Guys, I'm going to be pretty clear here. I love me some Paranormal Activity, whether it be 3,4,5, the Marked Ones, or the Tyler Perry version that doesn't exist yet.
So imagine my excitement when the first trailer for the 5th installment, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, was released just a few days ago.
I strongly advise that you watch the trailer first before reading this breakdown. I suspect that it won't be as creepy and fun to watch otherwise, since I'm about to over-analyze it.
Like every other trailer for the Paranormal Activity franchise, we open to a few scenes showcasing Latino youth in California. Okay fine, it's usually boring shots of nuclear families and/or couples being happy and ready to be terrorized. This time, it's clear that the focus of the story will be a bit different, focusing on this hotshot millennial with a baseball bat, living in the hood and going to teenage parties. It's like as if the movie took place in Oxnard, California.
Touche Hollywood. Unlike the previous films taking place in suburbia, The Marked Ones takes an urban approach that has nothing to do with the growing popularity and assimilation of Latinos in pop culture, I guess. Also, the trailer points out that this is June, 2012. If you recall, the first movie took place in 2006, and the most recent in 2011.
It's not all fun and games for what will soon be the stars of a Disney Channel Original movie, as we discover that the neighbor of our hero, an old woman, has passed away.
Recording as they go (because whatever), the gang of misfits uncovers what they describe as "blood everywhere."
There's even a lamp on its side and everything. Of course, this is a trailer, so they can't show the cool stuff. Regardless, our reliable narrator explains that the woman was murdered, which makes this unauthorized investigation especially messed up.
But no Mexican Scooby Doo episode would be complete without stumbling upon someone's personal belongings. Interestingly, these are the tapes from the earlier Paranormal Activity movies, which are probably the only evidence of what happened with Katie, Hunter, and...Toby. Yeah I said his name and am not willing to sleep tonight. I expect at least 10 minutes of this movie to be dedicated to these kids searching for a VCR.
They soon discover that this old woman dabbled in black magic and Facebook profile pictures, as evidenced by her photo of the main character. Pretty creepy stuff, and there are three main suspects in my eyes for who this old woman is. I believe she is either Katie's mom (who is referenced after the events of the third film and said to be "crazy"), Katie's grandmother, or a member of the coven that we haven't met. I lean toward the latter since it wouldn't make sense for Katie's grandmother to have moved from her nice house of luxury (the family's motivation for making a deal with Toby) to a ghetto neighborhood in Oxnard.
I don't know how not to address that odd poster on this dude's wall. That is a buffalo on display, and he's wondering why he's having night terrors. Regardless, our hero is experiencing some creepy stuff after his meddling with a dead witch (probably.)
This is easily my favorite scene of the trailer, if only because it reminds me of Chronicle in almost every way. After a group of thugs trys to beat up our hero, he uses his newfound powers to send them flying and then forgets the whole thing. It looks like the franchise is aiming to have more fun with the bizarre mythology it has created, choosing a "beast within" motif instead of the played out "haunted house" deal that's been going on for 4 movies.
Jesse is clearly sick at this point, and he is no doubt running out of clean shirts and pillows.
Oh look! The DVD cover ^
The Mexican Scooby Gang manages to track down Ali, the daughter from the 2nd film. We haven't seen her since, and in this part of the timeline, she is either 20 or 21 years old now. I always knew they would bring her back, and I've been curious to see what she must be like after literally losing her entire family in one night. It makes sense that she's eager to help, and you can definitely tell she is not the plucky go-getter she was a few movies ago. Expect drama and feels.
Super Depressed Version of Ali explains that those who are "marked" become possessed brother-stealers. If you recall, Katie was bitten in the first film, not long before she went crazy. What I don't get is why Jesse has been bitten and what this has to do with the current story. In Paranormal Activity 4 (Spoiler Alert), the crux of these movies, Toby's desire for a male childe, was resolved when Katie stole Hunter back from his Skype-loving family. This is just a year later, so why would a male who is presumably unrelated to the story get roped into this nonsense?
This is bad news for Jesse's meddling friends, who are probably helpless against Mexican Man Katie. But this is Paranormal Activity, which means our heroes will turn to a superstitious old lady to help solve their problems. Hopefully this won't be like the 2nd movie, when that old lady basically told Ali and Dan to screw over their own relative (Katie).
Okay, so we're getting into the final stretch of the trailer. It's full of a few tense scenes, but they seem to all display what's going on at the end of the film. It's almost spoilery because you can guess what's about to happen. Regardless, these scenes are full of nods to the other movies.
What makes this bit interesting is the decor. It looks pretty similar to one of two places. The old house that belonged to Katie's grandmother is what I thought of first. The sheets on the furniture also remind me of Katie's creepy house from the endgame of Paranormal Activity 4. Whatever the case, I think we can all agree that the horse on the window just doesn't match the feel of the room.
Well, here's a head scratcher. This church scene shows us a dark-haired woman and a young boy. Of course, we're all inclined to say this is Katie and Hunter, since that makes cinematic sense.
To be honest, however, I'm tempted to say that girl is Ali. She looks a little younger than Katie, and that would give this series a much-needed plot twist, even if it doesn't make sense. Also, we can see that she's drawing the evil symbol that has been creeping up since the 3rd film, so she's definitely doing bad Toby things.
Here we have a closer look at the face of the young boy. He definitely looks like Hunter, though I haven't seen the most recent movie in a while. More importantly, I'm having a hard time dealing with the grin on that kid's face as our heroes tremble in fear, despite having a shotgun at their disposal. Actually, that makes sense because that kid is quite terrifying.
After a car-exploding scream, one of our heroes (sounds like one of the guys) starts navigating a basement full of things I don't want to talk about. Including,
Either these girls are the seers from Disney's Hercules, or the young Katie and Kristi we got to know in Paranormal Activity 3, only with cataracts. They instruct our hero that "he" is ready for him.
No, nightmare version of Kristi is clearly talking about Toby, who has yet to make an appearance in this trailer. Instead, we got this gal, who looks like Katie and Kristi's grandmother, but who knows at this point?
And that's pretty much it. Our hero tries to go up a ladder to escape the "Nope" Basement, but it closes because obviously.
A lot of questions are bubbling up for me right now, but I'm sure most of them will be addressed when The Marked Ones comes out.
Part of the fun of the franchise is how they expand the story with each movie, revealing another hidden set of details that manages to fit and make the previous movies tie together a little better. It's like if How I Met Your Mother was a bunch of horror movies.
Still, I can't help but feel unimpressed at the direction the series is going in when it comes to story. Each movie has made it painfully clear that nothing can be done to stop this force of darkness that is obsessed with male heirs. The Marked Ones doesn't really seem to fit in with that narrative, and according to the studio, the movie is more of a spin-off than a sequel, so what will this all contribute to inevitably?
We'll have to wait and see when this (and the other series installment that is slated for 2014) comes out.
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones hits theater VCR's January 3, 2014.
Jon Negroni is the author of the Pixar Theory and other movie-related conspiracies. For more of his odd opinions you might care about, check out jonnegroni.com or follow him on Twitter @JonNegroni