PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE MARKED ONES
* (out of 5)
January 3, 2014
Andrew Jacobs as JESSE
Jorge Diaz as HECTOR
Gabrielle Walsh as MARISOL
Renee Victor as JESSE’S GRANDMOTHER
Noemi Gonzalez as EVETTE
David Saucedo as CESAR
Gloria Sandoval as ANNA
Directed by: Christopher Landon
BY KEVIN CARR
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I’m such a fickle bastard, especially when it comes to the “Paranormal Activity” franchise. I loved the first film because it was quite groundbreaking, not just in its delivery but also in its departure from the soon-to-be standard found footage genre. However, I hated the second movie for being derivative and forced.
The third film was a great way to bounce back, actually adding to the existing mythology of the franchise. But that all came crashing down in the fourth film, which wasn’t terrible, just terribly boring.
Now, the fifth film is out (even though it’s not called “Paranormal Activity 5,” because that’s due out next October). This one is subtitled “The Marked Ones” and is being sold as an offshoot of the existing series. There is some connective tissue between this film and the others, and while I’ve heard not a small number of critics praise these elements, they were shoehorned into the movie and at times nonsensical.
This movie moves the franchise into the Latino community, focusing on a recent high school graduate named Jesse (Andrew Jacobs). The woman who lives downstairs from him is murdered one night, and Jesse thinks it might be a classmate of his. Being a reckless youth, he and his buddy Hector (Jorge Diaz) sneak into the old woman’s apartment and discover evidence that links Jesse to black magic. He soon worries that he might be marked for possession by the same intentionally obfuscated and drawn-out fuzzy demon characters that we’ve seen in four movies now.
One of the biggest problems with “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” is that it’s a painfully unapologetic cash grab at the Latino demographic. With films like the “Fast & Furious” franchise, as well as “Despicable Me 2” and even the dreadful “The Devil Inside” from two years ago, finding profit in ethnic casting, “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” takes it to an offensive level.
There is almost nothing in this movie that isn’t a raging stereotype. During the graduation party, the family is making salsa and bean dip. One scene feature Jesse and Hector getting their grandmother to drink shots of tequila and salsa dance. The family has a prominently-displayed Chihuahua dog. There’s even a scene in which Hector is eating a tortilla and complaining that Jesse has no other food in the house. The entire approach seems terribly disingenuous, almost like it was a found footage subplot plucked from an episode of “Ugly Betty.”
Still, I can forgive that element of the movie, especially if that targeted demographic doesn’t have a problem with it. From the story perspective, “The Marked Ones” is dull and mundane, treading much of the same road as before, either directly from this franchise or the now overly formulaic set-up of found footage movies. I suppose if you loved the other four movies, you’ll appreciate this one, even though there’s nothing genuinely scary or original in here.
However, what I cannot forgive is the vomit-inducing cinematography. Where other “Paranormal Activity” movies differentiated themselves by staying somewhat static and allowing creepy events to unfold in front of a locked-down camera (which really made the films stand out from the other films of this genre), “The Marked One” takes a mostly handheld approach.
And it ends up becoming the most deliberate shakycam experience I’ve ever witnessed since the genre really had its genesis 15 years ago with “The Blair Witch Project.” Simply put, the camera movement is too much, overly dizzying and uncomfortable to watch.
Not since “The Blair Witch Project” have I wanted to throw up during a film, literally, and not in a good way. This isn’t too gory or uncomfortable to watch like “A Serbian Film” or “Human Centipede.” It’s not nauseating in a visceral yet groundbreaking way. No, this movie is simply unwatchable.
But the fortunate thing is you don’t actually have to watch it. The acting and dialogue is so trite and bland that it puts “Twilight” to shame. If you hate yourself enough to attend a screening of this movie, and you feel bile rising in your throat after watching the camera whip around for 30 to 40 minutes, just shut your eyes. The two-dimensional characters on screen will narrate everything that happens anyway.
Or skip the entire experience, and you won’t have to know what it’s like to use your popcorn tub as a barf bag.