Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones
Directed by Christopher Landon
Written by Christopher Landon
Like the Saw franchise before it, the Paranormal Activity series seems hellbent on delivering moviegoers a sequel on an almost yearly basis. The Marked Ones is the fifth installment in the franchise, though it marks the first spin-off that stays true to the canon of the original four films (the events of Paranormal Activity 2: Tokyo Night are ignored by all subsequent sequels). The Marked Ones takes place following Paranormal Activity 4, which set the spin-off in motion during a post-credits scene that was shown only in theaters.
The Marked Ones introduces an entirely new cast of characters and is set in a Latin American neighborhood in Oxnard, California (previous installments took place in Carlsbad and San Diego). Jesse, a recently graduated high school student, and his best friend Hector begin a bumbling, Go-Pro documented investigation into their downstairs neighbor, Ana, who appears to be involved in the occult somehow. Together with their mutual friend Marisol, they uncover an insidious plan that traces its origins back to events that took place in the original Paranormal Activity and its sequels (i.e. we get another glimpse at the coven of Satanic witches responsible for the possession of series antagonist Katie). In The Marked Ones, this coven is finally given a proper name, “the Midwives.”
I enjoyed the first and third installments of Paranormal Activity immensely, but I found number two and four to be a bit lukewarm and annoying. I do appreciate all the films’ attention to the over-arching story that harkens back to the Satanic Panic of the mid-80s (a very interesting phenomenon) and that’s honestly the only reason I keep watching the sequels. Christopher Landon, who wrote and directed The Marked Ones, as well as writing Paranormal Activity 2, 3, and 4, has stated there is an endgame planned for the series. I just hope they can reach that conclusion in another film or two as things are already getting stretched a bit too thin, as evidenced in The Marked Ones.
As for how this installment stacks up to the rest of the series, I’d put it above two and four, but definitely below one and three. I expected (and received) a lot of jump scares (mostly fake-outs) and more than a few “He was just right here, where’d he go, oh he’s behind you” moments. But at least in one, two, and three there was actually a reason for the camera to be running. The camera in The Marked Ones is constantly on and pointed in the direction of the action, a conceit that is largely unjustified.
I do think this movie is saved from being a low point in the series by the events that transpire in the third act. Without spoiling anything, let’s just say that fans of the series are treated to some familiar locales and faces. Just as I was tuning out, The Marked Ones pulled me back in. Though not for long as the ending left me a bit underwhelmed.
The Marked Ones is really only going to appeal to die-hard fans of the Paranormal Activity series. There’s a certain amount of belief that has to be suspended concerning the found-footage angle and the jump scares can get a bit tiresome. However, the movie partially redeems itself by the credits and I would recommend it if you want something to tide you over until Paranormal Activity 5, which is apparently not set for release until 2016.
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