Directed by Christopher Landon
Starring Andrew Jacobs, Jorge Diaz, Gabrielle Wash
The latest Paranormal Activity film follows the found footage history of its previous iterations, bringing the audience more of what they would expect from this franchise. In general, that means shaky camera work, dimly lit environments and a plethora of creatures jumping at the camera in an attempt to provoke a scare.
The Marked Ones gives this series a fresh lick of paint, by shifting the focus to the semi-urban Latino neighbourhood of Oxnard and concentrating on a new set of characters. Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) and Hector (Jorge Diaz) have just graduated high school, and are content with slacking off and filming puerile stunts with their newly acquired camera. When one of Jesse’s neighbours (a supposed “bruja” – witch) is murdered, the boys find themselves exploring her apartment, partly out of curiosity and partly out of boredom. What they find is a link to the occult, a link that becomes more pronounced as Jesse notices a strange bite mark on his arm. As stranger and more sinister events start to occur, Jesse and Hector find themselves in a battle against demonic forces for both body and soul.
Writer/director Christopher Landon (Burning Palms) has been involved with the scripting of this series since the second movie, so it is little surprise he knows the mythology of this series back to front. It really shows here for both good and ill. Whereas the story plugs well into the already established fictional world and contains numerous references for the fans of the previous films, it is also markedly similar to those prior tales in terms of storyline and outcome. There is little new here, despite the change of scenery, to breathe life into the franchise. A few hints of the larger scale of the witches’ plan are tantalising, but this film’s scope (like its budget) remains small, contenting itself by clasping tightly to the original film’s structure until it literally entwines itself into the first plot.
Not that there aren’t the occasional flashes of brilliance here, such as the haunting image of the dark eyed children by the satanic altar, or a possessed Jesse telekinetically torturing his dog, or the gunfight against the coven (a welcome burst of action from a Paranormal Activity protagonist), but these are few and far between. Instead it is the standard nausea-inducing, poorly framed shaky-cam shots through ill-lit buildings while dark shapes lurch at the audience with clockwork regularity and as much predictability.
For fans of the series there may be enough of the same to satisfy their craving until the sixth movie comes out later this year. For the rest, there are plenty better examples of both the horror and found footage genre to warrant giving this damp squib much of a viewing.