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Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (Blu-ray Review)

After my last go around with Paranormal Activity 4 in 2012 after Gerard Iribe flipped me the disc, I swore myself off the franchise for good.  I made ignorant comments such as I don’t care how long this franchise carries on, I want nothing to do with it, etc.  When they announced the delay of the fifth film this past year from its lavish Halloween spot to a January play date, I just chuckled heavily.  What movies play in January?  A million arms raise high.  I pick the loudest screaming one.  The answer they all shout out unanimously is not very good ones.  And then the unthinkable happened.  Reports started flooding in on my RSS feeds saying low and behold, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones actually isn’t that bad and that revered writers praised it for reinvigorating their interest in the franchise and further installments.  Say whaaat?!  I can’t blame this on dirty ears and not hearing the information correctly.  I actually read this with my own two discernable eyes on more occasions than I care to openly admit.  So you could see my conundrum I had this past January, could you not?  How could I not see this one?  Could all my fellow reviewers in the business be so wrong?  I took one for the team and I guess you can say I’m doing so again with my second viewing, now on Blu-ray.

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Film 

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is both written and directed by Christopher B. Landon.  It’s only his second directorial effort to date and to make matters a little shaky this one is billed as a spinoff of the Paranormal Activity found footage, horror franchise, not a direct sequel.  I have to say, initially I was really kind of nervous heading into this one theatrically.  However, I digress.  Seeing a press screening is better than paying for it any day if it sucks, right?  You see how my twisted mind works?  I always have to justify things.  And if nothing else, you have to admit…that’s some pretty good Blu-ray cover art, huh?

While the film maintains the look of the found footage and style of its predecessors it is only a cousin to the series like I mentioned before as opposed to a direct sequel, prequel, reboot, re-imagining or all of the above.  And although the film is targeted towards and plays out onscreen in a Latino environment, its dialogue is not in Spanish.  That’s a good thing for me as mine’s a little rusty since I left high school some twenty-one years ago.  Wow!  Has it been that long?  If there’s ever a time to insert an unhappy face, it’s now.  However, I digress.  We need to get back on the main subject here, people.  Remember I said that the film got delayed last year and was reissued a January date this year?  Well, supposedly that was to address the longer and larger production and shooting it needed compared to the previous entries.  I’ll give it that, it is a much larger playground.  And so, arming you with that trivial information, I guess I have beat around the bush as long as possible and it’s time to start talking about how Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones really is, huh?

Our story begins back in June 2012, at a graduation party in an apartment building in Oxnard, California where we meet our lead protagonist, Jesse (Andrew Jacobs), family and friends.  Over the next couple days talk spreads about a bruja (witch in Spanish), named Anna, in an apartment downstairs after a classmate named Oscar (Carlos Pratts) is seen running from the place.  Tack on a day or two more and Anna is found murdered and Oscar is spotted once again fleeing the scene.  Equipped with a camera, Jesse and friend venture down one floor in the apartment building where Anna resided.  They are amazed at the items they find such as things associated with black magic and even the missing tapes from Paranormal Activity 3.  And then, wouldn’t you know it, the demon’s bite mark is back, this time appropriately on our film’s lead, Jesse.  This is also around the time when things get a bit crazy too as Jesse starts flirting with the dark side when he discovers his new powers, namely the ability to levitate himself and eventually other things.  His power is a bit telekinetic if you ask me.  Also, I should note, the boys took a book from the suspected witch’s lair and their friend, Marisol (Gabrielle Walsh), helps them translate the contents, which for as far as we care equals the fact that there are powers to transport oneself from places of evil to other places of evil, a gateway sort to speak.

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, as opposed to its predecessors, ushers in something that none of the others have…guns and gangsters!  Now I’m not praising, intentionally calling attention to or condoning these two topics, but what a refreshing way to reinvigorate the franchise.  Don’t you want to see brujas get blown away from a close range shotgun blast?!  Come on!  You know you do!  Who doesn’t?  I’m being playful, but of course.  So yeah…finally, in addition to the seemingly endless and formulaic haunts and scares, we get some much needed action in the franchise, albeit doesn’t come until the final act, but so what?!  This series definitely needed a swift kick in the balls and that’s exactly what I feel has happened here as without venturing into spoiler territory, things come full circle despite being billed only as a “cousin.”  In my opinion, it shares much more DNA with the original quadrilogy than 2012’s Prometheus did with the Alien universe.

