment gets the balance of mythology and fright just right.
Expected Rating: 8 out of 10