By: Mark Saldana
Rating: 2.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
I cannot honestly say that I am an ardent follower of this franchise, as I have only seen the very first film. The first Paranormal Activity kept me entertained well enough for me to not mind watching it again, but the novelty of “found video footage” does wear a bit thin toward the end of the film. In my opinion, the novelty has become somewhat annoying as a subgenre of horror. The shaky, handheld camera work often grates on me, especially if the story and characters are not compelling enough to distract me from the sloppy amateur cinematography.
As for this latest “installment” of the PA series, The Marked Ones does offer suspense and thrills, but also relies on the usual cliché jump scares and typical horror/religious imagery. It’s not all that novel or creative at this point, but in the film’s defense, the story does feature some likable and sympathetic characters/victims. The more redeeming qualities of the movie actually succeeded in keeping me engaged and not so focused on intentionally bad cinematography.
This particular episode of the series focuses on a small group of teen friends/neighbors who have recently graduated from high school. When a neighbor suspected of witchcraft is murdered by one of his classmates, Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) undergoes a gradual transformation. He begins displaying supernatural abilities, but then slowly becomes ill and his personality grows malevolent. His close friends Hector (Jorge Diaz) and Marisol (Gabrielle Walsh) begin investigating into a possible connection with the murder and other similar cases of possession resulting from witchcraft rituals.
Written and directed by Christopher Landon, The Marked Ones mostly works as a horror film, but just doesn’t offer anything new or fresh to the genre. Most of the usual tropes that come with possession films are there. Landon does effectively use the handheld camera as a suspense building device. His development of his characters does create empathy. The film, with its Hispanic cultural references and sprinkles of Spanish here and there, obviously has a target demographic in mind, but that shouldn’t deter others away. There are enough relatable traits in the characters and story material to appeal to all cultures. I was mostly pleased with the entire cast who perform credibly and effectively.
As for the loose ties to the rest of the franchise, I won’t spoil that for anyone. The ties may be loose, but it’s actually the most creative and imaginative part of the movie. Needless to say, this movie won’t appeal to everyone. Fans of horror, especially of the previous films, will probably find enjoyment in this spin-off. I know they will relish in how this one fits into the whole Paranormal Activity universe. Still, because of the movie’s less redeeming, not so imaginative elements, I’d recommend catching this as a matinee or rental.