Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is the next in this long running franchise that started back in 2007 with a low/no budget production that starred largely unknown actors in a variation of the “found footage” genre. The first film, written and directed by Oren Peli was made for the staggering low price of $15k and, to-date, has grossed over $102 million. Peli bowed out after the first one, although he still gets credit in the writing area and as producer.
Out of the sequels, only Paranormal Activity 3 matched the first in the series, making over $102 million gross but the film’s production costs had skyrocketed to $5 million. While the franchise is still wildly successful, in terms of gross versus production costs, it has never reached the heights that the Peli original reached in terms of profit margin.
The film started with a young couple and then in Paranormal Activity 2 drifted to the young woman in the first film and her sister. Each film moves forward along the time line, until “4” where they go back to the girls childhood.
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, besides moving into the barrio “Holmes,” jumps forward to blend in with the time of Paranormal Activity, the first one. Confusing yes, but overall, the plot device is unobtrusive and only really becomes apparent in the final frames of the film.
This version of the Paranormal verse has Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) and Hector (Jorge Diaz) who are best friends, getting involved with the verse and even though they find videos “Old School, Holmes” one says, they do not watch them. The tapes are found in the apartment of the woman that the two friends have a fixation on. Their downstairs neighbor Ana (Gloria Sandoval) who is the local Bruja (witch) and the target of Jesse’s pranks and imagination.
After videoing the woman painting a symbol on a naked pregnant woman’s stomach, things begin to go weird for Jesse. He develops powers and disturbing symptoms. Another lad, Oscar (played by Carlos Pratts), murders Ana, and then dies himself. Jesse and Hector enlist the help of Marisal (Gabrielle Walsh) and they discover a world where babies are marked for possession in the womb.
The trio ask Oscar’s brother, Arturo (Richard Cabral) to help them to stop what is happening to Jesse. The group turn up at the same house featured in “4” and Hector ends up in the house from the first in the series where Katie is killing Micah. This all seems to bring the film back to its beginning.
However, there is now another film, due out October 15, 2015 titled, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension and it looks like the verse is not done with sisters Katie and Kirsti. This franchise has turned into a veritable cash cow for anyone who wishes to continue the story.
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (rather interesting for a title, presumably the producers thought that Paranormal Activity 5 was too obvious) could have closed the series off, even with its somewhat “open” ending. The sad truth is, the films do deliver well enough in the terms of scares and entertainment. Grossing enough profit for the filmmakers to justify their churning out more money making sequels till the public tire of them.
In this iteration of the verse, there are not many jump scare moments and the FX used in at least two of the scenes have been done elsewhere, V/H/S and Chronicle both used various versions of the flinging people about stunts seen here. While the film does boast a few original thoughts, the way it tells the story suffers from a sincere lack of creativity.
At one point, Jesse finds something in his eye, pulling the offending article out, it is revealed to be a long piece of black stuff. He then goes to pull the same item out of his other eye. As creepy and stomach churning as this scene is, it has been done before in countless J-Horror and Asian horror films.
Still, they must be doing something right as evidenced by the gross profits. Admittedly, the film does deliver, despite the lack of originality issues, and it is creepy and unnerving. Whether it is the combination of white noise and muffled roaring that precedes each event or just the camera angles and the storyline itself. The film works on one level or another.
For one thing, there are moments of humor, admittedly not many, but the scenes where Jesse discovers his “powers” prove to be quite funny. There are also moments that can best be described as uncomfortable, as when Jesse takes Hector and Marisa and gate crash a party. Although this too has at least one amusing moment.
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is streaming on US Netflix at the moment and this is, perhaps, the best medium for watching this latest in the franchise. It is definitely not one to have seen in the cinema but it does work exceedingly well at home…in the dark…alone.
3.5 out of 5 stars despite its lack of originality.