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Guns, Gangsters and Brujas! It’s Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (Movie Review)

Paranormal Act Marked OneAfter my last go around with Paranormal Activity 4 in 2012, I swore myself off the franchise for good.  I made childish comments such as I don’t care how long this franchise carries on, I want nothing to do with it.  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 as of recent 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 eyes on more occasions this past week than I care to openly admit.  So you can see my conundrum here, can you not?  How can I not see this?  Can all my fellow reviewers in the business be so wrong?  I just had to take one for the team and take the plunge last night to find out.

So here we are at the start of a new year and what better way to kick things off than with the newest installment of the Paranormal Activity franchise.  I’m being facetious in case you can’t guess.  This one is both written and directed by Christopher B. Landon.  It’s only his second directorial effort to date and to make matters worse this is billed as a spinoff of the Paranormal Activity found footage, horror franchise, not a direct sequel.  I have to say, I was really kind of nervous heading into this one.  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 one hell of a cool poster, huh?

While the film maintains the look of the found footage and style of its predecessors it is only a cousin to the series 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 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 reissued a January date this year?  Well, supposedly that was to address the longer and larger production and shooting compared to the previous entries.  I’ll give it that right off the bat, the trailers do make it look like 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?  Ready?

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 witch (bruja 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 take 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.

But more importantly, 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 here despite being billed 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?  I’m not sorry I did.  I actually can’t believe I am saying this, but I’m interested to see where it goes from 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.  And why a camera always needs to be filming all of these events?  Who the hell knows.  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 the 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 (I think I speak for everyone when I say we have all seen our share of stinkers in January within the horror genre).  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, probably this halloween season, you’ll get what you’ll pay for here…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.  Just bring your own candy to this January release.  There’s no trick-or-treating afterwards.

Paranormal Activity Marked ones Poster

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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).

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