Director: Christopher Landon
Cast: Andrew Jacobs, Jorge Diaz, Renee Victor, Carlos Pratts
Release Date: January 3rd, 2014
Similar to the high school graduation ceremony that the film opens with, this site Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones feels like the beginning of a new chapter in the series’ life. Instead of focusing on the main character from the original or her family like its predecessors did, ed this feature opens with a new group of individuals who—when the film starts— are alien to the demons from the earlier pictures.
This film begins with a valedictory speech by Oscar (Carlos Pratts), order a straight-laced student. Jessie (Andrew Jacobs), who alongside his best friend Hector (Jorge Diaz), listens to the speech inattentively while fiddling with a new video camera. Later on, the graduating duo spend their time engaging in silly stunts and goofing off– capturing every moment of it on film.
Their mischief leads to real trouble though when they witness Oscar hastily running out of the apartment of Anna (Gloria Sandoval), Jessie’s downstairs neighbor. When Anna is later found dead, Jessie and Hector visit her apartment and shortly thereafter, strange occurrences take place and Jessie begins to slowly change with his worrisome grandmother (Renee Victor) suspecting that demons may be involved.
Despite its short 84-minute run time, the feature drags on in its first act, as it superficially introduces the characters and shows the two main characters wasting their time. And the audience’s. There are the inevitable “Jackass-”style scene that show the duo engaging in stupid stunts for the sake of capturing them on film. If only these scenes would have presented the characters more thoughtfully, it would have made the latter half of the picture that much more fulfilling.
As the film progresses, Jessie no longer behaves like himself and his friends find themselves in distress. During the scenes of Jessie’s possession, the tension is raised and this film— as a few of its predecessors did—builds up a level of real suspense that is often neglected in the horror genre. Sure, there are some jump scares here but when Jessie becomes uncontrollable, his freaky behavior ups the ante. When for instance, Jessie questions Oscar’s videotaping everything, the sentiments are authentically cruel even though the man who spouts them is clearly possessed.
This feature also offers a few standalone moments that make this particular story stand out. Some of them feature Jessie who– early on– enjoys his newfound abilities. In scenes reminiscent of the underrated 2012 hit Chronicle, the young teen takes advantage of the spirits surrounding him. When, for instance, he falls backwards, he’s held up by a mysterious force and when he jumps while riding a skateboard, he flies into the air. Additionally, scenes featuring a game that seemingly responds to Jessie’s voice and the surprising conclusion really show the potential that this series has.
Despite its characters lacking depth, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones stands out because it makes a clear break from its predecessors and seemingly starts a new story. There are some cool throwbacks to the original films here but this one uses previously-seen visuals to enhance this story and not to drag it down. It’s not a great film by any means but it’s a fresh start, enlivening the concept that made this series stand out in the first place.
Review by: John Hanlon