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How does "Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones" compare to the other films?

On January 3, 2014, the fifth installment in the "Paranormal Activity" movie series came out in theaters to somewhat mixed reviews. It opened at just over $18,000,000 in its first weekend. Like its predecessors, the movie focuses on paranormal themes: ghosts, demons and the like. This version takes place in a Hispanic community in California, where a group of teenagers deal with a cult demon who has marked one of them. As with the other four movies, the film is made to look as though it was shot firsthand with basic tools of video recording. With that said, how does this movie stack up against the other movies in the series?

The film starts with a murder in an apartment building. The upstairs neighbor, Jesse, and his friends decide to investigate the scene of the crime, setting off a chain of strange events for Jesse. He begins to display what appear to be superhuman qualities, which continue to get darker and more malevolent as the movie progresses. "The Marked Ones" focuses on what appears to be cult happenings in the apartment where the crime occurred and a demon looking to possess a new soul.

Unlike the first four movies, "Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones" does not center on the family of Katie and Kristi. However, there are some tie-ins, including a VHS tape marked "Katie and Kristi" in the apartment of the murder victim and a couple of cameos in the movie, including Ali from "Paranormal Activity 4." In addition, a number of unresolved scenes from previous versions get explained in this spin-off.

Most of the "Paranormal Activity" movies before this one have taken place in suburban homes with mostly fixed POV cameras. "The Marked Ones" expands on this theme and takes place in different apartments and has a scene filmed in a supermarket. Unlike the fixed camera view, the filming of this movie is done from the main characters' point of view. This does require the viewer to suspend disbelief at the continued filming, but it adds a new element that previous movies in this series didn't have.

"The Marked Ones," like the previous four movies, is written and directed by Christopher B. Landon. As with the characters in the other movies, he does a good job of establishing this new group of teenagers that are unfamiliar to viewers of "Paranormal Activity" series of movies. The characters in this movie are younger than the main characters of the other movies and not living in family settings as was often the case in the first four movies. Another difference that this movie uses to its advantage, perhaps because of the younger cast, is a subtle sense of humor that was not present in previous installments. A little laugh here and there takes the pressure off some of the more intense scenes.

As with the original films, "Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones" does have a number of faults. In some scenes, the dialogue gets rather unbelievable and somewhat contrived. Also, the plot lines, as in many horror movies, get out of control. It's hard to understand why some characters don't make common-sense decisions. However, as any horror movie veteran knows, it's the screams and gasps that make or break any good scary movie. This movie, like the whole series, has plenty of those screams and gasps.

"Paranormal Activity" movies have always been known for their sudden and shocking scenes that send an entire theater into hysterics, and "The Marked Ones" has its fair share of these types of moments. This movie makes the most of its $5 million budget with some impressive special effects and plenty of creepy ghosts and depraved-looking demons. Audiences won't be able to sit through this movie without a few jumps and starts.

"Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones" is an apt successor to the "Paranormal Activity" series of movies. It has plenty of scares and inventive ways to get people out of their seats. It also opens up the door to new characters and new avenues for the series to continue if the writer and director so choose. "The Marked Ones" does have a number of differences from the first four movies that could turn some people off. This installment stays true to the series, and any die-hard fan will not find too much fault in the twists and turns that this movie offers. If someone has watched all the other movies, this is a must-see to tie up some loose ends and enjoy another round of paranormal activities.

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