ByBenjamin Marlatt, writer at

The film opens in the summer of 2012, at a party in Oxnard, California. Following the death of a women who lived in the apartment directly below the party, Hector (Jorge Diaz) and his best friend Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) decide to investigate with their camera. Once inside, they discover some ritualistic art, even videotapes associated with the events from Paranormal Activity 3.

The next day, Jesse wakes up to find a mark on his arm that appears similar to an animal bite. Not knowing what to make of the mark or the strange, new physical abilities he suddenly has gained, Jesse, his sister Marisol (Gabrielle Walsh) and Hector look back on an occult journal they found the night before that leads them to discover something much more sinister awaits Jesse.

In 2009, Paranormal Activity was finally given a wide release, after first appearing at the Screamfest Film Festival in 2007. Filmed on a low budget of just $15,000, the movie was a critical and box office success, grossing nearly $200 million. Although the first film was highly entertaining, the downside was the number of “found footage” films that came afterward (to be fair, Paranormal Activity was copying a format already done in The Blair Witch Project nearly 10 years before it), most of which were its own horribly unnecessary sequels. That said, this is an entirely new film, featuring a new cast, and is more a spin-off than a direct sequel. So, is it a breath of fresh air for the tired franchise?

The answer is a resounding no.

Writer and first-time director Christopher Landon (who wrote the second, third and fourth entries in this franchise) bombards the viewer with every horror cliche in the book. Dark basement beneath a trap door? Yeah, let’s check it out. Just heard a noise that doesn’t quite sound human? We better see who or what it is. Look, it’s fine if a horror film breaks all the cliches, provided it scares us in the process. This film manages to hardly do so. Yes, we get those pesky jump scenes, but those are a dime a dozen. They’re cheap, and it’s like farting to get a laugh. Why bother being creative when you can just take the easy way out by having someone pop out in front of the camera screaming?


What made the first film of this series so entertaining and frightening was the sense of dread (further helped by the very clever use of camera and editing tricks) at what we couldn’t see. We were on the same journey as Micah and Katie as to what exactly was going on in their home. Sure, it had the jump scenes, but the quieter scenes were the most tense and suspenseful. The story was also much more contained and focused strictly on those two, where here we get very little character development (particularly with Gabrielle Walsh) as well as the obligatory detour to a side character who shows up for one scene so they can give the big explanation about possession and curses that we’ve seen a million times before.

I can understand the studios point of view here. When you’re in it to make money, and your first product grosses close to $200 million, you squeeze that cow’s utter ’til dust is coming out. If it were me, I’d be whipping out one a month. Forget Paranormal Activity on Halloween. I’d have one for Valentine’s Day, Lincoln’s Birthday, Easter, Fourth of July, Columbus Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas as well. By the way, speaking of Halloween, they’re planning on Paranormal Activity 5 for October of this year.

No, I’m not kidding.

While there are some comical moments involving Jesse discovering his newfound powers that work, and the change of setting is nice, this is just more of the same that we’ve seen again and again and again from this film series. It’s not as horrible as Paranormal Activity 4 - the worst offender of them all – and for a moment, I was steering toward a very mild rental recommendation for you (a rather generous move, if you ask me). Then that third act reared its ugly head and tried to go for a “tie it all together from a different perspective” ending (you’ll know it when you see it) that’s nothing short of eye-rolling, “Are you kidding me?!” awful.

I give Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones a D+ (★½).

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