Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

Posted by Joel Copling on February 8, 2014

I bet that no one foresaw this even after the release of 2009's frightening "Paranormal Activity." Here we are, just over four years after that initial film's release, and a fourth film--this time, a self-proclaimed spin-off that might as well be the fifth installment in the series (though an "actual" fifth one is scheduled for next October)--has seen released. The doldrums of January would seem the furthest juncture from the target release that the makers of "Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones" would like to inhabit, but it winds up being rather prophetic: This is a forgettable expansion of the series, jerking us through half-baked human drama, tried-and-tired scare tactics, and an ending that would be ballsy if it wasn't so confused.

Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) has just graduated, an exciting prospect that keeps time with friend Hector's (Jorge Diaz) purchase of a video camera, with which the latter proceeds to tape roughly everything. This includes odd behavior from downstairs neighbor Anna (Gloria Sandoval), which turns out to be ritualistic in manner. After she is found murdered and Jesse notices a strange bite mark on his arm, Hector and mutual friend (Marisol) are at a loss about how to help their friend. Certainly the downstairs apartment in which Anna resided is a bevy of clues into these mysterious occurrences, but there may be a more direct source of help--someone who knows the signs already. And thus the film's strained but apparently necessary connection to "Paranormal Activity" and its 2010, 2011, and 2012 sequels materializes.

"Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones" is not particularly awful in any significant way. Sure, the found-footage aspect (this time more of the handheld shaky-cam variety than the stationary aspect of the first four films) feels like an affectation, but the jolts of fright work more often than most will care to admit (The use of a "Simon Says" is kind of awesome). The problem is that this film--spin-off or not--burdens itself too greatly by trying really hard to connect directly to the over-arching series' mythology--to the point of a finale that inserts itself directly into events of the first film--in ways that feel both unnecessarily convoluted and disappointingly familiar. Flourishes are nice (One tertiary character decides, to no avail, to , but the whole is something of a mess. It doesn't even match the "new"-ness of bringing the series into the webcam-and-XBox-tracking-dots arena as executed by the mediocre "Paranormal Activity 4."

Film Information

Andrew Jacobs (Jesse), Jorge Diaz (Hector), Gabrielle Walsh (Marisol), Gloria Sandoval (Anna), Richard Cabral (Arturo), Catherine Toribio (Penelope), David Saucedo (Cesar), Noemi Gonzalez (Evette), Carlos Pratts (Oscar Hernandez), Molly Ephraim (Ali), Katie Featherston ( Katie), Chloe Csengery (Young Katie), Jessica Tyler Brown (Kristi), Micah Sloat (Micah).

Directed and written by Christopher Landon.

Rated R (pervasive language, violence, graphic nudity, drug use).

84 minutes.

Released on January 3, 2014.