A Mexican-American community in California is rocked by the murder of a reclusive old woman. Friends Hector (Jorge Diaz), Marisol (Gabrielle Walsh) and the recently graduated Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) begin investigating the dead woman’s apartment before making a startling discovery that leads back to one of their childhoods and suggests at a dark future ahead.
Set in a new area and with an all-Latino cast, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones attempts to breathe new life into the franchise and perhaps launch a spin-off series. Despite these moves however, the film-makers cannot resist the opportunity to tie it back to the original story, with a rather nonsensical and inexplicable crossover. It doesn’t work and creates a hugely disappointing final act where any tension is dissipated with the same cheap tricks that have plagued the original films.
Those with motion sickness issues will want to avoid this as the static bedroom shots that have become synonymous with the previous films are here replaced with frantic back-and-forth shaky-cam moments that confuse and disorientate. Anyone who struggled watching The Blair Witch Project is going to have serious problems watching this film without being sick. Quite why there is a need for such relentless fast-moving camera shots is beyond me and as a directorial tool is only going to alienate and frustrate some of the audience.
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is at its strongest when the lead duo of Hector and Jesse are left to their own devices and film a series of escalating stunts. It is a well-considered section that helps build sympathy and engagement with the characters. It also makes the most memorable scene, involving the family dog being suspended on the ceiling, all the more chilling. There is also a real sense of comedy here too which is absent in most of the other films. This is something that previous films have struggled with and there is a healthy dose of influence from the excellent Chronicle throughout.
Unfortunately after the initial thrill of a new cast and a slightly different approach, the film quickly drops into clichÃ©d genre territory and the last two acts are either predictable or worse, tiresome. The fact that it is not set in a suburban home and provides far more locations than any other film in the series is a bonus. There is also further information about the coven and the increasingly convoluted mythology, but by the end you’re still no closer to understanding the master plan.
Fans of the previous films will find enough here to be entertained, but it seems clear that the franchise is running out of steam.