So I guess if you wanted to know what’s different and fresh with this newest outing you have already read about it above.  It seems as where the first two and half films ventured into that unknown, mystical evil presence that you never see, the latter one and a half films just threw it in your face saying yep it’s the witches, b1thces.  Well this one, interestedly enough, focuses more on the what you see is what you get scares aligned with the latter two films, but mixes it with a monster in the house kind of action complete again with gangsters and guns and even some Chronicle thrown in for good measure (hence my telekinetic comment two paragraphs above).  I guess what that boils down to now in my cauldron of thoughts is that if you hung in and stayed true with the franchise this long, why not take that memorable trip with all the screaming teens this fifth time out, especially on Blu-ray if you missed it in the theaters?  I’m not sorry I did theatrically and definitely happy to own this one on Blu-ray now.  I actually can’t believe I am saying this, but I’m interested to see where it goes from here now that things kind of came full circle so to speak (no more spoilers than that from me here).  Although I prefer my scares more inline with how the first two films play out, you never know…I always welcome surprises.

My only complaint here would be the fact that unlike the first film, the found footage is so edited here with so many cheats that I gave up counting.  That’s kind of disheartening.  And why a camera always needs to be filming all of these events?  Who the hell knows.  It’s just weird and creepy, but that’s just something you will have to accept or else I will say this…stay the hell away.  I understand the homage to the franchise and the need to continue in this cheap fashion, but come on.  I’ve been there and done that so many times.  Give me something new!  Give me a narrative that can scare the bejesus out of me without this stupid found footage gimmick.  I’m over it because it will never happen, but I digress.  I know this franchise is in capable hands, but the real test will be whether they can capitalize on the success of this fifth entry with a worthy followup.  They have something new and fresh here despite its January release this year (I think I speak for everyone when I say we have all seen our share of stinkers in January within the horror genre over the years).  Now it’s time to pony up boys, take advantage of the strengths of this fifth outing and see if you can deliver even more upon that.  Until that inevitable day comes, I think this Halloween season, you’ll get what you’ll pay for here with this Blu-ray…guns, gangsters and witches…ala Paranormal Activity style.  Who could ask for more from this series?  This one unlike the last two actually delivers a punch with a bite of its own, sort of.

Now even with all that said up above, whether you take it to be positive or not, I have one little problem.  It seems when you have seen the film once gone are all of the novelties and jump-out-of-your-seat moments because you know they’re coming…even in the unrated cut.  However, that should not diminish your like for the film because a good film is still a good film in my book despite the second time around ineffective scare moments.  It all starts with a story and a good one will transcend those problems.  BUT…to truly appreciate films in this franchise perhaps it’s almost better to take in your Blu-ray viewings with unsuspecting prey who have not seen the film before and watch their innate reactions.  That could be more entertaining, right?  I mean nothing like watching mama jump straight into the air and curse obscenities you never heard her utter before.  Anyway, that’s my two cents before we talk about this Blu-ray presentation.

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Video 

As you know since this one is basically found footage with even some GoPro footage thrown in this time around it makes for a hard one to critique effectively because while you want your Blu-ray presentation to look as breathtaking as possible that’s not what the filmmakers had in mind.  They wanted this to look rough.  And rightfully so, this must be taken into consideration when grading accordingly here.

  • Encoding: AVC MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Clarity/Detail: For the most part, while the footage may be blurry and grainy at times, things are legible.  Fine detail and textures do pop every once in a while in close-ups like the main character’s acne and in moments of extreme focus like the bite mark for example.  This does not happen often, but rest assured things are not always muddy and ugly here.  There are a couple different kinds of cameras employed throughout here so take that into consideration too.
  • Depth: Depth of field is a hard one to judge here simply because of the flat nature of the home video recordings so I’m going to say no to the following.  This one does not have that three-dimensional Blu-ray pop we all love to see.  I’m sorry.
  • Black Levels: I have to say I’m quite satisfied with the black levels here.  The film is shot in a lot of dark locations and while the blacks were not the deepest and inkiest of levels they weren’t problematic either.
  • Color Reproduction: Colors and contrast levels all seemed natural throughout to me here.  That’s kind of cool in my opinion.
  • Flesh Tones: Because the colors are in check it should come as no surprise that skin tones also looked natural here.
  • Noise/Artifacts: Do I really need to address this one considering the found footage?  LOL.  Oh, all right.  So here it goes.  Despite the grainy look of the home video recordings there are no blemishes, artifacts, noises, specks or imperfections in the transfer here.  There are some halos in the lights, but that’s due to the cameras employed here.

