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'Paranormal Activity' franchise review: Part four

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones
Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

The story is seemingly told as the fourth film ends with a group of women, all involved in the demonic ritual taking Hunter and apparently killing Alex when the camera goes dark. So, what could possibly be next? A scary movie is really only scary when the shock or twist of a movie is not expected. The real fear with this franchise is that any further movies could be more methodical and tired and not provide any real thrill.

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” is the latest entry in the horror movie genre. Continuing the story of the Paranormal Activity franchise, this seems far removed from the original tale of Katie and Micah. In order to appreciate this new release, there is not a real need to understand the happenings of the previous four movies, but it doesn’t hurt to gather the threads to weave a full tapestry.

The most recent installment, “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones”, is partially about expanding the overall storyline beyond the family-centric story of the previous four movies. Another facet of this film is to incorporate more of the Hispanic culture through the introduction of characters from an Hispanic portion of Oxnard, California, the same city that the rest of the films take place in. The families in the past have been predominately white, so this movie allows some racial and ethnic diversity.

Following two friends, Jesse and Hector, and Hector’s new toy, a handheld video camera, “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” introduces several new concepts to the franchise. Using the addition of a neighbor they call a bruja or witch, there is a scene where the boys drop the camera down a vent between apartments and see Anna the witch doing a ritual on a young nude woman. This leads to a focus on Anna and the events surrounding her death at the hands of a boy named Oscar, someone the other two boys knew from the neighborhood.

Oscar’s disappearance leads to many questions about what was happening in the bruja’s apartment, so Hector and Jesse sneak in there to see what they can find out. What they find at first is just a crime scene, but through further exploration they uncover some strange altar in a crawlspace under the apartment. Also in the crawlspace? Oscar!

This film is filled with several shock moments, based on cameras panning one way and then back to some scare. The twist of this film is the revelation that first-born sons are marked while still in the womb to be vessels for the summoning of some demonic army. This was what happened with Hunter in the previous films and, it is revealed, there are many other boys that this has happened to. Any person could now be a focus for paranormal activities, given this new idea. Allowing for expansion beyond the localized happenings in Oxnard ensures some longevity to the franchise.

This film is a unique addition to the overall “Paranormal Activity” storyline. This movie really centers on the story more than some new filmmaking gimmick, as most of the other films have offered. As a spin-off, this movie achieves the expansion of a viewer base by introducing a different ethnic mix of characters. It also succeeds in furthering the story by showing the audience that there are more people out there than just Katie and Hunter involved in this seeming conspiracy to bring about a form of Hell on earth.

As a complete franchise, the “Paranormal Activity” movies are a good scare. There still seems to be some potential for sequels, based on the opening up of additional players through the concepts revealed in “The Marked Ones”. It will be interesting to see what comes of the proposed sixth movie, “Paranormal Activity 5”, scheduled for release in October 2104.