Anyone who knows me will know how much of a Paranormal fan I am. Like it or lump it, you can’t deny the success of the Paranormal Activity movies. Made on a maximum $5 million budget, each film provides enough jump scares and terrors to cash its way into the box office. However 2013 saw a change in the usual October scare-fest, because low and behold there was no Paranormal movie to be had. Was this the first sign of weakness for the franchise? Had it ran out of ideas? Fortunately, Paramount being the ever so sly studio that they are, let us know that 2 movies would be making their way to the big screen in 2014, and this is the first – the Hispanic ‘spinoff’ (that isn’t really a spinoff) Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones.
Largely aimed at the Latino market (which interestingly has the highest demographic of audience members for the franchise) this ‘spin-off’ focuses on the character of Jesse, a recent High School graduate who becomes marked by a demonic force after his mysterious neighbour is killed and embarks on a supernatural transformation into the unknown. The Latino setting added a new twist to the tale, new environments and new characters really help breathe life back into the franchise but doesn't alienate viewers with its Spanish dialogue – it’s only used every other scene and you get the gist of what’s happening anyway. Like all found-footage movies, the film heavily relies on a hand held camera shooting technique – which grips the viewer’s interests and keeps the much-needed suspense, but can be quite frustrating at times. I understand the believability of these films is something that Paramount drills into the viewer but there are moments when you do highly doubt you would continue filming after say, being attacked in a car or being chased after by witches. But most of the time, it works well and shows the relationship dynamics between Jesse and his loved ones.
This leads me on to the cast and location. Andrew Jacobs and Jorge Diaz portray the most convincing leads of the franchise to date; their on-screen time is genuine and fresh, whilst still maintaining that believability of reacting against these supernatural occurrences as any other teenage boy would. Furthermore, what separates Jesse from any other lead in the Paranormal franchise is the relationship he has with his family. Unlike the disapproving, naive and even at times downright stupid parents of previous entries, Landon finally gets it right with The Marked Ones and gives us a family of which we can relate to. We have sisters, brothers, a crazy yet lovable grandmother, a cute pet dog and a father who still mourns Jesse’s mother – as a family unit, it works well and helps us form an emotional attachment to these characters, so much that when something happens to them (which, let’s face it, is a certainty in a Paranormal film) we actually care.
Let me be clear, if you are a Paranormal Activity fan and you were thinking about maybe skipping this one, I’d strongly advise you to reconsider. This film is 110% canon with the franchise and acts as an important bridge between now and October for Paranormal Activity 5. After the huge disappointment of 4, many fans (me included) were worried that the franchise was digging an early grave for itself. The story was muddled and complicated, more questions were raised than they were answered and it just wasn't a good film. Fortunately, The Marked Ones is a step in the right direction and brings the story back on track. I won’t spoil anything for those intending on seeing it, but I will say that the story ties in with events set in previous films, past characters and motifs play an important part and the mythology is blown wide open for future instalments. As for the ending, it blew my mind. Some will love it, some will hate it as it really adds a new dimension to the franchise in the most craziest way possible, but with due ‘time’ I'm sure it’ll be seen as a positive aspect to the franchise. (Those who have already seen the film, I hope you liked my cheeky little pun.)
However, for a film classed as a horror and part of a horror franchise – it actually wasn't that scary. Sure there were a few classic jump scares to be had, including a very chilling sequence set in the basement, but all of the potential scary moments were ruined for me as I had seen them all in the trailer! This made me think back to the marketing campaign of Paranormal Activity 3; various trailers and TV-Spots contained footage that wasn't actually in the final cut of the movie and caused uproar amongst fans of the franchise, some of whom felt it was a cop-out and branded it as false advertising. I, contrastingly, thought this was a brilliant move by Paramount as it surprised me going into the screening, what I thought I was expecting and what I got were two different things. In that sense, it was a thrilling experience watching it as you never knew what was coming. In The Marked Ones this experience was lost on me, as all the good bits were spoiled by the trailer. So maybe this is a hint for Paramount to reel back the marketing campaign for 5?
Landon has said in multiple interviews that the ending of the franchise has been planned for years and they are slowly building up to it. The Marked Ones brings the franchise back to top form and acts as the penultimate puzzle piece to the whole Paranormal universe, something I hope is concluded well with the fifth film due out in nine months’ time. It’s one of the less scary entries, but it’s a huge improvement over 4 and for the expansion of the mythology alone it deserves a watch even if you’re not the biggest fan of the films. Or maybe for the bat-shit crazy ending. You decide.