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Audio 

I have to be honest about this section.  Despite the rough video up above I really felt the audio had a chance to completely win me over here, but the lack of presence in the rear speakers behind me cost it a point.  So let’s go over it all down below.

  • Audio Format: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Audio Description
  • Subtitles: English Audio Description with English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese
  • Dynamics: I like the dynamics here between the loud celebratory moments and scares and the soft explorations.  I think that balance is harmonious here and quite authentic with acoustics such as creaks, camera fumbles and shotgun blasts.  LOL.  I had to mention the guns!
  • Low Frequency Extension: I’m quite pleased here also.  Things go bump in the night hard here and the subwoofer handles these moments effectively from once again shotgun blasts, thuds, door knocks, fireworks and dumpster diving to the vivacious demon roars.  This one has it all and the LFE portion of this track rises up to the many challenges it is presented.
  • Surround Sound Presentation: This is my achilles heel here.  There are SO MANY moments where I wish the rears were employed more, but nonetheless they are weak and sick here while really only being utilized for light ambient effects like traffic in the street outside for example.  Boo!
  • Dialogue Reproduction: I’m not going to say the language was always understandable, but it was still loud and clear for the most part.  It’s a rough movie so you can’t really find or blame fault here.

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Extras 

There’s not too much to go over here so this one is going to be quick and easy.  First of all, Paramount gives us two cuts of the film here, a Rated version (HD, 84 mins.) and Unrated (HD, 100 mins.).  I chose to watch the latter here for this review since I already seen the Rated version in the theater.  I noticed a few extra scenes here or there, but I wouldn’t say the Unrated version really changed things up over the Rated one.  So with the exception of the Digital Copies, the only other thing you will find here is additional footage.  Not much, huh?

  • Found Footage (HD, 10 mins.) – The following six scenes are what Paramount deems intense additional found footage.  How intense?  Well, I’ll let you be the judge of that.
    • Grandma’s rant (in Spanish)
    • Cleaning out Ana’s apartment
    • Chavo growling at the closet
    • Jesse on ledge of church after party
    • Possessed SIMON, Religious shop / Irma cleanses Jesse and apartment
    • MEUS in Jesse’s room
  • Digital HD (HD) – The Rated-R version of the film is redeemable in a Digital HD format for iTunes and UltraViolet.  Kudos there!

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Summary 

So in conclusion I thought it would be helpful to give you all some useful knowledge of passing along the 6 warning signs that someone you know may be possessed.  They are in no particular order:

1. Sudden onset of pale or sallow skin along with dark cycles around the eyes.

2. Change of eye color, especially if the whites, irises and corneas turn completely black.

3. Appearance of non-organic material in eye sockets, nasal cavity or throat.

4. Rising off the floor or failing to fall to earth.

5. Unexplained, sudden increases in muscular power, such as the ability to fling full-grown men more than 15-20 feet.

6. Uncharacteristic behavior including, but not limited to, pinning an animal against the ceiling using only the mind or pushing your grandma down a flight of stairs in the ghetto.

So there you go.  Be careful out there.  In the meantime, get your scare on with Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones on Blu-ray April 8th by pre-ordering here.

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Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

1 Response to “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Eric Flapjack Ashley

    I was pleasantly surprised with this one, but perhaps I disliked part 4 so much that anything marginally better would have been great. There were a few plot devices that I didn’t quite understand, and there was an element of the ending that didn’t match up to previous events in the series… but overall, it was a lot more entertaining that I thought it would be. 🙂

    I do wish Paramount would drop the barebones presentations of the DVD/Blu-rays and give us an audio commentary or something!