Paranormal Activity – The Marked Ones
The Paranormal Activity series keeps on trudging on. This is the fifth film in the series in five years. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is the first of the series to warrant a subtitle rather than a number, and it is also the first one that seems for much of the running time to be pretty much trying to divorce itself from the storyline of the original film. (Unless you count a Japanese film a few years ago called Paranormal Activity: Tokyo Nights, which was only glancingly attached to the other films.)
In fact, the makers of the series refer to Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones as a spin-off rather than a sequel to the series. Word is a film officially called Paranormal Activity 5 (even though it will really technically be PA 6 or 7) will be out this upcoming Halloween. Little tangents about the other films pop up periodically throughout The Marked Ones, though, picking up steam towards the climax, so it can hardly be called a separate entity. In fact, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is pretty much business as usual. And after five films, things are getting pretty watered down.
Oh, sure, they try their best to change things up. For the first time, the Paranormal Activity demons attack an ethnically diverse crowd – a Mexican-American family living in the barrios of Oxnard, California. This time out, there is a haunted apartment building complex rather than a haunted house. The film takes more of a look at the world outside the buildings than in the previous ones, which usually stayed pretty much in one or two settings. There are some little touches of gang violence and The Marked Ones marks the first time that there is nudity in the series (briefly, and non-sexually).
And mostly, for the fourth time in five films, there is a new director behind the vision, though even that was not such a big modification as Christopher Landon had previously worked on the series by writing PA 2to 4.
The film starts at a high school graduation in which the valedictorian is giving a speech about the importance of change, which feels rather ironic due to The Marked Ones’ somewhat slavish devotion to their formula.
Even with its attempts to spice things up, the whole new film has a been-there/done-that vibe that is tough to shake.
That valedictorian was Oscar (Carlos Pratts), a local boy made good – his older brother was a gang-banger, but Oscar seemed to be getting his life together. That is, until he starts having a series of violent arguments with Ana (Gloria Sandoval), the crazy lady of the apartment complex, who is reputed to be a bruja (witch).
These exchanges were watched and videotaped by local buddies Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) and Hector (Jorge Diaz), who are friends of Oscars. (For some reason, these demons only seem to attack people who are constantly videoing what is going on around them. Word for the wise: if you don’t want to be haunted, put the fucking camera down!)
When Ana is violently murdered, Jesse and Hector see Oscar running from the scene of the crime. As a lark, they decide to break into Ana’s apartment and see the crime scene.
The whole thing seems to be completely cut off from the previous story, but why was there a video tape in Ana’s apartment of the sisters Katie and Kristie who were the subjects of the first four films? (Not that Jesse and Hector could know this.)
Soon, afterwards Jesse seems to be getting these odd powers. And Oscar turns up in Ana’s apartment, warns Jesse that they have both been cursed, then violently kills himself.
Not a good sign.