Thursday, 23 October 2014

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (2014) - Movie Review

Before getting into this latest iteration of one of the most popular horror franchises of this generation, let's quickly get into what came before it. The first one was good, the second was even better and the third, while decent, wasn't as good as the other two. In all three, I loved the thick eerie atmosphere, and yeah they are pretty jump-scare heavy but I personally really liked them. Then I watched PA 4, which ended up being a crushing disappointment and easily one of the worst films of the year. After all that, I was very hesitant to check out this spin-off of the franchise, but I eventually gave it a go.

'Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones' follows Jesse, a recent high school graduate, who after a night of messing with the dark arts suddenly possesses strange powers. He and his friends soon discover that this part of the plot of the Midwives, the resident witch coven of the Paranormal Activity series, and set out to save Jesse before it's too late.

I'll say this first and foremost: This is far more akin to Chronicle than anything Paranormal Activity-related. That impression isn't helped by the fact that, in all honesty, this isn't that scary. Sure, it has its moments but they are few and far between. Now, don’t misunderstand me here: I'm not saying that this film isn't scary because it tries to be scary and fails; no, here it just doesn't focus so much on the horror and more just on being supernatural in general, showing Jesse’s growing powers and the change that comes over him as a result. The atmosphere isn't nearly as suspenseful here, either. What really muddles things further is the fact that, aside from the scares, everything else about this movie works: The characters are likeable and enjoyable to watch; the writing is well done and when it tries its hand at comedy, mostly with the interactions between Jesse and his best friend Hector, it’s actually pretty funny; and the actors give good performances all round.

Now, even though this isn't focused as much on horror as the main series, I still wouldn't advise you to check it out if you don't like the films in the main series for one specific reason: The rumbling. This is a motif in every PA movie, where whenever something spooky happens there is a very audible low rumble on the soundtrack, as if the mere presence of these demons fucks with the camera equipment. Some people have said this kills the suspense of some scenes because you know full well something is going to happen, and I can kind of understand that. However, since on first viewing you're not entirely sure what is going to happen most of the time, just that something will, I have no real problem with it. But I know others do, which is why I bring it up.

There are some definite goofy moments here, though. For instance, there's a point in the movie where Jesse, Hector and Hector’s cousin Marisol find a possessed Simon game. My only guess as to why this was included is because they already used Ouija boards in the series, so they needed a new way to communicate with the demons. This isn't as misguided as in PA 4 where they used the Xbox Kinect to see the demon, but this also feels like something that shouldn't be here. There's also a goofy/awesome moment near the end that involves blasting witches with shotguns like this is Left 4 Dead 2 all of a sudden. It's a bit of a tonal shift, but it gets by on Rule of Cool. The ending, without giving too much away, also goes in a bit of Bioshock Infinite direction in terms of linking it to its main franchise, which does get more than a bit head-scratching.

All in all, this is a decent movie; just not a decent horror movie. If you want some general fun watching a movie, this is a good choice, but it doesn't work so well at its scares. It's about on par with PA 3 in terms of quality, so I can at least give it some form of recommendation, and I will give it credit for not just doing a carbon-copy of the other films and establishing its own identity. I just wish it did a bit better at maintaining the title's identity.

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