Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

By on January 11, 2014
Paranormal_Activity _The_Marked_Ones_1

The latest in the ongoing “Paranormal Activity” franchise, “The Marked Ones” is being touted as a spin-off of sorts, not unlike “Tokyo Night,” which can be watched for free in its entirety here. The point being that the events of the movie intersect with characters and situations from the original movies, but like the previous installment, mostly deal with entirely new characters.

Unfortunately for them, the filmmakers did not distance themselves in such a way on the last official one, Part 4, and paid the price in some exceedingly negative reviews, both in the critical press and from their own fan-base online. As a direct result of that, they took a step back, opted to not put out a new one as per usual last October, and instead take their time planning a new one- as well as working out an ultimate endgame.

While the creative team behind the movies have admitted it will take a few more movies to get there (no fools they, given the budget-vs.-box office returns), the retooling was much-needed, and you can definitely tell that they heard the criticism loud and clear and have opted to up the ante with this installment. The main complaints were that the films had gotten too far removed from the original storyline involving sisters Kristi and Katie, and that the forward momentum of the underlying plotline was moving way too slow, which reeked of their trying to play for time to milk the box office for all it was worth.

Valid criticisms to be sure, as I myself addressed in my review of the last installment (the video version of which can be found here). So, does the new one address those concerns? Well, yes and no. On the one hand, it does tie much more directly to the story of Katie in particular, but on the other, like the last one, it mostly focuses on an entirely new cast, which may upset some fans. I think that’s precisely why the film opted to call itself a spin-off and go released with a subtitle.

Instead, the official Part Five will be released later on in the year, in the traditional October time-slot, so fans more concerned with the overarching plot and the stuff with the sisters will just have to wait. That said, be that as it may, this is still essential viewing for fans of the franchise. For one thing, it ties much more directly into the main narrative of the first three than the fourth one; for another it uses the opportunity to tie certain things together in a way that will definitely please fans of the underlying mythology.

Of course, I’d be spoiling things if I said exactly how, but rest assured, the mythology thing is laid out in a much-more straight-forward fashion than the others, where much of it had to be inferred by careful viewings. It also ties into the Katie story in a much more overt way than the last one, where she just randomly cropped up towards the last half hour briefly. That said, if you skipped the last one, you should be okay, as it doesn’t reference that film much, save in the sense of driving home certain things that had to be interpreted by astute viewers.

“The Marked Ones” picks up with a Latino family living in East LA in an apartment complex. It also marks the first time the whole stand-still camera set-up has been abandoned, which will be a boon to some (particularly those who find the static fixed camera approach boring and uneventful) and a nightmare for others, depending on your feelings about the “shaky-cam” approach, not to mention how believable it is that someone would continue to film after certain things start going down. Of course, if they didn’t, we wouldn’t have a movie, so a suspension of disbelief is a necessary evil.

The film chronicles the journey of Jesse (Andrew Jacobs), who runs afoul of an alleged witch living in his building. But is she a foe or actually a friend? When she is mysteriously killed, Jesse and his pals Hector (Jorge Diaz), who does most of the camera-wielding, and the sexy Marisol (Gabrielle Walsh) try to get to the bottom of things, which they do by breaking into the witch’s apartment and snooping around. Keep a sharp eye on what they find, as well as the wall of newspaper clippings and other clues they see at classmate Oscar’s house. Also making an appearance is Ali (Molly Ephraim), aka the stepdaughter of Kristi’s family that was out of town when her family met their fate at the end of Part Two.

All in all, it’s a much better film than the last one. There’s way more action, and some of it is genuinely surprising, next-level stuff. There’s also a twist at the end that will be a mind-blower for some and a headache for others. Whether or not that twist is a shark-jumping moment, I’ll leave up to the viewer, but I thought it was a lot of fun, and clever in a similar sort of way to what the sequel to “Insidious” did in its last installment.

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

Whatever the case, this one just moves quicker than Part Four, and the free-form camerawork allows the series to open up more and get a look at what’s going on outside the main setting of Jesse’s apartment complex. Keep an eye out for familiar locales (and faces) from the other movies as well. Though those who wrote off the series after the last one will still see a lot of stalling going on- and they’re not wrong- at least one gets more of a sense of where this is all headed in this one.

If I had to guess, I’d say the next one will be the set-up to the big finale, and will go a long way towards addressing a lot of the loose ends, though not too far, one imagines, or there wouldn’t be room for yet another sequel. Personally, even though I had mixed feelings about Part Four, too, I don’t mind the idea of a spin-off series that circles around the main series.

I liked this a lot, and the aforementioned “Tokyo Night” was also quite enjoyable. I liked that it was a new perspective, this time from a low-income Latin family, and I would be fine with other entries set in far-flung locales, which would give the series a much-more global feel, and show that what’s going on is hardly limited to Katie and Kristi, which it clearly isn’t.

I think the series is clearly headed towards a showdown between the forces of good (much of which we haven’t met yet, save Ali) and the forces of evil (the witches, of which there are many- see the end of Part 4), and it’s always nice to hear that the filmmakers have an endgame in mind. I think the brief break to address some concerns fans had was both warranted and a smart move on their part. It shows that the filmmakers take their creation seriously, and don’t want to let any of the fans down any more than they already have.

It’s not a perfect movie, and there are undeniably some plot-holes, but the creators have effectively bought themselves some time, as well as a much more valid reason to extend things by the events of this film. It isn’t quite a game-changer. More than anything, it just solidifies what we already knew, and throws in a twist that helps to reinvent the series moving forward, and which will no doubt be used to clarify and clear up some of the inconsistencies that have plagued viewers over the years.

As such, it’s definitely a step in the right direction, and warrants a solid B- on the whole. If you’re a fan of the series, you won’t want to miss this, but if you’re a fair-weather fan, you might want to wait until Part Five. For the rest of us, it’s like a nice appetizer before the main meal.

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About Mark Trammell

Mark Trammell is the resident entertainment critic at UAB, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he is also a Graduate Student and does a vid-cast movie review show. He is a life-long fan of films and has a pretty whacked-out, all-over-the-place movie collection that would give most sane people pause. He loves horror movies and Disney flicks and isn't entirely sure there is a difference. He one day hopes to put his money where his mouth is and inflict his own perverse vision on society, entirely so that he can tell people who ask: "If you think you can do better, why don't you make a movie yourself?" to shut up.
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