It's hard not to get cynical about the teenage-oriented reboot of these sorts of films, and the changes are perhaps a side effect of getting older -- I couldn't help but notice that "Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones" is pandering to a younger, urban audience. Where the first few entries in the "Paranormal Activity" franchise played on the fears of a young couple and then on new parents, this fifth installment is all about the dangers of coming of age.
"Paranormal Activity" began with a mysterious demon haunting a woman for no reason; "Paranormal Activity 2" extended that to a demonic cult dedicated to binding a demon to a first born child; the third installment was a flashback, but the fourth extended the conspiracy to a witch cult. As you can see from the progression of the franchise, "Paranormal Activity" keeps upping the ante, and by "The Marked Ones" we now have evidence of a global conspiracy to raise an army of demonically-possessed children.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Suffice it to say that Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) hangs out with his buddy Hector (Jorge Diaz) after graduating, and in between smoking pot, hanging out with the hot "only a friend" Marisol (Gabrielle Walsh) and filming really stupid stunts, they stumble upon a witch conspiracy that involves a murder and their valedictorian classmate, Oscar (Carlos Pratts). Whereas the earlier films used innovative, creepy techniques that played to the found-footage genre, "The Marked Ones" is content just to use a single camera. THE SPOILER ONES: The Ouija board of the first film is replaced with a malfunctioning electronic Simon game, and tension is created through staring at curtains (not once, but twice) and bodies falling from the ceiling (not once, but twice). Mostly, "The Marked Ones" comes up with a few tricks that are a pale imitation of the original, and then uses them over and over and hopes you don't notice.
What fans will notice is that "The Marked Ones" also wants to fill in the blanks of the other films. The way it goes about this is heavy-handed, but then there are several plot holes that the script bulldozes right over, the most egregious being a magical door that lets you pop into any of the previous films. This manages to rob the first film of some of its urgency when you see how it plays out, but if you're a fan of the franchise (and can remember what happened), there's ties to all of the films that have gone before.
And that's the thing. "The Marked Ones" isn't bad, it's just not nearly as scary as all those that have gone before. The "Paranormal Activity" franchise has set the bar so high that "The Marked Ones" can merely imitate them. It cleans up after the other films by filling in their blanks, but the blanks are what made them scary in the first place.
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