Sunday, 5 January 2014

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones


Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) and Hector (Jorge Diaz) have just graduated from College, and are holding a party to celebrate, recording everything on a camera that Jesse recently bought. However, when the woman from downstairs (widely considered a "witch") is murdered seemingly by their valedictorian, Jesse and Jacob take the camera into her flat, and find all kids of freaky, demonic items and stereotypical witchy things. The next day, Jesse wakes up with a strange mark on his arm, and soon discovers he has these strange powers. But, the in the next few days, Jesse starts going downhill, with his powers soon turning into demonic possession.

Personally, I love the Paranormal Activity franchise. I loved the first film, I enjoyed the second, and I really loved the third. The fourth, however, halted this winning streak. Poorly written and acted, and almost entirely without scares, it was a master class in how not to do horror. I thought these guys were going to destroy my favourite horror series. However, I am incredibly relieved to announce that The Marked Ones is not only an improvement, but perhaps even a return to form. It improves on everything that went wrong in PA4, and introduces so many new ideas into the franchise. Basically, this could not have come at a better time.

The Marked Ones is labelled as a spin-off. This was such a poor decision, this film is 100% canon and completely advances the story. Sure, it's set in a different location with entirely different characters, but this should just have been titled Paranormal Activity 5. Whilst it doesn't really answer many of the questions I wanted answering, it gives us a far deeper insight into the mythology, and massively expands the PA universe. I won't give away spoilers, but this blows the whole thing wide open. This is no longer a small story, but it actually works. Yeah, it's lost that minimalistic feel it once had, but franchises need to develop, they need to change. This feels like a change in the right direction.

Also hugely improving this time around are the scares. The Marked Ones is a very different film from what we've comes to expect from this franchise. They've dropped the static night cameras, here we stay handheld from start to finish. Also, we've lost the slow build; we no longer have to watch half an hour of moving doors and occasional loud noises. This is scary from beginning to end. Granted, it takes a while to become properly terrifying, but once it does, oh boy is this film frightening. Unlike PA4, here an effort is made for prolonged tension, real scares as opposed to just a few bangs and crashes to make us jump. The final fifteen minutes had people screaming in the screening room, I was shaking by the time the credits started. Jump scares on their own? No. Fifteen minutes of solid tension littered with about three jump scares a minute? That's more like it.

Also improved on here are the characters. Whilst previous, and possibly overall stronger, entries have suffered with believability, here that isn't an issue. We're following two teenage guys around, the bonkers stupidity works. Yeah there's still the whole "Why are you still holding a camera? Drop it and fucking run!" element, but it's slightly less in your face than before. Both Jesse and Hector are so likeable, and brilliantly funny, that we actually care when bad things begin to happen. This is something that's like in this franchise since the second film, so it's nice to have this back too.

I couldn't be more impressed with The Marked Ones. I am genuinely really happy that this franchise is back to form. The ending is bound to be controversial with fans of the series, but I'm interested to see where it goes. A lot of people are against this franchise, and wrongly so. Due to the success of the first film, people hopped on this "Paranormal Activity is crap" bandwagon, and criticise these films before seeing them. If you go into a horror film against it, and determined not to be scared, then you won't be. Go in neutral, and this film ahs the capacity to scare the absolute crap out of you. It isn't without its flaws, no, but by no means is this a bad film. It has set up this franchise for a whole new audience, with so many new ideas. One thing is for sure. Paranormal Activity 5 (due to hit cinemas this October) will either make or break this franchise for good. If it is anywhere near the standard of this instalment, we're in for one hell of a ride.

To Summarise: With a solid script, a tight plot and pure, genuine terror in abundance, "Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones" is a massive return to form for this franchise.


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