Director: Christopher Landon
Cast: Andrew Jacobs, Jorge Diaz, Richard Cabral, Carlos Pratts, Gabrielle Walsh.
Screenplay: Christopher Landon
84 mins. Rated R for pervasive language, some violence, graphic nudity and some drug use.
Who would have guessed we would be here right now, seven years after the original Paranormal Activity film was released, reviewing the fifth (fourth-and-a-halfth? There will be a PA5 this Halloween) film in the brooding series which brought found-footage into popular usage? Certainly not this critic. I was not on the Paranormal Activity bandwagon until the first sequel showed up. I appreciated the original film for what it was: a note to independent filmmakers with no budget, saying “its okay. You can still become a success.” And boy, have the knock-offs come flying by.
The one crutch of the series that I can truly have trouble with is that it has its gimmick. It has inexpense (we are currently feeding rumors of a new Friday the 13th film in Found-Footage, I suspect, for the same reason; see https://almightygoatman.wordpress.com/2014/01/12/new-friday-the-13th-to-be-a-reboot-again-and-a-found-footage-film/). It has only one major camera angle that is used in likely 80% of the film. This isn’t the series for marathoning, I tried once but got tired of staring into bedrooms like a creeper. That’s where the new film, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, is different (but only slightly).
For measure, so that I don’t get bogged down with the intricacies on the plot (and I have some), I will give a rough breakdown of the Paranormal Activity films. WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.
The canonical films in the series are as follows:
- Paranormal Activity
- Paranormal Activity 2
- Paranormal Activity 3
- Paranormal Activity 4
- Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones
- Paranormal Activity 5 (I have very few details on this film as of now. I just want you to know it will be here in 9 months…)
We won’t include the non-canonical film Paranormal Activity 2: Tokyo Night.
The first part of the story is featured in Paranormal Activity 3, we see the sisters Katie and Kristi in 1988 being haunted and tormented by a coven of witches and a demon named Toby. The 3rd film is on a VHS tape that is stolen in the prologue of the film. Jump forward to 2006 for the events of Paranormal Activity 2 and the 1 and then back to 2. These films deal with adult Kristi being haunted before having her sister receive the curse through some crazy ritual. Katie becomes possessed, kills her boyfriend Micah, and then goes to her sister’s house and kills Kristi and her husband before stealing their baby Hunter and disappearing for 5 years. The fourth film introdueces us to Alex and her family, who come across Katie and a young child who have moved inacross the street. Lots a scary stuff takes place and the film ends very confusingly with Alex being attacked by the witch’s coven.
Now, at this point, I was pretty turned off by the series. Paranormal Activity 4 hit a series low for me. I wasn’t sure I would be so turned back.
The Marked Ones is a sequel, more so than most horror franchises and no matter how many call it a spin-off. This film does more to connect the franchise and take a step forward than any other installment. The story follows a young man, Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) who discovers that he is a part of a dangerous ritual that will conclude with his eventual possession. We can already see the fabric stitching his story and Katie’s together. The tale revolves heavily around Jesse and his friend Hector (Jorge Diaz) trying to understand what is possessing him. Sounds very simplistic, but Writer/Director Christopher Landon (writer of Paranormal Activity 2, 3, & 4) has some more invention up his sleeve that creates a more unique entry to the series. There is just something fresh about this film and the way it deals with the world created in Oren Peli’s original film. There are moments in this film that pay homage to each of the films before it and also connects them all to eleviate confusion. I feel like Landon listened to all of us and knew exactly what this franchise needs: answers. We have have four films of mostly questions, and now we have some answers. The ending is both shockingly out of left field and angering as well. I hope to see more info on how the ending will serve the series in the next film, but for now, we have watercooler talk to serve us.
Andrew Jacobs does well as Jesse, he has the capability to carry the film nicely enough. Nothing special yet, but capable. The same can be said of the other performances in the film, all good enough to sustain realism in this unrealistic tale, but certainly no Best Actor noms to worry about for next year’s Oscars.
The big change in this film is the definite break in structure that Landon chose to make. He eliminates the still in preference of the static. No more stationary camera work. Oscar carries this camera through the film. Now I know this isn’t all that magical. We have films like Quarantine and Blair Witch that have done this before, but all the same, it adds flavor to Landon’s stylistic shots. There are interesting suprising visual shots made without this feeling like a purposefully shot film.
The editing choices in this film were made correctly as well, especially around some of the more “out there” elements, a choice was made to heighten the editing and not play up the visual effects, not to play up the fantastical too much to avoid campiness, which I can appreciate. I too appreciate that the film’s costumes and sets are culturally significant without feeling way overdone or stereotyping.
If this new entry is any indication, we haven’t seen the last of the Paranormal Activity franchise after 5 is released this October. The series feels renewed, so I can only hope they keep it up.
-Kyle A. Goethe