On the whole, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is more of the same, exhibiting the good and bad of its series mandates. As with the best of its found-footage lineage, Christopher Landon’s film offers steady suspense brought about by a limited camera perspective and the inevitability of something bad happening. This mood then brings about a good number of quality jumps, though less than the previous installment and generally with a lesser magnitude. While there’s something to be said for delivering this vibe film after film, the necessary evils viewers must again wade through to attain an elevated heart rate limit the film to a disposable delivery device for cheap scares.
Teased in the post-credits clip for 2012’s Paranormal Activity 4, the saga’s fifth installment features a predominately Hispanic cast and a new set of characters. Shot in Los Angeles, the film centers on recent high school graduate Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) and his best friend Hector (Jorge Diaz), two goof-offs always on the lookout for a thrill. Wasting little time to establish a sense of creepiness, Landon introduces Jesse’s middle-aged neighbor Anna (Gloria Sandoval), who lives a floor below in their apartment complex and through whose adjoining air register strange noises have recently been emanating. Early encounters with this rumored bruja are promising mainly for their certain future consequences and after an odd twist that brings about the expected demonic possession, the spookiness really begins.
The problem with The Marked Ones and with the entire series is that the path to these horror ends is frustrating on multiple levels. Characters are rarely as freaked out as the situations suggest and many times it makes no sense for them to be filming. The person with the camera and those around him or her are frequently under attack, making the level of coherence the visuals suggest in conflict with the events at hand. Thank goodness the video is at least this decipherable, but with shakiness galore and not exactly the world’s best acting on display, there isn’t a lot to applaud besides a pretty good case of the yips.
Still, scares are the main goal these films are after, and creating them this time comes with a few fresh elements. Whereas Paranormal Activity 4 incorporated the XBox Kinect tracking dots, the latest household technology on display here is a GoPro camera, which allows the young men to capture encounters they wouldn’t otherwise see. Communication with the mysterious entity through an old Simon toy is also a fun surprise, as are traces of Chronicle as Jesse briefly tests out what are essentially super powers. Such new renderings of what’s become a formula are certainly welcome, yet with a general dimming of creepiness compared to its predecessor and the limitations inherent in the name of series continuity, it’s only just enough to get by until the next sequel.
Rated R for pervasive language, some violence, graphic nudity and some drug use.
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is currently playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.