There are two types of people in this world: those who hate the Paranormal Activity franchise, and those who like it. (Does anyone really love it?) I myself fall into the latter category and have overall enjoyed the series (though I have yet to see part 4). Still, when I first saw the trailers for the latest installment titled Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, I viewed it with much trepidation, thinking it was just another one of those spinoffs that have little or nothing to do with the main story and simply trying to cash in on the name, ala all those American Pie Presents movies.
I am happy to admit I was wrong.
Keeping with the general conceit of these movies, PA:TMO (hell, let’s just call it PA 4.5 since the DIRECT sequel PA5 comes out this October) is shot in typical found footage style. Jesse and Hector are a couple of recent high school graduates, living in a predominantly Latino apartment complex in suburban LA. Jesse has a new video camera and the first part of the film is mostly scenes of them fooling around, Jackass style, setting off firecrackers and attempting to spy on their creepy neighbor.
It’s when said creepy neighbor shows up dead and Jesse and Hector sneak into the apartment to investigate where the story truly starts to unfold. We quickly learn that something has taken a shine to Jesse, as evidenced in his interactions with an old “Simon” game-turned-Ouija board. At first Jesse enjoys his newfound and inexplicable abilities. For instance, when he falls backwards, he’s held up by a mysterious force and when he jumps while riding a skateboard, he flies into the air. Yes, these scenes are reminiscent of the 2012 movie Chronicle, but bear with it, we’re just getting started.
Whereas the first four films dealt with hauntings or characters being terrorized by an unseen force, PA 4.5 goes a slightly different route with Jesse becoming a victim of possession. But this is still a Paranormal Activity movie and while it does bring some new cards to the table, it also nicely ties in to the others. Look for Molly Ephraim from PA2 in a scene where she attempts to explain to Hector what’s happening to his friend. It also enriches the mythology of the franchise, shedding (some) light on the events that happened in previous installments and what might be still to come.
There’s some nice jump scares scattered throughout, more than a few predictable moments and even a couple of times where you want to yell at the screen “why are you still filming?? Put the damn camera down and run you idiot!” though in retrospect if the character(s) DID put down the camera, there wouldn’t be much of a movie, so one can suspend their disbelief for this very notion.
The last 20 minutes or so features probably one of the most intense and frightening sequences this series has presented since the original. I’m not going to spoil the very end for you, but if you’ve paid attention during the first part of the movie, particularly when the kids find the neighbor’s altar, you’ll understand how Hector came to be in the same place as Katie and Micah.
Paranormal Activity: the Marked Ones is the fifth entry in a series of films that was never meant to go past one. Instead of presenting us with the same old, same old, it provides us with some answers, some new questions, and best of all, breathes new life into a series thought to be growing a little long in the tooth. Not sure how much longer they can milk this series, but I for one am looking forward to Paranormal Activity 5. And who knows? I might even end up loving it.
3.5 out of 5 stars.