Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (2014)
(15) Running time: 84 minutes
Director: Christopher Landon
Writer: Christopher Landon
Cast: Andrew Jacobs, Jorge Diaz, Gabrielle Walsh
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish
The Paranormal Activity franchise delivered its finest moment since the first film with Paranormal Activity 3, and then delivered its weakest link with the terrible Paranormal Activity 4. Fans of the series would be forgiven for almost giving up on the franchise after the fourth film, but I promise you this: watch The Marked Ones, and your love for the weakening series will be re-ignited. With the official fifth film in the series currently in production and due for release during the regular Halloween later slot this year, The Marked Ones (the Latino spin-off film teased at the end of number 4) is a welcome injection of something new, fresh and most importantly, a LOT of fun.
Christopher Landon has written all the previous Paranormal Activity films, so he is no stranger to the story, but here he gets to direct as well, and directs with incredible talent, and a keen eye for what makes horror fans tick. This clever spin-off is set with a whole new group of Latino characters living in California, and is a million miles from anything to do with the previous films, until clever little nods begin appearing which tie the films together. The only clue to the previous films I will give away here is that all important symbol of a circle in a triangle, and the rest you can figure out for yourself as that is part of the fun. In The Marked Ones, we first see the symbol being drawn in blood on a naked girl in some sort of ritual, a ritual witnessed by our protagonists Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) and Hector (Jorge Diaz). They are two best friends who have just graduated, and Jesse is given a camera as a graduation gift.
Jesse lives in a two story block of flats with his Gran, and upon hearing some strange noises coming from the flat below, the pair hang the camera down an air vent to inspect. The below flat houses a woman believed to be a Witch, and not long after the ritual she is found murdered. Jesse, Hector and Marisol (Gabrielle Walsh) decide to check out the crime scene, and not long after Jesse finds what looks like a bite mark on his arm, and all sorts of strange things begin happening to him. Before heading into full on scare mode, the film plays out a little like the awesome found footage superhero flick Chronicle, as Jesse discovers some new found powers. Jumping very high, blowing up a blowup bed in seconds, defying gravity and discovering a sort of guardian angel are all fun and exciting, until the film takes on a tremendously dark edge.
Landon plays his audience with ferocious skill, and he cleverly addresses the problems with all the previous films. Yes they all worked with their scares which were few and far between, but casual fans of the series always complained nothing much happened. Well forget that here, for Landon goes full throttle from the get-go. The characters are highly believable, and full of energy as they go to parties, play pranks on each other, and generally have a lot of fun. The film starts off almost like a Jackass ripoff, and the fun and laughs come thick and fast. The characters are instantly likeable, the jokes work, and there is a real sense of urgency here which means the film never once gets dull. The energy levels keep up the whole way through, and Landon impressively makes the switch from fun and laughs to full on scares as the film changes from two lads enjoying their camera, to a group of friends in some serious shit. Jacobs in particular is superb as he becomes a darker, troubled person while his friends try to figure out just what the hell is happening to him.
The Marked Ones delivers some terrific writing, and the script is believable, loud and very grounded. The characters are believable, and highly likeable, which means when the shit hits the fan, you actually care about them. Landon has some very impressive camera trickery up his sleeve, and produces some stunning special effects and amazing WTF moments. The handheld camera design also works perfectly because it knows when to be jittery, but also when to be still. I loved the Latino setting, and the blocks of flats, gangs, and religious themes really added some weight to the story, and gave it a new found twist of brilliance. When Landon goes for the scares, some have been seen over and over, while others are new designs. However, even the rehashed stuff is incredibly effective, and I defy anyone not to be watching between gaps in their fingers come the glorious ending.
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is the kick up the arse this franchise needed, and Landon should be very proud of a job well done. I never thought the series could deliver something as bold, inventive and fresh as this, and I adored the ending which (I assume) will lead on to questions being answered in future films (possibly number 5?). Either way, The Marked Ones is just what the series needed, and hopefully this will bring the fans back, ready for Number 5. Whether the next film will be as good as this insane beast is anybody’s guess, but Paranormal Activity is back my horror friends, back, bigger and scarier than ever. Go and have some fun!