The Paranormal Activity series appears to be a love/hate thing… and its position as somewhat of the modern poster child for found footage horror is a big reason for that. It’s easy to forget how small of a film the first Paranormal Activity movie was and how it actually took many years for it to be given a wide release and eventually some sequels. By the time Paranormal Activity 4 came around the movies had stopped being fresh and original, at least in the public’s eye, and that’s where we get the fifth entry in the series… The Marked Ones.
Overall I personally think this is one of the best movies in this series. Why is that? Well quite honestly I’m on board with the sentiment that after PA4 this series was in need of a new direction. As a result the focus of The Marked Ones is incredibly fresh and adds a lot of tension and scares that make the series feel more exciting again.
While I do think this is one of the better movies in this series I must admit it may be the weakest of them in terms of being a found footage movie. The Marked Ones ditches the concept of “nights” where activity at night is documented on camera for the reason of proving that something weird is going on. Instead this movie is more straight forward in its approach and the characters are quite simply a bunch of teenagers who like to film most things and in general also want to see if they can catch anything spooky on camera. So as the movie goes along it is increasingly unbelievable that they are filming the events. This is where the movie loses most of its points but it never is bad enough that I didn’t at least passively understand why they were filming.
Other than that, honestly this movie was a knockout for me. It was much scarier and more suspenseful than the last couple of movies in the series and overall has some of the most intense sequences of all 6 PA movies. The story is a bit more involved and yes, it does tie in with the main Paranormal Activity story in the end. Basically the movie follows a group of teenagers in the summer who get bored and start to explore the occult. This is because a neighbor in their apartment complex is very secretive and may be holding some secrets involved in witchcraft and demonic spirits. Things start innocently enough as the teenagers are fascinated by the strange powers they are experimenting with but of course get more and more sinister as things go along. I believe this is also the longest of the series (clocking in at over 100 minutes). It never felt long and honestly the movie has so many great scenes that it felt much shorter than it’s runtime.
Overall I’m thrilled that this series took a different direction at this point. This change does a number of things: it makes the universe of the world bigger and gets away from the one basic familial line the series has followed so far, it offers more perspectives on the demonic presences and most importantly introduces new environments and a wider diversity of characters that makes the terror more universal. This isn’t a perfect movie by any imagination as, like I already said, the found footage elements in this movie are sorely less believable than the last couple of entries. Luckily solid performances, likable enough characters and tons of suspenseful scenes carry the plot through to the end. I had a lot of fun with this one.