Movie Review ~ Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

paranormal_activity_the_marked_ones
The Facts
:

Synopsis: After being “marked,” Jesse begins to be pursued by mysterious forces while his family and friends try to save him.

Stars: Andrew Jacobs, Jorge Diaz, Gabrielle Walsh, Renee Victor, Noemi Gonzalez, Richard Cabral, Carlos Pratts, Eddie J. Fernandez, David Fernandez Jr., Kimberly Ables Jindra, Tonja Kahlens, Frank Salinas, Molly Ephraim

Director: Christopher Landon

Rated: R

Running Length: 84 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (6.5/10)

Review: By the time you get to the fifth entry in any series a routine fatigue sets in.  One need only look at Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, Saw V, or the fifth James Bond film You Only Live Twice to see that if the keeper of the keys to an established franchise isn’t on top of things, you’ll be lucky if you’ll see the green light of #6.

Though it didn’t quite make the 2013 cutoff to keep up with the established release schedule of one per year like the previous three Paranormal Activity installments, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones earns an ever-so-slight passing grade due to it being an improvement over Paranormal Activity 4 and for confidently taking the series into new territory.

Never fear, however, because the series formula remains intact with a bunch of unknown actors going up against dark forces – all captured on handheld cameras that seem to always be looking at the right  place at the right time.  The previous movies have mostly been shot with stationary cameras that pick up the ghostly hauntings of various California families that all seem to be part of a larger story of evil demons, crafty cults, and sneaky witches.

The first three Paranormal Activity films did a nice job of weaving their overlapping characters together and moving the mythology forward in admirable ways and if 4 didn’t do much in the way of advancement of character or overall plot it still had its moments.  So hearing that the series was shifting things out of the suburban valley and into an urban community in Oxnard, CA where the cameras would move with the actors I was curious to see what writer/director Christopher Landon (who wrote the last three entries) had up his sleeve.

Turns out that what Landon had prepped was a needed shot in the arm for the series, providing several interesting turns that shows there could be several chapters left in this formulaic novel.  Found footage movies can be rough to watch but Landon and cinematographer Gonzalo Amat (The Devil Inside) keep the action framed well without a lot of shaky shots and skewed angles that can cross your eyes and turn your stomach.

The problem I consistently have with movies shot in this way (like Chronicle) is that you have to suspend more than a little disbelief that during some of the more terrifying moments the person filming wouldn’t have dropped their camcorder and ran for the hills.  After all, if you’re trying to escape a coven of witches, wouldn’t you want both hands free to claw your way out of a boarded up room?

Another aspect of the film I took issue with was an increased level of violence, profanity and nudity, something noticeably absent from the franchise until now.  With one shot of full female nudity, more blood than before, and a colorful vocabulary from our better than average newcomer leads, the series feels like it gave in to peer pressure in trying to stay current.  What made these films so refreshing initially was the feeling the filmmakers were charting their own course with each new entry and not running alongside what their contemporaries were doing.

The film doesn’t skimp on frights and happily doesn’t save them all for the traditional final freaky act.  Landon makes nice use of a modern oujia board in the form of a popular 80’s game and ratchets up the tension as the movie moves toward its twist of a climax that winds up being not so much a game changer but one that hits the soft reset button for future entries.

Neither a home run nor a strike out, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones comfortably rides that mediocre fence with one foot firmly planted on the what-the-hell-I-liked-it side.  If you’re a fan of these types of fright films or the series as a whole you’ll want to check this one out to get your first scares of 2014 taken care of.

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