Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones
The Paranormal Activity has run for five years. The first film cost just $15,000 to make ($450,000 after post-production) and earned more than $100 million domestically and nearly $200 million worldwide. Obviously the studio started rushing out sequels. Unfortunately, some of the later sequels failed to win over critics and it "struggled" at the box office. (It made $86 million worldwide on a $5 million production budget.) The latest film in the franchise, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, is a spin-off of the original story and the first Paranormal Activity not released around Halloween. In fact, it was released in January, which is normally a dumping ground for films. On the other hand, there have been quite a few horror films to do relatively well early in the year in the past few years. Was this one of those successes? Or was it really dumped into theaters because the studio had no faith in the film?
The film begins with Jesse graduating listening to the valedictorian, Oscar, and then celebrating with his family and his friend, Hector in the apartment complex where he lives with his family. Not everyone in the complex joins in the celebration, including Ana, Jesse's strange downstairs neighbor.
After filming a bunch antics that don't advance the plot, Jesse and Hector are filming when they see Oscar coming out of Ana's apartment, but they are confused why he would hang out with Ana, and he's not interesting in talking to Jesse or Hector. Later they are filming in Jesse's room and hear strange sounds coming from Ana's apartment. She's making strange sounds, which at first sound like she is having sex, so of course the two of them get the idea to use their GoPro camera and hang it down the vent to see what's going on. They are not sure what exactly is going on, but it involves nudity. The next day, the pair of them try to play a prank on Ana, but get busted. That night, while trying to set off a firework, they see Oscar run out of the apartment complex, nearly running them over in the process. The police swarm the apartment complex and it is revealed Ana was killed.
Jesse and Hector, and Marisol, get to talking about what happened. Later, while high on pot, Jesse and Hector decide to break into Ana's apartment and check it out. What they find is a nursery, a whole lot of VHS tapes, a strange book, and later on Arturo, Oscar's older brother, who tells them Oscar isn't the killer. The next morning, Hector wakes up Jesse, but not before drawing a penis on his face, but Hector notices blood on Jesse's sheet and Jesse sees a bite mark on his arm and Jesse's dog is now scared of him. Marisol joins them again and they begin to read the book they stole from Ana's apartment and discover it is some dark magic rituals including a doorway that can travel through time and space, but only to unholy locations. Next, the pair, and Evette, Jesse's sister, have an encounter with a haunted Simon Says toy, which ends when Jesse's grandmother takes it away, claiming it is evil.
I liked the first film, because it was something new in the world of horror. Even at the time, I knew there were some problems, including a lot of running time being almost nothing happening on screen, but it was new, so I was engaged. However, the series steadily got worse. Can The Marked Ones turn things around? No. It has all of the flaws of the original film, but lacks anything truly new. Granted, like Paranormal Activity 4, this one focuses on a new cast of characters. However, I didn't find the two leads particularly engaging. In the early parts of the movie, while we were just witnesses their day-to-day lives, I was bored. Even the little hints of something more to come were not enough to engage me. By the time things finally got going, I wasn't into movie. Boredom had already won.
Paranormal Activity 5 comes out in October and if it is not something new, it will likely be the last of the franchise.
The Blu-ray has the theatrical and the extended cuts of the film, as well as 11 minutes of deleted scenes. This is inline with previous releases. Likewise, the technical presentation is inline with the previous films. It looks better than the earlier films, but since much of the film is shot on a consumer level camera, it doesn't look great. The audio is even weaker with very little activity in the surround sound speakers. Hell, the dialogue is almost always front and center, with very little spacing. At least the Blu-ray Combo pack doesn't cost too much; $20 is just $5 or 33% more than the DVD.
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is weaker than most of the rest of the installments in the franchise and the filmmakers need to do something new next time or moviegoers will stay away. The DVD has no extras, so it is only worth a rental for fans of the franchise. The Blu-ray Combo Pack has an extended version of the movie plus 10-minutes of deleted scenes, but that's not worth picking up either.
- Submitted by: C.S.Strowbridge
Date posted: 2014-04-05