Movie Review - Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones
The fifth entry into the second highest-grossing horror franchise of all time is perhaps the most disappointing. It isn't the worst movie in the franchise, but it failed to inject any new life into the series at a time when it desperately needed it. And maybe when the sixth film (confusingly titled Paranormal Activity 5) is released later this year, it would be best to just wrap it up.
In a move I had hoped would reinvigorate the films, Christopher Landon's chapter takes place in Oxnard, California featuring new characters completely unrelated to the family from the first three (and some of the fourth) movies. And even though the cast is extremely talented and engaging, making you feel an instant connection to almost all of them, the story just tries too hard to explain itself and make tentative connections to the first films. In the end, we're left with a lopsided story.
The movie opens with Oscar (Carlos Pratts - The Bridge, Coyote) giving his valedictorian speech at a high school graduation. Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) is also graduating, and friend Hector (Jorge Diaz - Filly Brown) is filming the ceremony. During a party back at Jesse's apartment building, it is revealed that the woman who lives underneath of Jesse is long rumored to be a witch throughout the neighborhood. While Jesse and Hector have fun filming their first days of summer by performing some Jackass-inspired antics, one night they hear moaning coming from the apartment below. By lowering a camera down the air duct they witness what seems like a ritual in which a symbol is painted in blood on the stomach of a naked woman. The following day, after an unexpected altercation with the woman, she makes a veiled threat toward Jesse. That night, Anna (the woman in apartment below) is murdered. Upon investigating her home, they find evidence of witchcraft and black magic, and they find pictures of Jesse dating back to his time in his mother's womb.
The following morning Jesse wakes up with a mark on his arm, and newfound, strange and supernatural abilities. The story starts off slightly promising, but what follows is about and hour and ten minutes of the same old tricks we've seen in the series so far, all thrown at us while Christopher Landon attempts to explain the mythology of the series. And don't get me wrong, there are some genuinely nice creepy moments in the movie, but they fail to have any lasting impact. In the end the mythology and the overall timeline of the series remain convoluted.
I don't mean to give the impression that this movie is terrible. It isn't. In fact it's much better than the fourth film. But with such a likable cast, and what seemed like a promising new direction for the franchise falling flat, I can't help but describe this as a let-down. And judging by the fact that there were only ten people in the theater with me, one day after the film was released, it may be Blumhouse's worst showing at the box office since the series began. Definitely wait until this is streaming on Netflix before you take it on.
- Leo Francis