Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (Blu-ray / DVD)
Directed by Christopher Landon
Distributed by Paramount
The fifth film in the Paranormal Activity series, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, introduces us to a new cast of characters headed up by Jesse Arista (Andrew Jacobs), his friends Hector Estrella (Jorge Diaz) and Marisol Vargas (Gabrielle Walsh) and his spiritually-minded grandmother Irma (Renee Victor). The new story takes several aspects from the previous Paranormal Activity movies, brings back some old friends and locations and introduces some new features as well.
What viewers will notice about The Marked Ones is that a lot happens. Previously the Paranormal movies have done a great job building tension, but not a lot goes on. A door closes on its own here, a chandelier sways there, but for the most part there aren't a ton of actual exciting events throughout the series. Yes, stuff does happen, but none of the films have been as eventful as The Marked Ones. The budget is listed as $5 million, which was the same for each Paranormal 2-4, but this one seems to have spent the money in a much more diligent fashion with a lot more action, cool F/X and some good shocks along the way.
That being said, the Paranormal Activity series has made an absolute fortune with jump scares, something that hardcore horror fans sometimes find a bit weak. The movie will suck you in, and just as you think things are safe, BAM! They hit you with something scary and a huge, loud BANG! that shocks you out of your seat. Does it frighten you? Yes. But jump scares aren't going to stick with you and keep you lying awake at night. They make you jump, and then they're forgotten about, thus the name. The Marked Ones is no different than the previous films in this regard; there are a ton of jump scares. But they do bring some true frights to the series in a way we haven't seen since Kristi's possession in the second film.
The Paranormal series is at its best when there is a possessed person that needs to be dealt with. Kristi was fantastic after being dragged down into the Rey family basement and returning with the demon inside her and 'MEUS' scratched into the door in Paranormal Activity 2. The Marked Ones brings us a similar situation, but we get a much deeper look at the possession and the effects it has on its victims. As all the other frightening stuff is going on, we get a great first-hand look at the possession eating away its host.
The cast is decent. Jacobs delivers as Jesse in all his evolutions, and Diaz provides some entertaining comedic moments as Hector. The most realistic character of all is Abuela Irma. Renee Victor plays a very natural part as the protective grandmother, trying to do all she can to keep the evil spirits away, and truly seems like a real person dropped into this cast. Fantastic job there.
And this may be blasphemous, but I must say that perhaps it's time for this series to drop the handheld camera technique. Honestly, the story has grown too big for this and has evolved to a point where the gimmick is no longer necessary. Tfound footage was a perfect idea for the original movie, which wouldn't have worked without it. The creators stuck with the idea throughout the next three movies, but each time it seemed the filming situations got more and more far-fetched. In The Marked Ones, Jesse and Hector are using a Go-Pro camera, but it just doesn't work anymore, not for a complete movie. The style is supposed to add realism to the picture, but it actually detracts from it when viewers are asking themselves, 'Why is he still filming?' and 'Wouldn't you be able to run for your life faster if you put the camera down and stopped rolling?' The handheld camera idea worked great, but to keep from becoming painfully repetitive, the Paranormal Activity series would do well to drop the idea and do the next movie in a more traditional style.
The Blu-ray contains two versions of the movie, the theatrical cut and the unrated edition. The unrated piece contains about 20 minutes of extra footage, but the bulk of it, which is mainly the "black mirror church scene," is mostly too dark, and it's hard to make much out in a lot of it. There are some additional scenes in Jesse's apartment which add to the scares, but there's not much that you didn't see in theaters. The only special features the disk provides are some deleted scenes, most of which are pretty tame, but there is one with a possessed character that certainly could have made the final cut and would have been one of the creepier parts of the entire film.
Overall, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones can be considered a success and may very well be the best entry in the series thus far. It doesn't have the grit and shock value of the original, but its high production quality, slick F/X and stealthy weaving of the old story in with this new one makes for a quality effort. Fans of the series will definitely enjoy seeing some old friends and should like the way this newest Paranormal advances the story.
Blu-ray Special Features
DVD Special Features
3 1/2 out of 5
1 1/2 out of 5