We’re five movies into the Paranormal Activity franchise. Let’s face it, fatigue is setting in and Paramount and the franchise’s creators are running out of ideas and direction for this once-popular, but now-fading horror series. Introduce director Christopher Landon and Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones; the series’ first spinoff sequel not to land into theaters in October and also the first film since the original Paranormal Activity to actively shake up the dying series in a way that feels somewhat fresh and original again.
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones isn’t quite the groundbreaking and terrifying movie that the original film was back in 2007, but it does enough things differently to place itself high up above the rest of the sequels. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is the best PA film since the original and while that’s not saying a lot, that’s still saying something.
The film follows Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) and his friend Hector (Jorge Diaz) as they uncover some sort of demonic “happenings” on their apartment block. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is not a direct sequel to any of the previous PA films and it instead acts as its own entry in a franchise that’s been barely skimming by on its jump scares and shaky cameras.
The Marked Ones quickly sets itself apart from the last few entries in the PA series by introducing us to fresh characters in a fresh setting. Sure, the demonic/ghost stuff is still present, but it’s not instantly thrown in our face via sped up timestamps, like all of the other PA films. This one doesn’t follow the formula of slow build up over security cams or home video recorders placed at the bedside or on weird circulating fans.
This one simply follows around a young boy as he and his buddies act their age and eventually encounter some weird demonic stuff happening right below them. The camera isn’t cleverly propped up and is instead just a tool to unravel a story that’s actually kind of exciting when compared to the last entry of the series.
The Marked Ones isn’t insanely fresh or highly original, but it does get points for being different and fresh enough to warrant a release. Director Christopher Landon brings lots of ideas to the table for this one, to maximize the scares and to ensure continuation of the franchise without dipping too deeply into previously visited waters. The Marked Ones does a splendid job of scaring and spooking in various ways.
Sure, there’s the typical jump scares that are obvious and bland, plus the usual demonic stuff that we’ve grown accustom to, but there’s also a neat little story packaged underneath all of that and the story is thought out in a way that makes it interesting on its own and even better when compared to previous films.
This isn’t an easy task, especially for a horror film and a horror film that’s a part of a franchise that is now on five (count ’em!) films. Paramount obviously had no idea how much money these films were going to make them, which makes it refreshing knowing that they still kind of care about the series, especially after the disastrous PA 3 and 4, which are just awful films.
The Marked Ones is better, much better. It’s still a Paranormal Activity film at the end of the day, which means it cuts some corners and focuses more on the quick and cheap scares and not so much the long and drawn out ones, but it still scares on occasion. Most importantly, it never feels like a top-to-bottom cash grab. It feels like director/writer Christopher Landon had a story to tell and that means a heck of a lot when compared to PA 3 and 4, which spent so much time repeating the same franchise gags over and over.
I’m glad Paramount decided to take a breather and allow Landon to do his own thing for a minute. I’m not sure if Paranormal Activity 5 (or will it be 6) is still on the way in October or not, but from here they’ve definitely cut out a path that could lead down some interesting roads, if given the same amount of care that The Marked Ones was given.
Mainstream horror is hard to come by in America. Good mainstream horror is even harder, which makes Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones something of a miracle, even if it isn’t a masterpiece. It breathes fresh air into a dying franchise and makes the scares somewhat consistent and exciting again. That’s more than anyone can ask for when it comes to this series.
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones – 7/10