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Reviews » Theatrical Reviews » Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones
Paramount // R // January 3, 2014
Review by Jeff Nelson | posted January 3, 2014 | E-mail the Author
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If you think that the found footage fad has calmed down, then you're completely wrong. As long as they keep making money, they will keep churning these out. Another big factor in it all is that these pictures cost very little to make, making it pretty easy to make a decent profit. The original Paranormal Activity was an effective gem with some strong scares. A few sequels later, we're delivered the inferior Paranormal Activity 4. It wasn't scary, and it failed to move the series forward in any exciting way. The newest entry isn't necessarily the fifth film in the franchise, as the fifth one is expected to be released in October. While it certainly makes connections to the earlier features, it follows a completely different set of characters through a new situation. This is an attempt at taking the series in a different direction that will keep audiences wanting to buy tickets. While this is a step up from the fourth entry, it still isn't able to scare or take us in an inventive direction.

In 2012, Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) expects to have a blast with his friends, as he just graduated from high school. His best friend, Arturo (Richard Cabral), helps him begin documenting their adventures together. The majority of it includes pranks and interactions with family members and other friends. Jesse often hears strange moans and other odd sounds coming from the apartment below them. After he the old woman who resides there dies, he begins to explore the mystery with his friends. Jesse soon discovers that he's been "marked," as he begins to be pursued by a dark and mysterious demon. His friends and family continue to do what they can in order to save him and document the terror.

Documenting the terror is the only explanation that I can come up with as to why they would be capturing everything on camera. At the beginning, they're primarily using the camera in order to capture pranks and whatnot. The structure is the same with all of the Paranormal Activity films. It doesn't just jump into the scares, but takes its time to express the personalities of our main characters. It's a crazy statement to make about a horror flick, but this film has a decent sense of humor. The first act is fairly effective, as it pulls us into the world of Jesse without feeling too forced. However, if you're expecting this to be another venture with the terrifying demon, then you'll be surprised to know that it hasn't been put front and center this time. Instead, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones primarily focuses on the coven of witches, which has become a consistent element to these pictures. I was hoping for some more answers regarding the coven, but we don't get very much. Shocker.

The original film was about the relationship between a couple, which is quickly torn apart due to this supernatural force. The majority of the sequels are a lot less about the characters, and more about how many scares can be packed into the short running time. However, the newest entry appears to be a hybrid between the two. This tells the story of two best friends, as the very same paranormal force gets in the way. Once we get past the first act, the majority of the running time is all about bringing as many scares as possible to the screen. Even though it tries to be scary, it just isn't. The jump scares are relatively well-placed, but I have never found that tactic to be scary. The eerie and subtle touches are generally what will make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck, which is what the original picture relied on. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones has one or two quick moments of well-crafted tension, but it primarily relies on the jump scares that have plagued this genre for years.

One of my huge complaints about Paranormal Activity 4 was that it didn't go anywhere. It didn't explore any more of the franchise's mythology, and it played it incredibly safe. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones brings back Ali (Molly Ephraim) from the second picture in order to help give some information about the coven to Jesse's friends. I was expecting to hear some points that we haven't heard before. Unfortunately, we only get repeated facts and a couple lame explanations about the "marked ones." The story that this series continues to tease us with is starting to feel static. It never moves forward. Fortunately, it does add a few new elements and ideas to the series, which is more than its predecessor can say. However, the film's finale is so ridiculous that it's just one step away from being "Paranormal Activity In Space."

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones has a lot of issues, but it does have a unique element that I highly appreciated. Most likely the strongest moment of the picture is when the Ouija board is replaced with an old Simon electronic game. As Jesse asks it questions, it presses the green button for "yes," and the red button for "no." This is a fresh and innovative addition that delivers one of the best scenes in the entire running time. The franchise needs more of this if it expects to continue to please its audiences. However, writer/director Christopher Landon takes it a bit too far when he gives Jesse superhuman abilities, has the demon protect him, or however you would like to put it. Regardless, it's still absolutely ridiculous and has no place in this horror movie. Bring us more of the creepy concepts, such as the Simon game, and you'll find yourself more successful at creating something scary. The filmmakers have taken this franchise in an absolutely ridiculous direction.

Once again, we're not moving forward in the overall story of the franchise. Audiences are fed information that we already know, yet the filmmakers are treating it like it's brand new material. This sequel pays more attention to the witch coven than it does the demon, which is a big mistake. However, audiences will find that writer/director Christopher Landon has delivered a decent sense of humor that helps draw us into the world of these characters. The idea to utilize an old Simon electronic game as a Ouija board is a fantastic idea that proves to be quite effective. However, the remainder the picture employs the standard modern horror invention of jump scares. While they're fairly well-placed, they shouldn't replace the eerie and subtle approach that the original was successful in delivering. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is an improvement over its predecessor, but it isn't very scary and it fails to move the story forward. If you're a fan of the franchise, then this is worth a rental.

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