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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones 2014 * * Stars

Paranormal Activity: The Marked OnesDirector: Christopher B. Landon
Year: 2014
Rated R
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: Andrew Jacobs, Jorge Diaz, Gabrielle Walsh

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones doesn't really add anything new or fresh to the never ending installation that is the Paranormal Activity franchise. It tries to stretch the story of young people being randomly targeted or possessed by demons to the point where it's no longer credible. And even though the whole reality TV age/found footage phenomenon has annoyed itself and calmed down a bit, "Marked Ones" decides to just start it right back up again causing every audience member (including myself) to roll their eyes and shake their head. These films need to end because they insult the intelligence of every moviegoer around. We keep seeing them no matter how stupid they are, and we the audience, keep eating them up. Started in 2009, these already spoofed and self-parodied exercises have all made absolute gobs of money. I mean they tally anywhere between $5 and $7 million in production costs. So far, all of them combined (parts 1 through 5), have made over $750 million dollars worldwide. If that's not profit, I don't know what is. Therefore, I do get why this cow continues to be milked (not that I'm particularly happy about it).

Now I've got nothing against making money, that's for sure. But my job as a critic, is to rate these films based on whether they're feasible or not. "Marked Ones" doesn't cut the mustard because it suffers from novice acting, annoying, all too familiar characters, lots of tired gimmicky camera work, a script that contains all the same horror cliches (camera turns one way, whips the other way, scary jolt, blah blah blah), and an ending that is rather confusing (not to mention silly considering this time Paranormal Activity pictures reach an all time low by parlaying the art of time travel).

Projecting itself as a horror flick version of Boyz n the Hood and featuring goofy, amped up special effects that nod more to monster fare like the hand held camera feast Cloverfield, "Marked Ones" digs into the lives of high school graduate Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) and his best bud Hector (Filly Brown's Jorge Diaz). They inhabit a residence in a run down apartment complex near the city of Oxnard, California (I was trying to figure out if they lived together. Otherwise, I considered the fact that Hector might have been thrown out or was homeless). As they live out their days causing trouble in the neighborhood, smoking pot, and annoying the heck out of everybody, they slowly find out that one of them after being bitten (and upon or after the death of one of their neighbors), is marked for demonic possession. This entity has super human strength and communicates through an 80's technology game called Simon (I'm wondering, does anyone remember that artifact of technology from 30 plus years ago?). The entity then shifts its powers to one of the 18 year old misfits that it targets. Soon chaos ensures because the possessed person (it's Jesse, spoiler alert) becomes violent and a bit of a thug. Best thing about "Marked Ones": a couple of neat special effects with Jesse catapulting two robbers off of him (they actualy go flying like 30 feet). Worst thing(s) about "Marked Ones": same old documentary camera movements to go along with the same overused jolts that you see coming a mile away.

Despite a new culture, new lifestyles, a different demographic of people, and yet again, a new location, this still feels like every other Paranormal Activity sequel that came before it (even though it's barely connected to the other 4 vehicles except by maybe a small plot thread). And of course, the filmmakers decide to bring back Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat for the umpteenth time (stars of the first and more effective Paranormal Activity) to somehow connect everyone and everything together (their affiliation to "Marked Ones" seems manufactured at best). Oh and I almost forgot, "Marked Ones" like the last three installments, has to end with a bunch of nasty, ticked off witches in a abandon house with no furniture or people living in it (the real estate market must really be down in certain parts of California). Oh and remember, some one's always gotta hold the camera in these films despite all the nasty and creepy things that are happening to them. It's the hook that has kept this series chug chug chugging along. Just for the record, if I was in a dark house, walking down into a dark basement chamber, running from demons, or going back into a room that contains any kind of evil, I sure as heck wouldn't be worried about my video camera nor would I bother pestering any terrifying entity by egging them on (with said camera). Bad horror films always have stupid characters in them that don't feel the need to leave well enough alone. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is no exception.

In the end, this inaugural 2014 release is not really scary nor is it ultimately necessary. In the series ranking system, I would put it second to last ("4" is truly awful that's for sure) and I would consider "2" the best (lots of hardcore scares, solid direction, a good tie in to the first one, and a unique camera technique that should have been a stepping stone for other horror fare in the future). If number six decides to rear its ugly head in the coming years (or year), I hope its mature enough to maybe be filmed like a normal freaking movie (enough with the hand held stuff, gees!). Anyway, January has always been a month where Oscar holdovers and diligently bad flicks enter the multiplex. See 12 Years a Slave or Lone Survivor. As for Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, profusely "mark" it off your list.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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