REVIEW: Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

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TO SW Paranormal new Paramount Pictures PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE MARKED ONES, from Paramount Pictures.

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones
DIRECTOR: Christopher Landon
CAST: Andrew Jacobs, Jorge Diaz, Carlos Pratts, Gloria Sandoval, Molly Ephraim
CLASSIFICATION: 16 HLV
RUNNING TIME: 84 minutes
RATING: **

 

Paranormal Activity fans hoping for a continuation of – or perhaps a bit of closure to – the supernatural saga that has stretched out over four films since the 2007 original insinuated itself into their nightmares may be disappointed by Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones.

As the subtitle of the new, unnumbered film indicates, the fifth chapter in the series isn’t so much a sequel as a spinoff.

This sharp left turn takes the films’ mythology in strange and not entirely satisfying new directions, including a crazy time-travel element.

Targeted to a Latino audience, The Marked Ones centres on two teenage friends, Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) and Hector (Jorge Diaz), who stumble upon a world of dark, invisible forces when they break into the apartment of a creepy neighbour (Gloria Sandoval) after she is inexplicably murdered by their seemingly straight-arrow classmate (Carlos Pratts).

Unlike the first four films, in which normal people are terrorised by a paranormal force, the new film shows Jesse – who’s been “marked” with what looks like an animal bite – suddenly developing supernatural powers, as did the kids in Chronicle (2012). One day he wakes up and he can levitate, do amazing tricks on his skateboard and hurl bullies through the air as if he’s Thor from The Avengers.

The drawback is that he also finds grotesque, 30cm black hairs growing where they shouldn’t, like in his eye socket. Adolescence can be so hard, especially when you’re possessed.

In addition to that nasty bite mark – a tip of the hat to the first two Paranormal Activity films – many of the core elements of the earlier movies are retained here, including the increasingly annoying found-footage gimmick.

Following the shtick of the series, in which people use their video cameras, iPhones and laptops to capture hauntings, The Marked Ones purports to have been shot entirely by Hector on a sporty little camcorder he got as a high-school graduation gift.

There are other nods to previous Paranormal Activity films. Ali (Molly Ephraim), the teenage daughter from the second film, makes a fleeting cameo here, as does the infamous box of videotapes featuring childhood footage of the main protagonists in the series, sisters Katie (Katie Featherston) and Kristi (Sprague Grayden), whose lifelong experience with a poltergeist-like demon is at the heart of the Paranormal Activity universe.

A glance at the film’s cast list also reveals a guest appearance by Katie herself. How and in what context she shows up, however, I can’t say.

It’s not because I don’t want to spoil the fun, since her appearance is anything but fun. By the time her scene arrives, the movie has thoroughly painted itself into a narrative corner. I shudder to think what contortions the writer of a Paranormal Activity 6 might have to go through to get the story in gear, after writer-director Christopher Landon (who worked on the screenplays for the last three films) has taken it to Back to the Future territory.

There are some fun touches. The evil entity attempting to gain control over Jesse communicates through an old Simon electronic toy, instead of a Ouija board, as in the original film. It’s a bit of horror-film nonsense, but it’s more silly than spooky.

As for scares, The Marked Ones pulls out all the stops. Over time, of course, the series had already ratcheted up the fright factor, gradually eroding original writer-director Oren Peli’s admirable restraint for an ever-increasing level of explicitness.

I’m not saying that the first four films weren’t frightening. It’s remarkable how durable the Paranormal Activity formula proved to be, even though each film is a retread of the previous one. How much night-vision footage of people sleeping can any one viewer watch?

Thankfully, The Marked Ones leaves that behind. In its place, it brings in dead-eyed children, a Santeria-style dungeon altar, a witch-hunting gangbanger with a shotgun (Richard Cabral) and a portal to an alternate dimension.

It doesn’t, of course, resolve a ton of mysteries left hanging by the previous films. Who, for example, was that creepy Robbie kid in the last movie?

It does however, raise several interesting new questions. Chief among them: Has the Paranormal Activity camcorder finally run out of juice? – Washington Post

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