(My goal is to watch and rank every movie given a wide release in 2014. This is film #2 )
The first three entries into the Paranormal Activity canon are undoubtedly the best. They used the found-footage gimmick to terrifying effect, while also managing to spin an interesting, demonic yarn out of it too. Paranormal Activity 4 forgot what made the previous three so special and unique, and the filmmakers were obviously trying to breath some new life into the franchise and take the story in a new direction with The Marked Ones, but even with a new setting, a new format with new, likeable characters, the fifth entry is where the series proved that it has weared out its welcome.
In The Marked Ones, the activity has relocated to Oxnard, California, where our demons are this time attacking a couple of Mexican lads. Jesse gets bitten in his sleep...or something, which gives him Chronicle-like powers. Although him and his best friend Hector think this is the best thing ever, the boys soon learn that there is more than meets the eye here, as Jesse's behaviour becomes more and more bizarre.
The biggest mistake this movie made is diverting from the format of the previous films. The "Night #1, Night #2" way of creating scares is nothing new now, but it still would have made for more suspenseful scares. Instead, director Christopher Landon uses every generic genre trope available to him until there is no tension left; just interludes of silence followed by ear-splitting bass cues. The new setting is a welcome relief and the two leads are easy to get along with, but what lets The Marked Ones down is a reluctance to do anything fresh with it.
Even though its plot is nothing new and you'll most likely predict the twists and turns if you've seen the previous films, there are still several scenes that showed promise. A series of basement explorations and a comically over-the-top sequence towards the end shows that Landon might not be so terrible behind the camera as he seems to want us to think. (Although after seeing Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, I'm not so sure.)
The only performances a movie like this calls for are the typical, surprised, wide-eyed expression ones, and two leads Andrew Jacobs and Jorge Diaz are just fine. Diaz is the heart of the film, and his performance lends some emotional substance to the pic, but the actors are only ever asked to be just as average as everything else.
The Marked Ones is not quite Paranormal Activity 4 or Ghost Dimension terrible, but it's still nothing special. More lenient fans of the series might find a lot to like here, but I found there to be little to no suspense. The narrative was uninvolving, and the movie does nothing to continue the mythology its predecessors built up so well.