I’ll be the first to say that I unabashedly love the Paranormal Activity franchise. That was, until Paranormal Activity 4 came around in 2012 and unfortunately left a bad taste in my mouth. A rather redundant and underwhelming story made the fourth movie feel like a greatest hits reel from the films that preceded it.
So when I had a chance to check out Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, I went into it with my reservations firmly in check. As it turns out, writer/director Christopher Landon knocks it out of the park, cleverly finding different ways to deliver up the thrills and a few surprises to boot, all while masterfully deepening in the Paranormal Activity universe.
Hands down, The Marked Ones is absolutely relentless, creepy as hell and a ton of fun on the big screen- it totally surprised me and left me with my enthusiasm renewed. And frankly, I’ve never been happier to be proven wrong about a film as I am with the latest Paranormal sequel.
Billed as a spin-off, The Marked Ones follows a newly graduated high schooler named Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) and his pal Hector (Jorge Diaz) who spend most of their free time taping their teenage antics on Jesse’s new camera. During one of their pranks, we’re introduced to Jesse’s oddball neighbor Anna, who everyone in the building suspects to be a bruja, since they can hear mysterious chanting and moans coming from inside her place. One night, Anna is killed under mysterious circumstances, which of course causes Jesse and Hector to take a look around Anna’s now vacant apartment…
It’s really hard to talk about what works the best in The Marked Ones without getting into any kind of spoiler, but everything here works seamlessly within the Paranormal Activity universe and pretty much makes up for any misgivings fans may still have about its immediate predecessor. Often times in horror franchises, the higher the sequel number, the more it seems like filmmakers are left frantically trying to shoehorn in the original mythology into this new story. However, Landon definitely makes it look easy with The Marked Ones, confidently introducing some bold new ideas that are out of left field and yet somehow, totally work.
The Marked Ones has a bit of a “kitchen sink” mentality to it, which I dug as someone who grew up on a steady diet of those types of horror films from the 1980’s. While the earlier Paranormal Activity films went for a more subtle scare approach, Landon decides to really earn his R rating with plenty of gore, nudity, language and violence. This should definitely appease anyone out there who may have thought that the Paranormal Activity movies were just about trying to scare fans with parlor tricks.
There are definitely a bunch of effectively creepy subtle scares in The Marked Ones, but, for me, the movie is at its best when it embraces the roller coaster-esque nature of horror and just lets the shit really hit the fan in the third act. It’s been a while since I’ve really jumped during a movie, but The Marked Ones managed to get me a few times and much of that is to the credit of Landon, who shows he’s an up-and-coming filmmaker to keep an eye on by making what I think is the ballsiest Paranormal to date.
Paranormal Activity:The Marked Ones is definitely a return to form for the Paranormal Activity franchise and fan should undoubtedly be happy to see their beloved franchise get back on track. For its detractors, go in with an open mind and this sequel might end up surprising you as much as it did me. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Paranormal Activity 5 brings the same enthusiasm to the table in October 2014.
Film Score: 4/5