Published on June 14th, 2014 | by Sean Warhurst
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones DVD Review
Summary: Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is an enjoyable enough film, with some new information on the coven of witches behind events that should appease ardent fans of the series and enough thrills and chills to entertain everybody else.
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones
Running Time: 81 Minutes
Rating: MA 15+
Reviewer: Sean Warhurst
I’ll be completely honest: The Paranormal Activity franchise has never really appealed to me. The first film was interesting enough, mainly due to how it managed to revitalise the found footage horror genre and generate effective scares on a shoestring budget, but overall it was much too tame and uneventful for my tastes.
As the increasingly convoluted mythology of the series was expanded upon with each successive sequel, the series suffered from diminishing returns, arguably due to taking the story in a ridiculous direction with the addition of witches and familial curses rather than sticking with the relatively straightforward demonic possession story of the first instalment. Yet, the producers kept greenlighting sequels due to the massively lucrative box office the films generated compared to the costs of producing them; eventually, though, things came to a head with Paranormal Activity 4, which was poorly received by both critics and audiences alike and forced the studio to re-evaluate its yearly release schedule.
So, this time around, after giving the franchise a year off, we have an entry into the series that isn’t predominately focused on the storyline of Katie and Kristi, with Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones instead presenting itself as more of a “cousin” to the main franchise, a standalone entry that shares connective tissue with some elements of the main series but endeavours to tell a story that’s resolutely its own beast.
The Marked Ones follows Jesse (Andrew Jacobs), freshly graduated from High School and with a lot of spare time on his hands. Using a camera to document his slacker activities with best friend Hector (Jorge Diaz), the pair ride down stairs in washing baskets and generally goof off; their downstairs neighbour Ana is an oddly behaving recluse, with whispers around the neighbourhood of rumours that she is a Bruja, a witch who dabbles in the black arts.
One night Hector and Jesse hear some bizarre sounds coming from Ana’s downstairs apartment, so the rig up a camera to lower down an air vent that connects the two apartments in order to spy on their enigmatic neighbour, capturing what appears to be some arcane ritual involving a naked Ana drawing ritualistic symbols on another young woman.
Suitably weirded out by what they saw, the duo later inadvertently stumble across Oscar (Carlos Pratts), a fellow student who graduated at the top of the class, running away from Ana’s apartment. It soon transpires that Ana has been murdered by Oscar and Jesse and Hector break into the dead woman’s apartment to look for clues, discovering only more symbols of the occult and a book laden with secrets about the art of black magic, including the opening of dimensional doorways through time.
Pretty soon some strange happenings start to plague Jesse’s daily life, with a curious bite mark appearing upon his arm and the development of some interesting abilities that he soon takes advantage of in some pretty amusing scenes. He and Hector have fun with these bizarre talents at first, but after an incident where an attempted mugging goes terribly wrong Jesse starts to question the intentions behind whatever is affording him these unique abilities.
Enlisting the assistance of their friend Marisol (Gabrielle Walsh), the trio soon uncover a deadly secret that links back to not only Jesse’s mother but the mothers of thousands of others like him – The Marked ones.
Surprisingly, I found myself enjoying The Marked Ones more than I have any of the previous entries, with the possible exception of the first film. It adds to the established continuity and ties together some lingering plot strands form earlier instalments without getting bogged down in the over-arcing mythology of the franchise, with the Latino setting breathing new life into the franchise.
The characters are much better written than in earlier efforts, in that you actually start to feel a connection to them as they goofily prank each other and escape brushes with the local street toughs, so that when the film ramps up the supernatural activity you actually care about what happens to the likeable cast.
The scares are generally your stock standard jump scares, but there are some refreshingly unique efforts to be found throughout the film, and the climactic scenes feature probably more violence than the entire series combined; there’s also a fascinating tie-in with the first film that, whilst clearly done as fan service, is an exhilarating change of pace that also offers a different perspective on the events that closed out Katie and Micah’s story.
Of course, it’s not all smooth sailing, with the increasingly stagnant tropes of the found footage genre on full display here and the film often resorts to the same tired old tricks in order to startle the viewer with a sharp sound or briefly glimpsed shadowy figure.
However, in terms of sheer enjoyment, I personally got more out of this film than a majority of the other increasingly tiresome iterations and quite enjoyed the camaraderie of the leads as they tentatively explored Jesse’s new abilities in scenes reminiscent of Chronicle before everything quickly spirals out of control; the special effects are also quite well done in The Marked Ones, complementing the gritty realism of the handheld footage with their seamless insertion into the film, with no blatantly CGI moments that pull you out of the story.
The audio and video transfers are serviceable enough, although with the quality of found footage films the image and sound are always going to be a little shaky in order to capture that DIY aesthetic; nonetheless, this is a solid transfer that effectively captures the grainy delights of this handheld horror.
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones only has one special feature included upon the disc, a small array of deleted scenes totalling around ten minutes that don’t really shed any light on some unanswered questions viewers may have about the plot, instead merely adding texture to what came before it; it would have been nice to have the extended cut included upon this release, but that’s understandably being reserved solely for the Blu-ray release, as is the common practice these days.
List of Features:
– Grandma’s Rant (In Spanish) (1:21)
– Cleaning Out Ana’s Apartment (0:25)
– Jesse on Ledge of Church After Party (1:11)
– Chavo Growling at the Closet (0:40)
– Possessed SIMON (1:00)
– MEUS in Jesse’s Room (2:05)
– Religious Shop/ Irma Cleanses Jesse and Apartment (4:04)
Although Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones follows the same formula of the other films for the most part, it has enough tricks up its sleeve to warrant a viewing for fans and casual observers alike. The fresh new setting of the highly superstitious Hispanic community offers a different perspective to the key components of the story and this entry has more of a sense of humour than the generally po-faced efforts of the main franchise.
The films still suffers from some of the issues that plague many found footage films, such as predictability and the lingering question as to why exactly the characters decided to start filming themselves conveniently just before something majorly supernatural occurs in their lives, but for the most part Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is an enjoyable enough film, with some new information on the coven of witches behind events that should appease ardent fans of the series and enough thrills and chills to entertain everybody else.