Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (2014)
Directed by Christopher Landon
The Paranormal Activity franchise has been known to defy the odds. The first film exploded upon release, and it was not really meant to have a sequel. Still, the sequel came, and it was surprisingly good. Then Paranormal Activity 3 arrived and completely knocked it out of the park. The mythos expanded. The action amped up. The plot was on a really good track. But then Paranormal Activity 4 happened, and it neglected just about everything that made the first three films work in favor of a few cool ideas that never really came together and - even worse - did nothing to advance the story. Had the franchise that launched 1,000 nightmares run out of steam? It certainly seemed that way, and the announcement of a "Latino-themed spin-off" didn't exactly bode well either. The odd thing? That announcement never should have been made the way that it was presented.
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is no spin-off. It's not a side story that ignores the previous films to go in its own direction. Not at all. This is 110% canon. It fits with the series perfectly and in my opinion could have easily been called Paranormal Activity 5 and no one would have complained. Hell, this should have been the Paranormal Activity 4 that we never got. If you're thinking you should skip this one and just wait for 5, think again as Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones reaches an elevated height within the franchise by breaking some new ground... and then burying you alive and screaming in it.
As for this so-called "Latino-themed" business, calling it that is a true disservice. Sure, the actors in it are mainly Latino, but so what? At no time will you feel like the powers-that-be are pandering to a particular audience. Nothing feels forced, and our leads exhibit the best chemistry the series has seen since Katie and Micah. They do things and behave the way that normal people would. This adds a feeling of authenticity to the proceedings that was sorely missing from the last flick. Yes, they're always inexplicably filming, but being the fifth film in the franchise, that's to be expected. Thankfully, the ridiculously unneeded and highly cliché "WE MUST DOCUMENT EVERYTHING; NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS, KEEP FILMING" moment never comes. In fact, the participants rarely address the camera at all, and that works in the film's favor. It is easy to ignore the shortcomings of the 400-pound gorilla in the room when you're having fun with it, and believe me, you will have fun. This is one hell of a ride, folks.
One of the main complaints from the naysayers of these films is that nothing ever happens until the end. In fact, that's a common complaint about most found footage movies. Director Christopher Landon is well aware of this, and as a result he delivers the biggest, baddest, and boldest Paranormal Activity yet. We're talking gloves-off, knock-out terror that delivers the nightmares by the dozens. This is a found footage film for people who don't like found footage films.
The frenetic pacing of the movie doesn't always serve it well, though, as the only thing I can really say is "wrong" with the film is it was kind of hard to tell how all of the characters fit together in their relationships. Were they two brothers? Were they just friends who lived together? Did they live together at all? Is that someone's sister? Wait, are there two sisters? Are those two people cousins? Yes, the answers are there, but I'm willing to bet that you will get a little confused the first time around. That's just a minor quibble, however, because the one thing I can tell you about all of the characters for sure is that you'll be invested in them. Some of them you will even love, and when they meet with peril - and you know that they will - you'll actually care. Nowadays that's no easy feat, especially for a fifth entry into the franchise that continually introduces new characters.
When the trailer premiered, lots of folks were complaining about how one of the leads was exhibiting what looked like super-powers a la Chronicle. Not to worry; in the context of the film these moments fit perfectly together and pay off in a really big way. As for the trailer itself, in typical Paranormal Activity form, no matter what you think you saw, I can assure you they saved all of the good stuff for the movie itself.
I'm not going into the plot because part of its charm is the way everything fits together. You want to know what it's about and how all of the pieces of the prior films are worked in? Take your butts to the movies. Questions are answered, storylines are advanced, and there's still room for mysteries yet to be revealed.
This is the Paranormal Activity movie you have been waiting for. It makes up for the lame fourth entry in every conceivable way. It's nothing short of an absolute gift to the passionate fans of this storied franchise. The Marked Ones proves without a shadow of a doubt that Paranormal Activity is back in top form... with a wicked and evil vengeance.
4 out of 5