Sunday, January 12, 2014

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones Review

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones Review
If you were to tell me ten years ago that in 2009 we get a movie that would start a horror franchise that would continually build a entertaining mythology, I probably would have laughed at you. Think back on all of the successful horror franchises in film history, and then tell me how many of those franchises were consistent in their delivery. The only good Jason Voorhees movie was the first one, and that barely featured the character at all. The first "Halloween" in 1978 was also the best and every sequel afterward seemed to diminish what made that first film so good. "Saw" was a great, out-of-left-field horror film, which featured several sequels that essentially did the same thing every movie. Freddy Kruger went from horrifying figure to comedic joke over the course of his franchise. "Child's Play," "Hellraiser," "Texas Chainsaw Massacre"...these franchises are hot out of the gate and then the rains are pulled back so far that they are unrecognizable. The "Paranormal Activity" franchise remains consistent in its ability to generate scares out of the same routine, as well as creating an ever-widening story across various characters. 

"Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones" may seem like a publicity stunt, a quick cash grab with a brand that is easily selling. However, you would be fooled to think that. Yes, the movie takes place in Central LA, yes the story revolves around a group of teenage Hispanic-Americans, but the story is definitely in the vein of "Paranormal Activity." The story revolves around Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) and Hector (Jorge Diaz) two best friends who recently graduated from high school. Jesse notices a bite on his arm, and soon after begins showing bizarre behavior. A lot of the first half of the film feels like a South American version of "Chronicle," but once the tension starts kicking in within the second half of the film, it gets disturbing and scary. I particularly liked that this entry involved a sub-culture within our country that is unique. As more immigrants become U.S. citizens, lots of them bring their homeland culture with them and this film highlights that. Hispanic-Americans are usually the first ones to die in horror films, so to base an entire movie around an all Hispanic-American cast was great and worked for the film overall.

The movie also does a particularly good job of creating something that has its own voice while also connecting itself to rest of the franchise. When I first heard of a "Paranormal Activity" spin-off, I definitely hesitated and I thought the franchise was cashing out. That's simply not the case, the film creates some magnificent dread that encompasses its audience well. The film also lays out more clues to the overall mystery of the franchise, and there are some ambitious, strong choices made in this entry. Yes, the movie takes some supernatural turns, this is easily the most supernatural of all the "Paranormal Activity" films thus far. However, the magical side of the story is handled so matter-of-fact, that it really creeped me out. The last ten minutes of the film makes a decision so bold that my jaw literally dropped. The movie forced the franchise to make a crazy, left turn that I almost wanted to applaud. I am left wondering though where the franchise will go from here, and its an exciting thought.

I do have one big gripe though, and its that despite being very scary, "Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones," doesn't feel like a PA movie. The first four films worked in a very similar manner. They spread the movie between nights, the film cataloged the nights, the blue setting of the recording video camera became a staple in the franchise. This entry doesn't have any of that, it feels like just another found footage movie. I wonder how many die-hard fans of this series will think of the reversal. It kind of bothered me, but not by much. The only major complaint I feel fans will make is that this film isn't set up like the other ones, which makes it hard to call it a Paranormal Activity film.

The decisions made in this are ambitious, but I am wondering how this franchise will continue. Especially since it has been announced by director Christopher Landon that an endgame for the franchise is being planned. I like that they want to end this franchise on their terms, I like that they are not going to make movie after movie until people get bored. However, each film in this franchise is questions without answers, and "Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones" is no different. We enter some crazy territory in this movie and I am curious to see if Landon can make a satisfying conclusion with everything that has been set up so far. Can this franchise stick the landing? I certainly hope so, I can't wait to see what's next.

FINAL GRADE: B

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