Directed by: Christopher Landon
Premise: The fifth film in the Paranormal Activity series. A pair of teenage residents of a mostly Hispanic housing complex notice strange phenomena after one of their neighbors is murdered.
What Works: The Marked Ones is a considerable improvement over Paranormal Activity 4, which was awful and in no way scary. Compared to that film, The Marked Ones does have a few successful jump scares and some unique visuals, although not nearly enough of either. This latest installment of the Paranormal Activity series stands out from some of its predecessors in two ways. The first is its mostly Hispanic cast. The Marked Ones has the distinction of being one of the only films of recent years to open in wide release in the American movie marketplace and feature so many Hispanic actors in the main and supporting roles. This allows the filmmakers to use some of the Hispanic community’s culture, particularly folklore and religious practices, and distinguish this picture from the other entries in the Paranormal Activity series. Second, the ending of The Marked Ones ties into the original movie in a way that is clever and adds to the mystique of the series.
What Doesn’t: Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones exacerbates a lot of the problems of the series. The first film created a believable conceit for the existence of the footage; the characters of that picture suffered from a haunting and were attempting to document it. As the series has continued, the justification for the existence of the footage has become increasingly strained and in The Marked Ones there is no reason for the characters to be operating the camera. The reason this logical problem nags at the viewer reveals a more fundamental problem with The Marked Ones: it just isn’t very scary. If the movie were more involving, audiences might not be concerned with the existential problems of the picture, at least not on its first viewing, but it isn’t and so the viewer’s mind is free to wander. The Paranormal Activity series has been based less on tension and more on long periods of silence punctured by loud crashes on the soundtrack, usually as a red herring. This is an obnoxious way to scare the audience and by the fifth movie in this series the technique is old hat. This is a franchise that is quite obviously running on fumes. Despite the fact that this film runs less than ninety minutes, The Marked Ones takes a long time to get going. The picture is front loaded with the teenage characters filming themselves doings stupid stunts such as riding a laundry basket down cement steps. This footage is irrelevant to anything else in the movie and it plays less like a ghost story and more like outtakes from Jackass. When the supernatural activity finally gets underway none of it is very thrilling. The first movie was cleverly done; it created a convincing illusion and it had a palatable sense of dread and tension. Despite being made with many more resources, The Marked Ones has none of the same creativity of the first Paranormal Activity and it is far less scary. Being the fifth film in the series is problematic for another reason; there just isn’t much to this entry or to the series as a whole. The original Paranormal Activity was a one shot movie and the premise was never designed to support sequels. The flimsiness of the first film has become increasingly clear as the series has progressed. By now something big has to happen and the ending of each Paranormal Activity film has hinted at a larger design but the series still hasn’t delivered.
Bottom Line: Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones may be better than its predecessor but that’s not saying much. It just isn’t enough of anything: not interesting enough, not dramatic enough, and certainly not scary enough. If this series is going to continue the filmmakers must provide something more.
Episode: #476 (February 2, 2014)