Sunday, January 5, 2014

FILM REVIEW: Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (2014)


Homeboys vs. witches. Yup...you read that correctly. PA  is back to deliver the clichés and terror, with a side of salsa verde!

I'm not gonna pretend that I'm a fan of the Paranormal Activity  films. While I cannot deny their place in the history of horror cinema and am very happy for what they have manage to do for the genre, I just cannot get past the fact that they are extremely vapid in content by nature. If you take away all the insignificant parts of the films where people are just talking and doing dumb shit...then, you're probably left with about 10 minutes of actual riveting film. Honestly, I'm not trying to hate on these films...but, they just don't do it for me anymore. There are some really great moments in the series and Oren Peli is a goddamn genius for figuring out how to turn directing a tiny $15,000 film into a career of producing stuff that usually ends up on our "Worst of" lists. Again...I don't have anything against the PA  films...but, I usually never go out of my way to catch them in a theater.

That said, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones  serves as the very first horror film of 2014. So, I had to check it out...seeing as how it was pretty much the first time since October that we've had any kind of major horror release in theaters. Now, while the film is pretty fucking far from great...at least it ain't Texas Chainsaw 3D, which opened during the same weekend a year ago.


PA: Marked Ones  comes to us from Christopher Landon, who's been involved in the series' writing since the second film and, incidentally,  also wrote Disturbia  and Blood and Chocolate. Which kinda doesn't really do much in the way of good impressions. However, Dirsturbia, despite it's glaring plot issues, was a decent time. Landon is the writer/director of this PA  installment...which doesn't really say much.

The film opens at a high school graduation where some valedictorian named Oscar (Carlos Pratts) is giving his speech. It's all "found footage" so, it's the usual..."oh, shit...that's a nice camera, dad! Can I use it for the rest of this film?" It really does get a bit infuriating when the camera operator always manages to shoot everything, despite the dangerous shit happening around them. I mean...come the fuck on. Common sense is common sense. You're gonna tell me that someone who is in mortal terror is gonna continue to film his buddy who happens to be possessed by an evil demon?? What kind of logic is that?? Fuck that noise. I'm gonna drop the camera and get the hell out of there! However, I understand that it is the necessary basis for a film of this kind...so, I shrug my shoulders and move on.

So, we are introduced to a whole Latino cast...starting with Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) and Hector (Jorge Diaz). Two BFF's who love hanging out, smoking weed, pullin' stunts and investigating suspicious paranormal events...as any Latino teenager does. All while filming everything in the process. Jesse happens to live upstairs from some lady named Anna (Gloria Sandoval), whom everyone believes to be a bruja (Spanish for witch). So, one night the two Chicano buddies lower a spy-camera down through a vent and proceed to record Anna and some other girl involved in some kind of naked blood-smearing ritual. During this time, our valedictorian from earlier, Oscar, gets himself involved in some serious shit. Including hanging out with Anna. However, no one pays too much attention to that kind of thing in these movies. Anyway, there's a murder, there's a revelation of some kind of ritualistic birth-pact, Jesse gets all geeked out over having these new powers after waking up with some weird bite on his arm and it's not long before he realizes that he's mistaken his new found super powers for something much more malevolent. Nope, he's not an X-Man...he's possessed by a demon.


Now, it's important to note that the producers of this latest PA  installment felt the need to create a spin-off solely intended for the Latino audience...apparently the biggest demographic for these films. So, we get gang-bangers and Latin stereotypes. While I'm not altogether opposed to watching a horror film targeted to a Latino audience, it gets a bit stupid when you start seeing all these clichés play out in a big Hollywood horror movie. At one point a couple of ese's pop the trunk and break out some AK's and shotguns to go..."we're gonna smoke these bitches." It's fucking groan-inducing. But...the audience that I watched it with ate up all that shit and actually cheered those elements on...so, whatever. Maybe I'm just being over-critical and should applaud a film so apparently rich in ground-breaking cultural depth.

Still, PA: The Marked Ones  is mediocre in delivery, at best. Often foregoing an opportunity to create something different and dangerous for the sake of what sells. The recent Here Comes the Devil  is a Mexican film that doesn't drown itself in Latino stereotypes and does everything right in pure suspenseful horror. PA: The Marked Ones  is what happens when filmmakers only care about a paycheck. The film just never does anything inventive and dangerous. It plays within the safe confines of the PA  recipe for what they think horror is. My favorite in the series has always been PA3: The Dream Warriors...because that film actually does some really inventive stuff for a found footage affair. The oscillating fan-cam and the ghost sheet scene are a brilliant combination! However, there's no new ground broken here. Also, there's way too much CGI to merit any kind of points in the FX department.

In all, PA: The Marked Ones  is as predictable and uninspired as its cinematic siblings. It's a 6 dollar matinee at best. While it is a good Paranormal Activity  movie, it's not necessarily a great horror film. It doesn't really do much to set itself apart from the previous films in the series...but, it doesn't make as much mistakes as the clunky fourth installment, either. It's kinda just there...to offer a couple of predictable scares. And some tortillas. Cool movie poster, tho.




Thanks for reading,

bryan.




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