Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones Review
Reviewed by Mark Spurdle.
Some say the Paranormal Activity story is like an old mule: tired, overdone and in need of being put down. However, the franchise itself is far from dead, unlike the majority of its characters. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is a spin-off but it manages to keep continuity and leaves a few clues as the story goes along. It also allows some brilliant revelations and really shows that this series of “paranormal” is far from giving up.
Paranormal Activity 4 was, and let’s be honest here, the weakest compared to the other “Paranormal Activity” films; certainly the least acclaimed of the series. It seemed ambition was the problem, in the sense that it was too ambitious. However, this review is purely on the spin off “The Marked Ones”. Does this film provide a strong plot, jump scares, likeable characters and a bright future for the fifth instalment? Well, it certainly does reinstall belief in a plot arc that seemed like it was on the downward spiral; it’s easily the best and strongest film of the current batch.
The film starts off just like every other horror film; the main protagonists going through their everyday lives, happy and enjoying themselves; they’re highly likeable. Jesse (Played by Andrew Jacobs) is perhaps the most likeable character to date: He’s a typical teenager fresh from his graduation. Jesse and his “goofy” friend Hector (played by the delightful Jorge Diaz) set off to start the next chapter in their lives. Hector is used for the main comedy moments; but he isn’t an idiot, or a fool. He is a very strong character that is very loyal to his best friend. But he isn’t merely a comedy plot. He isn’t obnoxious of what is truly going on as the story progresses.
The two best friends have their lives turned around when they spot a fellow high school graduate called Oscar, leaving the home of a woman who is supposedly a witch. Launching themselves into the world of the supernatural, they soon discover that Oscar has an incredible connection to Jesse. Involving a Witch-Coven – similar to those that plagued Katie and Kristi in Paranormal Activity 3. Further clues are then littered throughout the film about the connection; those who managed to piece together these clues will be left feeling satisfied with the revelation of how it came about, and those who did not feeling rather silly. Unlike the last four films, an aura of mystery and curiosity builds around the central character Jesse. The murder of an unknown woman leads Jesse, Hector and Marisol (Gabrielle Walsh) to investigate. However they come across some rather peculiar clues as to what is happening and why.
Strange and peculiar events unfold. Jesse finds himself branded with a bite mark on his arm. Perplexed by this he starts to change. A brilliant piece of comedy is when Jesse and Hector try out the supernatural powers that Jesse boasts. With Hector falling on his back. But these light-hearted scenes slowly disintegrate as Jesse starts to discover what his powers actually mean.
One of the key aspects of this film is the change in direction. The past four films have all adopted the idea of “found footage” and “Night X”. Whilst this suited the first three films, it has begun to get rather tiresome; certainly overused and a bit stale. However this film offers something fresh, bright and exciting. Rather than using the old “We’ve found footage! Lets watch it!” It uses the idea of “you see it when it happens”. This really brings a fresh change to “Paranormal” series, breathing fresh air and making you, as the viewer more engaged.
The Marked Ones is canon. No doubt about it. It fits into the overarching story nicely but can also standalone as its own film; if that makes sense. If not, then to put it simply, it follows the idea and origins of the witches and what they truly do. It really is a neat little present for the die-hard fans that have waited years for this information. In fact, this film could have been Paranormal Activity 4 and perhaps then it would have kept most of the fans that sadly diverted after the dreadful 4th film.
The clichéd “jump scares” are still present; but are executed to a much greater effect. Christopher Landon (the writer of this brilliant film) manages to create further terrors and adds some new twists to the story. The modern version of the “Ouija Board” is brilliant and truly adds another depth of horror. One particular scene involving Jesse, Hector and Marisol crowded around a “Simon. Interactive memory game”. For those who do not know; this is a round piece of gear which is used as a game. “Simon” has four colours around him; red, green, yellow and blue. It flashes each colour and the aim is to remember what it flashes, in order. The trio ask “Simon”, to surprise as the toy answers. Who actually is “Simon”? That is for you to see, but it’s fair to say, bring some spare undergarments.
Some say the endings are the only thing the franchise does well. However Landon manages to keep continuous scares throughout the film, making it more gripping and entertaining than ever before. The ending itself will certainly make viewers gasp with surprise, terror and confusion. You may find yourself in “familiar” scenery which will no doubt please the Paranormal Activity die-hards. Certainly the ending is perhaps the strongest ending that we have seen from the franchise.
Overall, this film is simply brilliant. It matches the criteria above beautifully and the ending wraps up the story in a neat little bow. The plot itself is gripping, surprising and a great view. The jump scares are new and improved, and frankly, even more brilliant. The characters are funny, likeable and are far greater in character depth.
But does this bring hope for “Paranormal 5”? Well if Landon follows the same direction as this film then he’ll have one brilliant film to treat us all.