Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) has just graduated from high school in Oxnard, California.  He and his best friend Hector (Jorge Diaz) are looking forward to a carefree summer.  At the building where Jesse lives, an odd woman named Anna (Gloria Sandoval) lives in the apartment directly below Jesse’s family.  Jesse frequently hears odd noises coming from Anna’s and she keeps her windows covered in newspaper.  One night, Anna is murdered.  After the police have finished processing the crime scene, Jesse and Hector break into her apartment to look around and film what they find with a camera belonging to Jesse’s father Cesar (David Saucedo).  Inside they find scattered books and random items.  They also find a journal that seems to be filled with occult writings and pages about witchcraft and devil worship ripped from old books.  The boys take the journal with them.  The next day, Jesse wakes up with what appears to be a bite mark on his arm but has no recollection of how it got there.  Soon, Jesse begins to notice odd events occurring around him.  He can fall backwards but never hit the ground as if something is catching him.  An old electronic toy appears to be answering yes or no questions.  Jesse appears to have acquired superhuman strength as he easily throws two neighborhood gang members 20 feet or more as they began beating up on him.  He also has developed a level of confidence and swagger he never had before.  The valedictorian of Jesse’s class, Oscar (Carlos Pratts), has been seen in and around Anna’s apartment before she died.  Jesse runs into Oscar and notices he looks very different.  His eyes are solid black and he appears to have bugs running around under his skin.  Oscar tells Jesse he is becoming something evil and he should kill himself before he hurts someone he loves.  A few minutes later, Oscar commits suicide by jumping off a building.  Jesse is afraid of what is happening to him but he also kind of likes it.  Hector and Jesse’s sister Marisol (Gabrielle Walsh) begin investigating what’s happening and if there’s any way they can save him.
I’ve been a big fan of the “Paranormal Activity” films and enjoyed the first three a great deal.  I didn’t see the fourth film but will check to see if it’s streaming on any of the online services.  I understand from those who have seen it, it is the weakest of the franchise.  I’ll reserve judgment until I see it myself but, of the four films I’ve seen, “Paranormal Activity:  The Marked Ones” is the palest imitation of the original.
Perhaps my feelings about the movie are somewhat clouded by the enormous bits of stupidity exhibited by the characters as they encounter various supernatural events.  Something that was especially annoying in this film was also on display in the third one:  Namely, having the light for the camera on when the character holding it was hiding in a dark house from whatever was chasing him.  Here’s a newsflash for anyone trying to hide:  TURN OFF THE CAMERA LIGHT!  It makes it much harder for the boogiemen to see you in the dark.  This was especially egregious in this fifth installment as earlier we see the camera has a night vision mode.  I’m willing to suspend my disbelief for just about anything but please, have at least enough common sense needed to flip a switch.  Other areas of logical collapse include involving the gang member brother of Oscar and one of his fellow street soldiers in trying to rescue Jesse from the clutches of those trying to finalize his possession.  I don’t know a great deal about the lives of gang members in California, but I highly doubt they would so easily and willingly become involved in such an operation.  There is also no effort to involve a priest in trying to save Jesse even though his grandmother, who lives with the family, is very religious.  Calling the local parish and getting a priest over as soon as possible would seem to be a logical course of action and would have been an interesting scene as the man of God sees just how strong this particular demon is.  It might have even given the movie an added gory scene of which this film has very few.
Logical flaws aside, “Paranormal Activity:  The Marked Ones” has a few things going for it.  First, we get a very likable and sympathetic lead character that appears to love his family, even their pet Chihuahua, and his friends.  Andrew Jacobs as Jesse doesn’t play the role too cocky or too streetwise despite the area his character lives in.  He’s just a good kid that becomes part of a bizarre situation beyond his control.  The supporting characters are also likable and seem to fit into the world of the film.  There are a little too much surprised exclamations at the odd goings on.  The camera work is far too good for what’s supposed to be happening but is also at times as jittery as you would expect.  The film has some decent special effects.  There are some digital tricks that are effective and give some scenes a more otherworldly appearance.  Of course, you get the standard scares the “Paranormal Activity” series is known for:  The camera sweeping from side to side and a person appearing as is moves back to its original position.  There will be a shadowy figure standing behind someone who is completely unaware.  There are sudden loud sounds when you least expect it.  If you have seen the other films you’ll know what to expect.  Some of these are so telegraphed they aren’t as scary as you might want but one scare in particular caught me so off guard I did something I don’t usually do in a horror movie…I yelled out loud.  It was both terrifying and invigorating.  Sadly, this film is far too short on such scares.
The story is about what you’d expect.  It follows a similar arc to the others with a bit more detail about the group at the center of the plot and what their final plan might be.  The film does a very nice job of tying itself to the original film with its ending.  While the movie has an abrupt conclusion much the same as the others, the people in the theatre with me didn’t seem to like it very much.  There were some muttered complaints about not getting that two hours of their life back (the movie runs 84 minutes) and questioning if that was it.  I didn’t have a problem with the ending as there are always questions left unanswered since there has to be something to make the next movie about.  And there will be another movie as there is a release date of October 24, 2014 according to the movie website
“Paranormal Activity:  The Marked Ones” is rated R for pervasive language, graphic nudity, some drug use and some violence.  We see full frontal nudity of a young woman and the backside of an older woman.  There is a brief scene of Jesse and Hector smoking pot from a bong.  There is a brief scene of a beating, a character shown landing on a car in a suicide attempt, another character crashing through a glass ceiling and a couple of shootings at close range.  Foul language is common throughout the film.
According to the “Paranormal Activity” series page on Wikipedia, the total production budget for the five films in the franchise is just over $18-million.  Worldwide, the first four films have grossed over $700-million.  That must be a record for investment-to-profit ratio for movies.  It also explains why a sixth film is already in production.  These movies are cheap to produce and make bushel baskets of cash.  Sadly, the quality of the first film has slowly been eroding over each successive entry.  Perhaps the “found footage” horror genre is just reaching its end.  That’s sad as this series has been a good source scares in a dark theatre.
“Paranormal Activity:  The Marked Ones” gets three guitars out of five.
Two new films attempt to warm you up in the cold of winter.  Vote for the next movie I see and review.
The Legend of Hercules—Betrayed by his stepfather, the King, and exiled and sold into slavery because of a forbidden love, Hercules must use his formidable powers to fight his way back to his rightful kingdom. Through harrowing battles and gladiator-arena death matches, Hercules embarks on a legendary odyssey to overthrow the King and restore peace to the land.
Lone Survivor—Four Navy SEALs go on an ill-fated covert mission to neutralize a high-level Taliban operative.  They are ambushed by enemy forces in the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan and must fight for themselves and each other to survive. Based on The New York Times bestseller.
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