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'Paranormal Activity: the Marked Ones' makes familiar territory feel fresh

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Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

Rating:
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Release date: January 3, 2014

Written and directed by: Christopher Landon

Starring: Andrew Jacobs, Jorge Diaz, Gloria Sandoval

Official website: ParanormalMovie.com

After establishing itself as an October regular on the movie release schedule, the "Paranormal Activity" series took 2013 off, opting to wait to release the new Lationo spin-off, "The Marked Ones" in a less competitive, although less spooky month of January.

The good news, at least if you're still watching this series, is the new entry that feels surprisingly fresh. Taking a break from the spooky adventures of Kate and Kristi from the other movies, "The Marked Ones" follows Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) and his amigo Hector (Jorge Diaz) as they soon begin to suspect the crazy old lady who lives in their apartment complex may be a witch.

Good timing too, because Jesse just got a camera for his high school graduation, which lucky for you, allows them to document their witch hunt, even when it doesn't make sense to be carrying a camera. But of course, it is a "Paranormal Activity" movie, which means the stupid characters have to do stupid things, which leads to bad things happening. But then again, that's what makes these movies so much fun.

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Christopher Landon takes over writing and directing duties, having served in producer capacities on the previous two movies, and delivers some good scares. Much of the credit goes to shifting the focus from suburbia to the streets of Oxnard, California. The younger characters inject a decent amount of humor and energy that wasn't there before, and thankfully don't go too over the top when it comes down to the eventual chase leading up the the big plot twist, which puts an interesting spin on previously established events in the series.

And yes, despite being a spin-off, the new film does tie in with the rest of the movies, somewhat adding to the growing mythology about the witches coven. But it does little to offer any new information, offering references here and there, leading up to the big climactic finale, which revisits a couple of previously seen locations.

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One problem with the found footage movies is that it's always been difficult to make it believable as to why these characters are still running around with video cameras during such traumatizing events. The "Paranormal Activity" series has always found clever ways to explain how these things were recorded by using security cameras, and webcams in addition to the hand-cam. "The Marked Ones" struggles a bit with the justification, but makes up for it with it's typical camera set-ups.

If you're looking for a reason to start watching after rolling your eyes through the other four movies, you won't find much here to change your mind. But after five movies, these movies are what they are. Fans of the series will have a lot of fun with "Paranormal Activity: the Marked Ones".

Rating: Rated R for pervasive language, some violence, graphic nudity and some drug use

Running time: 1 hour 24 minutes

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