This past year was noticeably light on the paranormal activity. Instead of receiving our annual dose of ghostly shenanigans around Halloween, Paramount opted to skip a year and deliver a double shot of “Paranormal Activity” in 2014. First up is “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” which comes out this January. Has the year away made the heart grow fonder or is Paramount in danger of diluting their stock?
“Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” was originally billed as a Hispanic-centric side story. However, while this may not be a direct sequel, it still plays a very important role in the “Paranormal Activity” franchise. It not only expands the narrative universe of the series, but it also offers some shocking revelations. The film centers on a teenager named Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) and his best friend Hector (Jorge Diaz) right as they’re graduating from high school.
Jesse is pretty much the “everyteen” in that he is a completely average teenager who has aspirations for greater things, but still enjoys being an idiot. Hector fulfills this need as Jesse’s goofball friend who provides most of the comedic relief of the film.
Maybe it’s because this film has a Hispanic atmosphere that is very familiar to me, but Jesse is one of the more relatable characters in the Paranormal series. He’s an average guy with a goofy best friend who just wants to get out of the rough neighborhood he grew up in. We spend enough time with him, his family, and his friends to get a sense of who he is and why he’s loved by those around him. It’s enough to make him tangible, but maybe not enough to make him fully three dimensional.
And even though Hector is the film’s “comedic relief”, he doesn’t come off as obnoxious or annoying; he’s very much a believable character. He seemingly has no greater aspiration in life than to be a good friend and, for that reason, he’s easy to like. Both Jesse and Hector are approachable characters, without any real complexity to them.
The conflict in the film arises when Jesse and Hector witness a fellow high schooler named Oscar (Carlos Pratts aka Gus from “The Bridge”) leaving the apartment of a woman many believe to be a witch. Of course, this prompts the two to dig a little deeper and Jesse soon discovers that he and Oscar share a connection to a familiar coven of witches who have chosen them to be “marked ones.”
This is where “The Marked Ones” diverges from previous “Paranormal Activity” entries. Instead of creating a feeling of doom and gloom, the film initially builds up a sense of mystique and wonder surrounding Jesse’s marked status. We soon learn that being marked comes with some supernatural advantages. A spirit now watches over Jesse who allows him to be stronger, faster, and impervious to damage. It all seems like a gift, but things inevitably turn sour and an ominous atmosphere soon sinks in.
In a lot of ways, this film felt like it was blending themes from “The Wolfman” with elements from “Chronicle” and placing them in the context of the “Paranormal Activity” universe. Initially having the powers is fun and leads to a lot of humorous moments in the first half of the film. However, Jesse soon begins to fear the growing beast inside of him and worries that it might hurt him or someone he loves. Jesse almost appears to be a Talbot type character that is frightened by what he is, but is unable to stop himself.
Previous entries in the series tended to focus on the relationship between family members or couples. “The Marked Ones” takes a unique approach as it places the familial aspects in the background and places the bond between friends at the forefront. The change creates a substantial shift in tone for the film that adds a bit of freshness to it.
This is still a “Paranormal Activity” film and, as such, it all builds to a horrific climatic ending. That being said, “The Marked Ones” features one of the craziest endings I’ve seen in a while. It’s so out there that people are either going to absolutely love it or hate it. I’m not even going to hint at how this whole thing wraps up, but once the film starts winding down it builds and builds until it finally erupts and delivers some rather insane revelations.
At the end of the day, I know that this series can be extremely divisive in the horror community. If you’ve hated all of the previous Paranormal Activity films, then there’s nothing I can say that would convince you to see this one. However, if you’ve been a fan of the series since the beginning then I have no problem saying that this is one of the best “Paranormal Activity” films yet. The scares are a bit formulaic and not as creative as previous entries, but the overall package has reignited my love for a series that I was ready to write off after the fourth installment.
“Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” hits theaters on January 3rd 2014.