Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones Review

It would be far too easy to slate Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones. The fifth entry in the found-footage franchise, early reviews are saturated with snide rhetoric: “Why wouldn’t you turn off the spotlight on your camera when attempting to hide from a coven of bug-eyed witches?” Answer: climb down off your pedestal, join the rest of us mere mortals and stop being such a smart-arsed git. Look, we all know horror movie franchises aren’t likely to showcase glowing signs of human intellect. You ain’t going to get a cookie for pointing it out, Einstein. Sometimes there is absolutely nothing wrong with disengaging your brain and enjoying a film simply for shits and giggles.

More of a spin-off rather than a direct sequel, Marked Ones follows loveable goofballs Jessie (Andrew Jacobs) and Hector (Jorge Diaz) who stumble into a world of witchcraft and demonic forces when they break into the apartment of weirdo Anna, a neighbour who was murdered by a seemingly straight-laced classmate of theirs. The following morning sees Jessie displaying a bite mark of the non-kinky variety (i.e. demonic) and discovering he has a whole set of cool new abilities, which are not entirely unlike the kids from Chronicle. Watch as he channels his inner Thor, beating the seven shades of shit out of overgrown thugs within the blink of an eye!

You’d almost be forgiven for mistaking this as a superhero origin tale, but it isn’t long before Jessie’s powers take a darker turn and he’s seen torturing the family dog and generally being an odious little whelp to his superstitious gran (who almost threatens to steal the show with an egg-based exorcism). Amid Jackass-style tricks and frat boy humour, it’s up to Hector to save the day. Cue the climax, which is essentially witches and the demonically possessed verses a couple of gun-totting badasses. Naturally, the perpetually confused Hector is armed only with good intentions and a camcorder. Add a befuddling element of time travel to the mix (yes, really) and you’ve got an entry very much embedded in the realm of fantasy-horror. 

While Oren Peli’s original Paranormal Activity had audiences gripped by lengthy static camera shots, building something as humdrum as a light flicker into a pant-wetting event, Christopher Landon sees the Marked Ones go for more obvious scares and achieves mixed results. Sometimes less is more, you know?

Switching the setting from white suburbia to the gritty streets of a Latino community, Marked Ones could have very well worked as a stand-alone film. However, frequent nods to earlier instalments—which may appeal to long-term fans but leave first-timers experiencing a disorientation that’s got bugger all to do with the shaky camerawork—cuts this idea short. By no means the best of the series, it’s a vast improvement on part four. But new viewers beware: the only way you’re going to get sense of that ending is to watch the series from scratch.   



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