Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones – 2 out of 5
2013 offered us a breath of fresh air as, due to an extended production, the latest Paranormal Activity film was delayed until this year. As it’s been painfully made clear in my review of the past films and the fact I say the only redeeming factors of the first film is that it created one of the greatest RiffTrax commentaries to ever exist and, if you watch it without Mike, Kevin and Bill’s hilarious wit, it acts as a great sleep aid, it’s no secret that I think this franchise is a boring and unimaginative one. However, since I don’t judge a film by its cover (or trailer, poster or whatever film aspect that completes that metaphor), I gave this latest film; The Marked Ones, a chance. Without giving away too much, I will say this one puts in less effort than all the other films combined.
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Damn, even the scary kids don't look that interested...except that one
So the demon, the witch coven and all the other shit from the other films gets more convoluted and even more obvious that they are stretching this franchise out for every little dollar it can get out of it (and rumor is we still have two more films coming…ug). The convolution begins when Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) as he graduates high school and he and his friend Hector (Jorge Diaz) start to become interested in Jesse’s mysterious neighbor downstairs. When strange noises lead to the neighbor being murdered, Jesse and Hector get bolder and decide to start sneaking into the apartment on a regular basis. Not long after their visits, Jesse finds he is capable of doing mysterious things (like hovering when he falls backwards) and strange occurrences start happening around him (like the fact he communicates with the demon through a Simon game…yeah, you read that right). Eventually, Jesse learns he has been “marked” by a coven of witches and all hell is about to break loose and his soul is going to be lost to the demon that, at one point, could only close doors to try and be frightening.
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Move over Duck Face...
Honestly, I am being very generous with my score of 2 out of 5 but since I felt there were only two elements this film had working in its favorite that actually make it a lot easier to watch than pretty much all the other films (at points, anyway), I think a two is a good place to settle at. However, the film still bored me, failed at scaring me at every turn and still feels like a sad, sad attempt at cashing in on a movie that never really should have made money or even be allowed to be called a movie to begin with.
The only credit I give the first film is that at least they tried to have a somewhat concrete reason for why they were filming every living second of the day of the two most unlikeable characters to every be committed to film, and who exactly was releasing the footage that was “found.” Granted, it never explains why the police felt the need to edit out some stuff but leave in the douche bag Micah begging Katie for sex on camera but at least the film tells you that cops found the footage and released it (don’t worry, the pointless footage used to pad out the film to a feature running length is still here in this latest sequel). Since then, the sequels have become more flimsy with their excuse for filming and have pretty much abandoned the part of “found” in the “found footage” element of their film. Let’s face it, some of these movies end in a manner there is no way for the footage to be discovered and released by the authorities…however that plot hole didn’t stop Apollo 18 so why should it stop Paranormal Activity?
This time around, the writer lazily just has the character of Hector say to Jesse (who is behind the camera), “Hey, nice camera,” and that apparently acts as the excuse for these two to film EVERY FUCKING SECOND OF THEIR DAY FOREVER. Like the other films, they still don’t bother with realism—mainly the whole, “WHY AREN’T YOU DROPPING THE CAMERA WHEN THE SCARY SHIT IS CHASING YOU” thing that these films love to ignore. There’s even a point where Hector is filming a crime with some gangster characters and the gangsters never once say, “Turn that camera off, we’re about to kill people, moron, and you’re filming our faces!” However, despite the fact “found footage” films are being sold on the idea they are suppose to look real, the reality is the are the films that require the most suspension of disbelief from me.
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"Okay, so now that we have the video of the ghost upon YouTube,
let's autotune it and remix it."
I’ve never found any of the PA movies to be particularly frightening. When I first rented the first film, I was fighting to stay awake the entire time. Hell, it’s not just the PA movies but, pretty much, the entire “found footage” subgenre as a whole I’m not a fan of. Why don’t I find these movies scary? The entire reason is the fact these films are built entirely around the quick and easy jump scare. Even in non-“found footage” films, the jump scare doesn’t get me because they are always obviously coming and it’s hard to scare me when I see the scare ready to leap out at me a mile away. Every single spook point in every single one of these films is telegraphed and very obviously so. Each scene is specifically crafted and produced so you see the scare coming before the scene even starts and, too often, PA films are guilty of stretching this formula out to the point that I’m bored long before the predictable jump actually comes.
Granted, this formula works for some members of the audience but, for me, it’s just painful to endure. The worst part, however, is the fact that The Marked Ones got really, REALLY lazy with this formula and most of the jump scares are the same thing done over and over again. There’s actually very little in the form of paranormal scares going on in this film and most of the scenes that are trying to make you jump happen from the flesh and blood people in the story. The sad part comes from the fact these scares are usually something that involves seeing the bad person, losing track of him due to the fact that the person operating the camera can’t turn their head without also turning the camera and then searching and searching and searching for the person until, shocker, the person is behind someone and does some sudden movement to make the audience jump. Honestly, this is 90% of the scares the film throws at you and the rest of them are just as equally lazy. While sitting in the theater, I can say, without lie, that I only heard a single person barely gasp—once—at the scares this film tossed out. It looked a whole lot different that those bullshit commercials that show the audience losing their shit that they love ushering out when these films are released.
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Being "marked" means being bit and pissed on by the demon.
Alright, so all the usual crap that makes me hate the Paranormal Activity films is here and just as bad as anything else they created. I’m sure you wondering what exactly I liked about this film that I hinted about earlier. Well, salivate no longer because one of the things this film did better than the other films is the fact it finally had some decent acting. Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat were the embodiment of terrible actors who should never be allowed in front of a camera again in the first film (and that’s the reason you only see them in PA films and nothing else) and the actors haven’t been much better with each ensuing sequel. Obviously you can’t get decent actors for a “found footage” film because these movies are made because they are cheap and hiring good actors will hurt the return too much. So, get those shitty, “I’ll take any role I can get and will debase myself on the casting couch to do so” nameless actors and you’ve pretty much ensured that you’ll get a couple more thousand returned from your investment. However, Andrew Jacobs and Jorge Diaz were actually pretty good. Granted, Jorge Diaz’s character of Hector annoyed the shit out of me as this guy had no base line; he was just extreme for every emotion a person is capable of. Despite that, they proved they could act and act realistically—or about as realistic as you can get from this franchise.
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Hector's lows were pretty bad, too. He was damn near suicidal in
this part of the film after his favorite station wouldn't come in.
Finally, the last thing I enjoyed about this movie is that I was thankful that, finally, when the franchise hits their fifth film, I no longer had to endure watching rich, privileged white people who never have to work and live in large houses and actually have the free time and resources to film everything around them, deal with demons. The series was just becoming a joke (granted, it pretty much started as one) of what potential Fox News viewing W.A.S.P. stock image individuals were going to be apart of this demon problem next. The strongest thing this film had going for it was the fact it moved away from the bland, vacuous and unlikeable rich white people this film had been coasting on and actually brought in some diversity and characters who feel like they actually have some depth and culture to them.
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones may have had some improvements (like no more unlikeable or bland, faceless characters) but it still was a Paranormal Activity film at heart. The movie is lazy and extremely light with the scares (and the scares aren’t even scary) and the movie basically looks like one long piece of evidence about how the people behind the franchise are running out of ideas and are just stretching the already thin plot to the breaking point. Other than the two points I mentioned, I really didn’t see much redemption within the film and found it to be just another lethargic attempt to keep this franchise alive and get that easy “found footage” Box Office cash.