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New Release Review - Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones


Spin-off from the popular found footage series.

Directed by: Christopher Landon
Starring: Jorge Diaz, Andrew Jacobs, Molly Ephraim, Richard Cabral, Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Gabrielle Walsh




Teenagers Hector (Diaz) and Jesse (Jacobs) are suspicious of a woman living in a neighboring apartment. When she is murdered in unexplained circumstances by one of their classmates, the two break into the dead woman's apartment and find a book filled with black magic related scribblings and other witchcraft paraphernalia. The following morning, Jesse awakes with a strange bite mark on his arm and some bizarre powers, including the ability to inflate an air-mattress with a single outtake of breath, and an improbable sense of balance. At first he revels in these new abilities but his personality begins to take a dark turn.
Say what you will about the horror genre but it's always been several steps ahead when it comes to breaking down social barriers on screen. No other genre can boast as high a percentage of female leads, it was the first genre to regularly feature non-white heroes and while mainstream American cinema still dare not portray black/white romantic couplings, a host of recent horror films (Creature, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D, Shark Night) have given us black males with white girlfriends. 
Over 50 million Americans can be classified as Latino or Hispanic but they're an ethnic group that's strangely absent from that nation's cinema. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is set entirely within a Latino community, yet another barrier breaking chapter of horror. In this case, though, it's something of a backhanded acknowledgement as there's an abundance of Latin stereotypes and half the characters are criminals.
PA:TMO shouldn't be confused with Paranormal Activity 5, which is due to hit theaters around Halloween 2014. Rather, this is a spinoff, though it's difficult to see how it differs from the official sequels, one of which was a prequel while another was a "sidequel" whose story ran parallel to the events of the original film. This installment occurs after PA4 but a time travel element means we get cameos by characters from previous episodes. Injecting time travel serves as little more than a storytelling cop-out, allowing writer-director Christopher Landon (son of actor Michael) to tie his film in with the franchise without having to rely on clever plotting.
It seems pointless at this stage to moan about how unrealistic the found footage device is here. We've grown so accustomed to characters filming in situations where it makes no sense that we barely even think about it anymore. It's no surprise that the employment of the technique here is nothing more than a gimmick and doesn't add anything in storytelling terms. With this being an unofficial entry in the series, the film-makers had the opportunity to drop the FF schtick, as we saw with Rec 3 and The Last Exorcism 2, but sadly they've stuck with it.
What made Oren Peli's original 2007 film so effective was the suspense generated by keeping the audience a step ahead of the film's protagonists. That movie's big moments came while it's characters were sleeping, unaware of how much danger they were in. With PA:TMO we only see what the characters are seeing, rendering it suspense free.
There were signs that the found footage genre was dying but with this and the forthcoming Devil's Due it seems film-makers are determined to continue scraping this particular barrel.
4/10


Eric Hillis

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