Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

The found footage franchise gets a Hispanic spinoff

Also opening this week:

• Lone Survivor ★★★½

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

Rating Paranormal Activity: The Marked OnesParanormal Activity: The Marked OnesParanormal Activity: The Marked OnesParanormal Activity: The Marked Ones

Written and directed by Christopher Landon. Starring Andrew Jacobs, Jorge Diaz, Hector Luis Bustamante, Gabrielle Walsh, Katie Featherston, Molly Ephraim, Micah Sloat.

Ay, caramba! The Paranormal Activity series gets a Latino makeover in Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, the fifth entry in the found footage horror franchise. The title (and release date) suggests spinoff rather than direct sequel, even though this one has as much to do with previous entries as they do with each other (which is to say, not much).

The ethic spin purports to add a new dimension (read: target demographic) to the series, but you know you’re in trouble when the first five minutes feature mariachi music and a Chihuahua and characters carrying around bowls of salsa and eating raw tortillas, which are name-checked in spicy-accented dialogue. Dios mio!

Yes, the pandering is really that explicit, and we haven’t even gotten to the cholo gangbangers and the Spanish-speaking abuela wary of evil spirits. This thing feels about as fresh and sensitive as a Speedy Gonzales cartoon. 

The Marked Ones follows high school graduate Jesse (Andrew Jacobs), who documents his day-to-day life with friends Hector (Jorge Diaz) and Marisol (Gabrielle Walsh) with a GoPro camera, for some reason. Early scenes showcase a couple Jackass-like stunts, before Jesse discovers he has some kind of super powers (a la Chronicle), and then realizes that he’s possessed (The Devil Inside, The Last Exorcism). 

As the film went through just about every other kind of found footage premise, I wondered when it was going to get to the ghostly stuff – you know, the whole Paranormal Activity thing. It never does, outside of a sequence involving a haunted Simon Says game. Yeah, that’s right. The grandmother comes and turns it off like the maid from Family Guy: “No… no evil spirits.” It’s exactly as ridiculous as it sounds, and the highlight of the film, though it doesn’t quite match the haunted pool cleaner from Paranormal Activity 2

The Marked Ones was written and directed by Christopher Landon, co-writer of the previous three movies in the series, who seems to be laboring under the impression that we care about the characters and continuity from the rest of the series (despite this not being an “official” sequel). While each film has featured entirely new leads, Landon has managed to weave in a connective backstory involving a witches’ coven through each of them, which he continues here.

But story and character aren’t why these films have become so popular. There’s one sequence from the first film that nicely illustrates the appeal of this franchise: a Ouija board on a table moving by itself, caught on camera while no one is around. It’s an incredibly simple idea that plays on our fear of the unknown, the unexplained, something that a monster jumping out of the shadows cannot compete with. 

While The Marked Ones attempts (and fails) to deliver some jump scares, it completely misses out on all the spooky stuff that the rest of the film thrived on. All that’s left here are a bunch of frightening Hispanic stereotypes. Just wait till the scene where the gangbangers bust out their weaponry to take on the witches. Cabron!

Also opening this week:

  • Lars Von Trier’s highly-anticipated Nymphomaniac: Vol. II (showtimes | IMDb) opens today, two weeks following the first installment. In the US over the holidays, I haven’t had a chance to catch either film, but check back next week for my take. 

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