“Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” is yet another example for the documentary-style horror film genre and the fifth addition to the “Paranormal Activity” franchise. There’s not much to be said about No. 5. In actuality, the best parts have nothing to do with the genre at hand: the hackneyed act of the eponymous character’s BFF drawing a dick on his face (a la “10 Things I Hate About You”), the sounds of bestial fornication emanating from the evil neighbor’s apartment, the boner talk and wise cracks of two Latino buds from the gangster-filled neighborhood of Oxnard, Calif. These are small occurrences provoking “Why am I here?” chuckles and the occasional embarrassed eye roll. When it comes down to it, the “horror” is hardly noticeable, and the movie gives us a new set of characters but little else to talk about.
The plot follows best friends Jesse and Hector, another pair bent on recording a series of paranormal events, this time in their neighbor Anna’s apartment. One night, when Anna mysteriously dies, the boys decide to “go check that shit out” and end up in the midst of the same devilish totems and false scares that have plagued all five movies. They find tapes labeled “Katie and Christie 1988,” a signal within the vague plotline that warns us that we’re still dealing with the same set of characters as well as the same lack of originality, the same gimmicks and tireless collection of Ouija board schemes.
After their little visit, Jesse wakes up with a bite on his arm and shit starts to go down. Jesse discovers an ability to torture his chihuahua and beat up muggers with his mind. Free-hand inverted pentagrams start to show up pretty much everywhere, and Jesse’s Catholic grandmother decides to un-demonize Jesse through three eggs and some grocery store Mexican incense. It doesn’t work. This all leads up to Jesse being taken in by a league of demon-worshippers.
Director Christopher Landon’s attempt to keep the series alive is cute at best. We get a revisit from Christie’s step-daughter, Ali Rey (from “Paranormal Activity 2”), who informs our new set of protagonists on Jesse’s situation. These revived characters are the continuation of a storyline that has already gotten old. The climax drags on forever, but I was grateful for one tidbit: Hector enlists the help of a Mexican gang leader who pulls out the big guns (no joke) to go take down those annoying-as-shit demon bitches hiding in some ghost house out in no-man’s-land (another mind-bending-in-a-bad-way aspect of the plot). It was nice to see some of our demon-fighters be somewhat realistic for once. At that, I won’t even comment on the confusing time-blunder of the ending, which is meant to be one, fat, slap-in-the-face surprise. But it’s really just annoyingly out of place and disruptive.
Although the movie transcended my expectations (the theater was dead-empty), its repetitive motifs and tricks failed to touch upon the suspenseful horror that made the franchise so popular and successful in the first place.
1.5 out of 5 stars