The latest Paranormal Activity film nearly made me sick.
Now, I know what you’re saying. “Oh my God, Lisa — we all know the Paranormal Activity films aren’t great but was it really that bad!?”
No, actually it wasn’t that bad. In fact, by the standards of the found footage film genre, I would say it was about average. It had everything that you’d expect from a Paranormal Activity film. There were bumps in the darkness. There were amazingly stupid characters who continually said things like, “Are you filming?” and “Did you hear that?” Most importantly, there were the shout-outs to the previous films in the series. Old VHS tapes labeled “Katie and Kristi” are found in a closet. One character talked about having a dream where he was on a farm surrounded by old women. Katie and Micah showed up yet again.
(You have to wonder how Micah Sloat feels about having a film career that is pretty much based on being murdered by Katie Featherstone in film after film after film…)
Listen, it’s easy to criticize the Paranormal Activity films. God knows that I’ve certainly criticized them a lot. But the fact of the matter is that they give the audience exactly what the audience is expecting. After five of these films, we all know exactly what we’re going to get when we go see a movie with the words Paranormal Activity in the title. You know that you’re going to jump a few times, you’re going to wonder how the characters can always be so stupid, and, if you’re so inclined, you can have fun spotting the references to previous films. If you’re going into a Parnormal Activity film expecting to see something brilliantly original or good, you’re doing it wrong. These films are the equivalent of the silly, but still scary, ghost stories that are best told in the middle of a dark, stormy night by someone with a flashlight pointed at her face.
In other words, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is exactly what you would expect it to be.
So, why did it make me sick?
Like the other films in the series, The Marked Ones is told using “found footage.” However, whereas those previous films at least found an excuse to make use of a stationary camera, The Marked Ones is almost entirely hand-held. In other words, it’s shaky cam time and, for me at least, it was also nearly motion sickness time. Unfortunately, the hand-held work doesn’t really add any sort of immediacy to the film. Instead, it just makes you wonder why the character of Hector (Jorge Diaz) is still filming even while he’s running for his life. Sometimes, you just have to drop the damn camera. (Then again, it is a Paranormal Activity film…)
The Marked One is being sold as not a sequel but spin-off from the original Paranormal Activity films. As opposed to the other films, which all took place in the haunted homes of upper middle class white people, The Marked Ones takes place in a California housing complex where the majority of the residents are working class Latinos. The filmmakers are to be commended for both trying to open up the material with a new setting and for trying to give the film an authentic Latin flavor but ultimately, this is a Parnormal Activity film and it really doesn’t matter where you live or what your ethnicity is, the same old shit is going to keep happening to you.
Recent high school graduates Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) and Hector taunt an old witch who lives in the apartment downstairs. Shortly after Jesse awakes one morning to discover a strange bite on his arm, the witch is murdered and Jesse starts to act possessed. It’s up to Hector to try to figure out why his friend is acting so strange and to hopefully save him from the same witches who have popped up in every other Paran0rmal Activity film. Will Hector succeed or will he just keep filming?
Listen, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones isn’t really a very good film. It’s predictable, the characters act in ways that no normal person would act, and even the expected scares — while occasionally jump-worthy — are no where close to being as effective as they were in the previous films. But you already knew that because it’s a Parnormal Activity film. If you enjoyed the previous films in the series, you’ll probably find something to enjoy about The Marked Ones. And if you didn’t enjoy the previous films, you wouldn’t be watching The Marked Ones to begin with.