At this juncture, four entries in and once upon a time clamouring for attention alongside the latter torture-porn entries of ‘Saw’, you’re either of two opinions. The ‘Paranormal Activity’ series is a cynical cash-grab or the possession ‘mythology’ that continues to be established/expanded upon is worthy of exploration and explanation.
Initially revitalising the franchise only to predominantly underwhelm hardened fans with a perceived lack of progression/payoff in ’4′, ‘Catfish’ duo Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman hand the reins to scripter/first time director Christopher Landon as the ‘Activity’ spins off to strike the Latin American community.
Shifting the narrative emphasis away from the Katie and Kristi saga and fresh from delivering his best ‘inspirational’ high school graduation speech (of course, conveniently caught on camera), the youthful Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) along with his prankster best friend Hector (Jorge Diaz) take great pleasure in treating we viewers to their own colourful activities. Inevitably, the care free enthusiasm of parading around with such technology leads to the ‘capture’ of events of a more sinister nature.
Spurred on and perplexed by the bizarre rituals performed by a mysterious recluse of a neighbour, the duo turn all Sherlock Holmesss and Watson in a bid to uncover the truth. Randomly waking up with an unexplainable bite mark for Jesse’s troubles, it’s the cue for creepy and unorthodox forms of teenage discovery, fisticuffs with troublesome locals and jarring mood swings prompting much concern from loved ones (Gabrielle Walsh’s Marisol in particular).
The ‘static’ camera that has so often unnerved in previous entries has gradually started to roam, with this installment fully embracing the approach. Within the confines of the franchise, it’s a passable gimmick. Alongside fellow and recent sub-genre entries however, it could seem a desperate tactic to keep up. The ‘praying for their own Youtube channel’ goofball/frat-pack style antics of Jesse/Hector certainly provides a lighter tone to the semi-serious exposition we’ve grown accustomed to, whilst director Landon’s injection of body horror and ‘trial and error’ sequences prove effective with the latter likely to evoke memories of found footage/superhero hybrid ‘Chronicle’.
Spin-offs within the horror genre are notoriously tough to justify and ‘The Marked Ones’ will undoubtedly be judged on the answers and terror it provides. The narrative roads taken here are bound to polarise in their ballsy nature, along with its well sustained, energetic finale which just makes up for the spread of serial drama style jolts, that are sadly passed off as scares. Think demonic possession meets half-hearted ‘Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas’ mini-game.
By no means the weakest entry, ‘Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones’ is a solid if unremarkable expansion to the series that tweaks enough of the formula to justify its own existence, yet leaves much pressure on Paramount’s shoulders to justify two helpings in one calendar year (5 in October).
Follow Darryl Griffiths on Twitter @LegallyBOD
Image from Amazon
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is available from Amazon