PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE MARKED ONES
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones follows on from the coda that was set up after the end credits of Paranormal Activity 4. It exists more as a pendant to the main saga than as a sequel. For one, it is credited as merely Being Based on Paranormal Activity by Oren Peli the announcement of a Paranormal Activity 5 for later in 2014 presumably means a return to regular continuity for the series. It also retains many links to the rest of the series, including cameo appearances from Katie Featherstone, Micah Sloat and Molly Ephriam, while we also see copies of the videotapes that we see being made in the other films in the apartment.
The Marked Ones marks the assumption of the directors chair by Christopher Landon who has written all of the other Paranormal Activity sequels. Christopher is the son of actor Michael Landon known here for I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957) and elsewhere as a regular on tvs Bonanza (1959-73) and Highway to Heaven (1984-9). Christopher Landon made his screenplay debut with Larry Clarks Another Day in Paradise (1998) and went onto write the likes of the werewolf film Blood and Chocolate (2007) and the teen psycho-thriller Disturbia (2007), before making his directorial debut with Burning Palms (2010), an anthology of tales that deal with sexual taboo lines. He has next set to make Boy Scouts vs Zombies (2015).
The reasoning behind Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones would appear to be that the series enjoys a good deal of popularity among Latino audiences. Though the film is shot in English, all of the characters are Latino and the setting is the what is in real-life predominantly Latino neighbourhood of Oxnard, California. This certainly gives the series an injection of something different. As opposed to the upper middle-class white homes that the other sequels all took place in, this takes place in a series of rented apartments, a different socio-economic strata and amid an entirely different culture. Even the thrust of the story has changed from the other sequels. All of the other films follow a familiar pattern video cameras are placed in a household and observe a series of spooky happenings that gradually build to the threatening and malevolent. By contrast, The Marked Ones abandons all of the spooky happenings. There are none of the scenes of the camera slowly, carefully watching as we wait for something to happen. The central character becomes possessed fairly soon and it is more about seeing him manifest strange powers here the film almost starts to resemble something of Chronicle (2012) before the latter third gets into the murky doings of covens and chosen ones that the other Paranormal Activity films have circled around.
That the new setting, the Latino focus and different characters has given the Paranormal Activity series something new there is no doubting. On the other hand, beyond these face changes, Christopher Landon seems to shuffle around the same plot elements as the other films like a well-worn deck of cards spooky goings-on, levitations, people possessed, cult activities, chosen sacrifices without ever doing much to delve down and offer an explanation. Directorially, all he does is toss up generic pop-up scares with loud noises and people being pursued through the house. The most he approaches anything that Oren Peli did so well the first time around is the scene where Jorge Diaz brings Catherine Toribio to the apartment for sex and, while the camera sits looking on, she goes to investigate noises and abruptly a trapdoor right in front of the camera opens and a figure pops out. It is this, which reminds of what Oren Peli did so effectively, that shows by contrast just what Christopher Landon is lacking.