Paranolmal Activity: The Marked Ones

Paranolmal Activity: The Marked Ones
2014
0
Director: 
Christopher Landon

SYNOPSIS: 

In Oxnard, California, the teenager Jesse graduates high-school and buys a camera in the pawnshop. Jesse lives in an apartment on the second floor of a small residential building with his father and grandmother and in the floor below lives Anna who people used to say that is a witch. Jesse has two friends in the building, Hector and Marisol. When Anna is found dead in her apartment, the prime suspect is Jesse's schoolmate Oscar who had just left her apartment. Jesse, Hector and Marisol snoop around Anna's apartment and soon they find a sort of altar with photos of Oscar and Jesse. Then Jesse changes his behavior and soon they discover that Jesse was marked by evil witches. Will Hector and Marisol save Jesse from evil?

REVIEW: 

It would be a wild exaggeration to suggest that “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” breathes new life into the increasingly fumes-fueled found-footage horror subgenre, but it certainly represents a shot in the arm for this series after 2012’s poorly regarded “Paranormal Activity 4.” Functioning more as a mythology-expanding spinoff than a proper sequel, this fifth installment (the first directed by longtime series writer Christopher Landon) smartly moves the setting away from airy suburbs to overcrowded working-class apartments, and introduces a winning sense of humor that almost compensates for its relentless reliance on every terror trope in the book. A pleasantly disposable slice of off-season chiller product, this Paramount release should easily win the weekend’s box-office race.

At this point, the conventions and limitations of the found-footage horror film are almost as well worn and cliched as those of horror pics at large: “Put down the camera, stupid!” has now probably been shouted at just as many screens as “Don’t go down into the basement!” (Look for “Tilt your viewfinder 20 degrees to the left!” to finally supplant “Look out behind you!” within the present decade.) Appropriately, the hapless heroes of “The Marked Ones” never put down the camera even as they venture into dark basements, or struggle to start a stalled car, or split up in the middle of a haunted mansion — and it’s to the credit of the film’s primary cast that these bits of genre-appropriate stupidity generate more laughs than groans.

Kicking off with a high-school graduation, “The Marked Ones” centers on likably lunkheaded teenage buddies Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) and Hector (Jorge Diaz), as well as Jesse’s tag-along relative Marisol (Gabrielle Walsh). Set in gritty Oxnard, Calif., the film boasts an almost entirely Latino cast of characters — a welcome gesture toward a huge filmgoing demographic that rarely gets to see itself onscreen — while smart casting and production design help capture the flavor of the environs with only moderate deployment of cultural stereotypes.

Seemingly possessing no greater postgrad ambitions than milling around and attempting “Jackass” stunts with their omnipresent video camera, Jesse and Hector harass Jesse’s abuela (Renee Victor), smoke pot, play basketball, occasionally run afoul of some local gangsters, draw penises on one another’s faces, and generally bust each other’s balls for a decent chunk of the film. Fortunately, Jacobs and Diaz boast an easy “Beavis and Butt-head”-esque chemistry throughout, making for pleasant company as the audience waits for the inevitable horrors to befall them.

The first complication comes from Jesse’s elderly downstairs neighbor, Anna (Gloria Sandoval), whose reclusive behavior is strange enough for Hector to postulate that “maybe the bitch is a bruja.” The two attempt to spy on her by lowering a camera down through a ventilation shaft, where they witness Anna scrawling arcane symbols on the belly of a nude younger woman. Being teenage boys, they’re far too intrigued by the boobs on display to fret over the obvious occult ritual taking place, but when Anna is subsequently murdered, they decide to attempt some amateur late-night sleuthing, with predictably unpleasant results.

While the film hardly plays it coy about where this is all heading, it doesn’t seem to be in a rush to get there, and it springs a number of smart ideas along the way. Replacing the typical Ouija board with a haunted Simon game is sure to provoke howls of laughter from those in the appropriate age bracket, and the idea that a victim of demonic possession would rush to YouTube to show off his gnarly new abilities — and be promptly torn to shreds by comment-section trolls — is sadly in keeping with the times.

The haunted-house setpieces provide reliable doses of jolts, even if one can see the scaffolding of each scare being built from miles away, and director Landon has fun with some clever camera placement here and there. A very meta twist ending promises to either open up new narrative possibilities, or else push the franchise deep into a self-referential rabbit hole, when “Paranormal Activity 5” arrives later in the year.

SIMILAR MOVIES REVIEWS

OTHER MOVIES REVIEWS

Ritual Review

Ritual

2013

A married couple with a complicated relationship, a corpse, and a room at a less than reputable motel. It’s a classic formula for a horror movie that’s no doubt familiar for many genre fans. It’s also the set-up for Mickey Keating’s 2013 film, Ritual. Ritual is the 14th original film distributed by After Dark Originals. It stars Dean Cates (Pod) and Lisa Summerscales as married couple, Tom and Lovely. Additional costars include Derek Phillips (Serum), Brian Lally, and Katherine Skelton. Ritual opens with a warning title card, promising plenty of violence to come. It... Read More

Dead Awake review

Dead Awake

2016

Whether you’ve personally experienced it or simply heard your share of other people’s horror stories over the years, it doesn’t get much scarier than sleep paralysis. Director Phillip Guzman (Sleep No More) makes this all too relatable real life phenomenon the center of his 2016 indie horror film Dead Awake. The film stars indie horror favorite Jocelin Donahue (House of the Devil, All the Creatures Were Stirring) in the lead, as well as Jesse Bradford (Cherry Falls), Brea Grant (Dead Night), Lori Petty (Bates Motel), and others in supporting roles. The... Read More

The Noonday Witch review

The Noonday Witch

2016

When you think of the most chilling horror tales of all time, there are a lot of staples that come immediately to mind when it comes to possible settings – like dank asylums, haunted houses, isolated forests, or just about anywhere that feels a little creepier and more sinister under cover of darkness. You don’t probably think of sun-drenched corn fields or bright summer days in the countryside, but The Noonday Witch may just change your mind about that. The Noonday Witch is a 2016 Czech language film brought to the screen by promising Czech director, Jiri Sadek. (In... Read More

Kairo (Pulse) review

Kairo (Pulse)

2001

It’s safe to say that we’ve created our share of iconic horror characters here in America. Horror icons like Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare on Elm Street), Michael Myers (Halloween), or Jason Vorhees (Friday the 13th) are so highly recognizable, that they’re pretty much synonymous with the mere concept of a horror movie. Even so, no country handles horror quite like Japan does. Japanese horror films have a much-deserved reputation for being exceptionally horrifying and thought-provoking at the same time. You won’t find as many homicidal maniacs gracing genre screens in... Read More

The Black Room Review

The Black Room

2016

When it comes to classic horror tropes – like haunted houses and the dark secrets they hide – there’s definitely more than one way to approach material that is very familiar to the average genre fan by now. More and more modern filmmakers are adopting a cerebral approach and turning their haunted house movies into social commentaries with something larger to say. Others are focused on simply telling a good scary story with plenty of jump scares and special effects. Still more go for an exploitive approach that is almost intentionally trashy. The Black Room could probably... Read More