Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is a found footage horror movie directed by Christopher Landon and written by Christopher Landon and Oren Peli. The film is the fifth installment in the Paranormal Activity franchise. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones follows a group of friends who start their summer investigating an old woman living in an apartment in their building who they believe to be a witch.
The film opens in 2012 with Jesse’s (Andrew Jacobs) high school graduation and the start of summer for him and his two friends Hector (Jorge Diaz) and Marisol (Gabrielle Walsh).
Over the next few days, Jesse and Hector have fun filming their antics using Jesse’s new handheld video camera and smaller mountable video camera. The two friends also prank Jesse’s downstairs neighbor Ana (Gloria Sandoval) who is believed to be a bruja (Spanish for witch). They also witness strange occult-like activities taking place in Ana’s apartment.
A few nights later Jesse and Hector learn that Ana was murdered. The two friends break into her apartment through an open window to investigate. Inside they find a box of VHS video tapes (from Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)) and a journal with satanic rituals.
The morning after the break-in, Jesse wakes up with a bite mark on his arm and starts exhibiting increasingly odd behavior. As Jesse’s condition continues to deteriorate, his friends and family work feverishly to find a cure before it’s too late.
The filming reasons used throughout Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones are generally good. The story opens with the filming of Jesse’s high school graduation and graduation party, two events that normally would be captured on film.
The crux of the story focuses on the exploits of Jesse and Hector, who are basically filming their summer now that school has ended. Some of their more outrageous cinematography includes mounting a camera to Hector has he slides down a long staircase in a laundry basket.
The filming reason shifts emphasis when Jesse, Hector, and Marisol investigate Ana. While the group is still having fun filming, they are also gathering evidence of Ana allegedly being a witch.
Unfortunately, the filming reason breaks down during the final ten minutes of the film when the group finds themselves in a highly dangerous predicament. During this these final moments, the plausibility of continuously filming comes into question. The character filming arguably needs the camera as a light source in an otherwise unlit building, but the cinematography is too composed and well-framed for someone under extreme duress.
Found Footage Cinematography
The cinematography in Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is very good. The footage captured through most of the film comes across as what one would expect from two teenagers filming their escapades during the summer.
The film contains more blatant CGI than used in any of the prior Paranormal Activity movies, which detracts somewhat from the found footage conceit of the film. Although the CGI is seamless, there’s something to be said for using practical effects whenever possible to add to the gritty realism of a found footage film.
Similar to the preceding four installments in the Paranormal Activity franchise, the film includes the signature low-pitched humming sound accompanying each paranormal event. This sound effectively increases tension, as viewers are placed on alert whenever the sound starts, knowing that something is about to happen.
Found Footage Purity
The found footage purity of Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is good. However, the overt CGI used throughout the film somewhat diminishes the overall found footage realism of the film. The core intent of a found footage film is to create an end product that looks and feels indistinguishable from actual footage that someone shot. In the case of Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, the found footage realism is somewhat compromised by the inclusion of such prevalent CGI.
Andrew Jacobs gives a good performance as Jesse, the recent high school graduate, and impulsive teenager investigating the truth behind his mysterious neighbor. Jorge Diaz performs exceptionally as Hector and has a great chemistry with Andrew Jacobs. The characters of Jesse and Hector come across onscreen as two friends who truly grew up together. Gabrielle Walsh performs admirably as Marisol, friends to both Jesse and Hector who is deeply concerned over her Jesse’s well-being.
Gloria Sandoval as Ana effectively conveys a sense of dread and terror over the ill-fated teens as they get closer to the truth in their investigation. Renee Victor has a breakout performance in the film as Jesse’s grandmother, adding levity to the film and grounding the character with her parental authority.
Also performing well in their respective roles are Noemi Gonzalez as Jesse’s sister and Richard Cabral as Arturo, the gangbanger who helps out the group late in the film.
Plot [Includes Spoilers]
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones breaks from the traditional formula of the preceding Paranormal Activity films. Whereas the prior films are primarily filmed as surveillance footage within the confines of a house, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones follows the exploits of the main characters in their hometown.
This installment of the Paranormal Activity franchise is more of a bottle episode in the sense that the film doesn’t significantly further the main story of the franchise. This film is the fifth in a series of six, and while the film is entertaining and compliments the lore, skipping this film will not detract from the overall progression of the mythology.
Paranormal Activity (2007) and Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)) included ouija boards with which the characters use to communicate with the unseen entity in both of those films. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones introduces a unique and creative incarnation of a ouija board using a vintage “Simon” electronic game by Milton Bradely. The entity answers questions by lighting the game’s green light for “yes,” and red light for “no.”
The film also includes a callback to the prior films by reintroducing the box of missing VHS tapes introduced in Paranormal Activity 3 (2011). Further, similar to the preceding installments in the franchise, Katie Featherston (as Katie) and Micah Sloat (as Micah) make brief, yet poignant, appearances in the film.
All of the Paranormal Activity films include time jumps in the form of videos from different eras that are played back to add context to the overall story. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, takes the concept of time jumps to whole new level, adding actual time travel to an earlier point in the series.
Fans of the Paranormal Activity franchise expecting to see the established formula of the prior films may be disappointed with Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones. Although the film deviates from the franchise’s standard approach, this latest installment is still entertaining and does include meaningful contributions to the lore.