I personally have never liked the Paranormal Activity movies. At least at the beginning, the first few movies seemed to have something of an inventive premise, being very slow tension-building movies leading up to a final explosion of rage and fear. But the sad fact is that most of the tension of these movies are built around the jump scares, with audiences storing tension waiting to be happily shocked by something jumping at them. My idea of scary is not staring at a bedroom for an hour pissing myself because there might be a monster waiting behind the corner. Fortunately - for me, not for fans - "The Marked Ones" is a movie that completely dumps the series modus operandi to instead create an action-packed and considerably more fun found-footage movie. Unfortunately - for both me and the fans - it isn't very good.
Lately on this blog I've been watching nothing but amazing, original, truly inspiring movies that make me cherish both writing these reviews and life itself. So thank goodness for "Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones" because I haven't had something really bad to rant about in months, and I'm going stir crazy. What, am I supposed to be mad at "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty", a movie so innocently stupid that you just want to adopt it and make it your family pet? No, what we need it some nice proper cynical crap, just like this movie. If you thought the overall storyline of Paranormal Activity was ad hoc and incredibly stupid, then you have seen nothing yet. "The Marked Ones" takes this series into truly excited and uncharted territory, of now being hilariously awful. I wanted a movie I could go see and then giggle all the way home at the amazingly ill-conceived production I just witnessed, and guess what? I got it.
I was actually thinking last year that found-footage movies were finally dead. After 2012's duet of utter shit known as "The Devil Inside" and "Paranormal Activity 4", I figured mainstream Hollywood had had enough of these kinds of movies. Yeah, "Chronicle" was the lone impressive bright spot, but that was the exception that proved the rule. Then in 2013, utter silence. Wonderful, wonderful silence. And now, 2014 has decided that not only are found-footage movies back, they have never been hotter. "The Marked Ones" is only one half of the Paranormal Activity nightmare this year, there's another one coming out this October. In roughly thirty seconds after this review will be posted, some crappy movie called "Devil's Due" will be released. And then if that's not enough, there's "Welcome to Yesterday", which looks like "Chronicle" mixed with "Project X" of all the terrible things. I'm making a bad tradition right now by seeing "The Marked Ones", I think I've sentenced myself to seeing all the cinematic freaks that 2014 will bring forth.
Hey, I already got the noose around my neck, might as well jump off. Here's the review of this first shitty movie:
Previous Paranormal Activity movies have all taken place within the isolated boundaries of what I assume are the producers' McMansions, focusing on extremely thick White people who somehow can never quite understand that their house is haunted until they've been murdered in the final jump scare. "The Marked Ones" instead features an all-Latino cast, takes place in the slums of Southern California, and actually features no Ghost at all. Rather this is the story of a high school graduate named Jessie played by... honestly, who cares? who lives upstairs from la bruja Anna, a witch. Turns out this elderly lady is the representative of an evil witch conspiracy that has been breeding women with demons in some kind of Satanic Bene Gesserit sisterhood, hoping to create an army of super powered young adults... for Satan, I guess.
What this means is that "The Marked Ones" is a movie with such surprising new features to Paranormal Activity such as a plot, characters with an actual arc, and events. Half of this movie is not, for example, an XBox Kinect staring at an empty living room. This time its characters talking, and a storyline evolving. This is probably the best Paranormal Activity movie by those merits alone. But is it a good movie? Nope. Half of what we have is the slow development of Jessie's powers and possession, which is basically a rip-off of "Chronicle", and the other half is a mediocre and predictable horror movie.
The main attraction that "The Marked Ones" offers is an utterly shameless willingness to be unbelievably stupid. One of the main scares in this movie is Jessie and his friends communicating with a haunted Simon toy. Why do the possessed boys develop demonic powers at the age of eighteen? Because 666. 6 + 6 + 6 = 18. I am not joking. The climax of this movie features heroic gangbangers fighting off witches with shotguns. Amazing that nobody thought to try guns yet. Oh, and more thing: TIME TRAVEL. The witches can travel through fucking time! Turns out the demon haunting the house in "Paranormal Activity 1" was just Jessie's idiot friend who stepped through the wrong door. I bought my ticket expecting a circus of terrible filmmaking, I wasn't expecting that Paranormal Activity would castrate itself for me. I don't even need to write a review, the movie itself is enough of a funeral for this series.
So if you are a huge Paranormal Activity fan, "The Marked Ones" is going to make you pissed. Wonderfully, wonderfully pissed.
I guess, on that scale, this has to be the most fun I have ever had at one of these movies. But still, between Jessie's Abuela walking in on Jessie and his friend spying on a naked lady and hilariously freaking out, there is very little fun to be had. The writing is bad, the acting is uneven, the one big special effects shot looks Youtube-quality, its just not a good movie. There's still that same terrible formula of relying entirely on jump scares without atmosphere or legitimate tension. For the first twenty minutes, the movie almost has its own energy, until its all stopped dead in its tracks by a "scary" scene. Jessie and his friend are investigating the bruja's apartment, and then Jessie disappears. [This is a fake-out jump scare, isn't it?] Was he eaten by ghosts? [No way.] What is going on? [Nothing.] Oh no, Jessie, where are you? [You're going to jump at the camera to fake us out, aren't you?] What in God's name is behind that door?? [Nothing, just Jessie being a dick.] Oh no, oh no, oh no, its Satan behind that door, isn't it? [Come fucking on, movie, I know what's coming, move it along already.] Oh, its Jessie, jumping at the camera. [Knew it.] I think I just had a heard attack, damn. [I've had blackheads more frightening than this movie.]
Luckily, however, its January. This is exactly what you'd expect for a January release. If anything, it might be slightly above average for Hollywood's dumping ground. So maybe 2014 is going to be a great year for movies. All I know is that "Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones" is a movie that nobody will remember even by tomorrow. Which is exactly where it belongs, forever.