You know what I loved about the Nightmare on Elm Street series?
It had a simple story.
Freddy was a child murderer. He was put to death by the parents of kids in the neighborhood. He sought his revenge against them. In each movie, another piece of the story was given. In the second installment, we learn where he worked. In the next installments, we learned about his mother, we saw where he was buried, and we eventually found out he had a daughter (Well….for the most part it worked.).
But the installments really did work together.
As the Paranormal Activity series adds another installment (Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones), I am reminded why I hate and love this series. There are so many good moments that are broken up by nearly unwatchable footage. The Marked Ones is much better than previous entries as it walks away from its core characters (and, thus, is not as limited in its outcome). However, the story line is completely off from the rest of the series. It’s like somebody took a good possession movie, and shoved a witch’s coven story line into it.
Jesse (Andrews Jacobs) is a young man graduating high school. He lives with his grandma (abuelita), his sister, and his father in an inner city apartment building. His best friend Hector (Jorge Diaz) and he plan on enjoying the summer together, and start having fun with Jesse’s new video camera he got as a graduation present. The duo catch a beating when they accidentally film some drug dealers, but that doesn’t stop them. They end up doing all sorts of stupid things that lighten the mood and (gasp) make the characters likable.
Despite being teased by Katie Featherstone‘s low cut tops in almost every installment, the series avoided nudity. That changes here when the boys spy on the strange woman Anna (Gloria Sandoval) downstairs. They capture a young woman participating in some ritual where she paints the woman’s stomach. The boys laugh it off, and decide to poke fun at Anna. She threatens them, and tells Jesse that he has no idea what he is in for.
Shortly thereafter, Jesse and Hector are setting off a firework behind the apartment complex. Suddenly, the class valedictorian Oscar jumps from Anna’s window and takes off down the street. The police show up, and everybody is swept into their respective apartments. Oscar killed Anna, and the police are searching for him.
The boys decide to break into Anna’s apartment, and find a bloodied room. They take a journal that they later read (which connects the story to the Paranormal Activity series) that tells them about the witch coven. It also foretells the finale of the film.
Hector draws a penis on Jesse’s face as he sleeps, and tapes him the next morning to catch his reaction. Jesse had a strange dream, and finds that he has an odd bite mark on his arm. It is here that the movie takes off into supernatural madness.
Jesse begins his inevitable journey towards black eyed minion, while Hector and his family are left asking “What the hell??” over and over again. There are definitely some “new” scares here (ala V/H/S and V/H/S 2) that didn’t exist in the previous installments, and the only PA scare I could truly identify was a haunted Simon. The finale is action packed, but predictable. More than one person in the theater burst into laughter over some of the action sequences.
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is definitely one of the better installments in the series. It didn’t feel like a PA installment, but it had quite a few on screen special effects shots (more like a V/H/S installment). The easiest comparison to make, ironically, is to the movie Chronicle (found footage film about 3 teenagers that gain superhero powers). Jesse discovers that he has a force “protecting” him and tests this in multiple shots (which he immediately loads onto YouTube). This works as (again) it makes the character likable and fills the time where the PA films have struggled. (I find it horribly ironic that the best qualities of this installment is that it copied the best parts of other movies in the genre.) Because the movie walked away from the Katie/Kristi story line, it left a little more intrigue as to what will happen (which was nice).
Of course, it did have its flaws. The dialogue is entirely way too forced in the beginning when trying to set up the story. Nobody wants to hear the characters see something semi-strange and say “What the hell??” for the next 5 minutes until it’s time to go to another scene. Once the movie takes off, this becomes less of a problem. However, the finale is hampered by Hector continuing to film the whole thing. They didn’t even give him a reason to carry the camera. He just filmed to film.
I had one huge problem with the film’s story. In the earlier installments, it was told that Hunter (Kristi’s child that the demon covets and eventually kidnaps) was sold for the grandma’s prosperity. Jesse’s family is not well off, and they do not seem to have anybody around them in the coven. Why was Jesse chosen? Why were the other children chosen? What rewards were these women given?
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is one of the better installments in the series, and it is worth a look. If you liked the previous installments, you’ll love this one as it is everything the series had before and more. If you hated them, you may actually like this one. It has its good, and it had its bad. Unfortunately, all I could think about in the end was “Why was Jesse’s family still in the hood if somebody in his family should be prospering?”.