Meet Toby’s friend Jesse: “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones”

January 12, 2014



Sorry,  I wanted to build  to that, but with Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, it’s just too hard to hide my disdain. I think we can all agree that the Paranormal Activity series pretty much passed up its “use by” date, well, after the first one. With 2012’s fourth installment, the series finally ran out of ways to milk horror from shoddy camerawork, and now they’ve followed up with what can be charitably described as, Paranormal Activity: The Univision Version. Because this movie can barely be bothered to disguise the fact it’s little more than a reheated version of the previous installments with a location change to draw a Latino audience. Surprisingly, it’s not as offensive as you’d expect. Unsurprisingly, it’s pretty terrible.

You know the nice thing about these movies is that you don’t have to do a lot of heavy-lifting for the plot summary. Some knucklehead gets a camera, films really boring stuff, then catches weird stuff happening, eventually a demon kills them and their family. And this movie is no different.

Well, it’s actually different in a couple ways. First off, rather than follow an insufferably-dull suburban couple, we follow some aggravatingly-dumb Latino teenagers living in a cramped tenement in Oxnard California. Second, the demon doesn’t start dicking around with them in quite the same way as the previous films—you know: bumps in the night, weird symbols being burned into the walls, domestic homicide. The usual.

Pictured: something "scary"

Pictured: something “scary”

Nope, this time around, one of our teenage dumbasses, Jesse, is, ah, “infected” with a demon by the block’s local witch (because those ethnic types always have black magic and stuff going on). Of course Jesse and his even-more-knuckleheaded buddy, Hector, are pretty much just screwing around on summer break when the local witch is killed by the school valedictorian. Weird-ass stuff, right?

After that, Jesse notices two things: 1) he has a weird bite mark on his arm, and 2) he has super powers. So, then this movie turns into a rehash of Chronicle, because, yeah, we needed another one of those movies. And we watch as Jessie becomes Super-Dick and grows more and more alienated from his family and friends.

Pictured: something else "scary"

Pictured: something else “scary”

The movie then dives head-first into the growing mythology of the Paranormal Activity movies, which involves demons and witch covens, and all serves to drain much of the horror from the movie. Because once you name your demon Toby, and then throw in chanting, middle-ages witches, you might as well just pack it in.

The movie ends with a totally WTF moment that doesn’t make any sense, and only serves to link this movie to the other and to remind us that, yes, Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat are still around and not-terribly-employable.

Even more "terror"

Even more “terror”

Believe it or not, that encapsulation is probably more exciting than the actual movie, because this is easily the most listless of these movies. The PA movies have always have fairly pokey first acts before the unsettling stuff kicks in, but this movie never gets going—even when the important stuff is supposed to be happening. Writer/Director Christopher Landon (son of Michael) with his second film, shows he really doesn’t have the chops to make images on a screen scary. Even the simple things the PA movies did—just something out-of-place in the domestic space—is beyond him. Remember in the first one, when Katie sleep-stands over the bed for hours? It’s unsettling as hell, and didn’t require anything particularly complicated, but Landon can’t even pull off something that simple. Instead, on several occasions he goes for action sequences, which, as we know by now, are really not the strong suit of the found-footage genre.

Stop. My heart can only take so much "horror."

Stop. My heart can only take so much “horror.”

It was probably inevitable that the PA series would run out of steam, It was always a thin premise to hang a series on, and the found-footage genre has exploded since the first Paranormal Activity, making it harder and harder to make these movies seem fresh or clever.

Still, they didn’t need to give us a movie this bad…

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