And once again we return to the trough of a formerly terrific franchise in order to drain the dregs and make those last few bucks before the well finally runs completely dry. I speak of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE MARKED ONES, the fifth installment of the series, and the one that connects to the original in only the most transparently cynical and tangential way. Written and directed by Christopher Landon, it is a journeymans execution of a hopelessly stale story enlivened only by the use of a vintage electronic game in lieu of a regulation Ouija board, and a disarming performance from Andrew Jacobs as the latest victim of the supernatural.
Almost everything that made the original film by Oren Peli so fresh and deeply terrifying is reduced to a formula here, including the introduction of the video camera whose clips will form the entirety of the footage. It is a device that becomes increasingly awkward, particularly in one sequence in which our newly minted high-school graduate, Jessie (Jacobs), and his best pal, Hector (Jorge Diaz), are the victims of an attempted hold up. The perps have no interest in the camera, only the backpack Jessie is carryibg. Though a klunky sequence, it is a necessary one, sort of, designed to show the preternatural strength Jessie has acquired from his brush with the spirit speaking through the ci-mentioned electronic game.
Thats the film in a nutshell, klunky sequences that at least have the virtue of advancing the story with an internal logic. It also goes to the trouble of introducing a pair of ordinary, extremely likable kids in Jessie and Hector, who have a leader-acolyte relationship that foreshadows what is to come. Jessie is an imaginative type, with a new camera to play with and a best friend who is game to be the guinea pig in his cinematic experiments, such as sliding down a flight of concrete stairs in a laundry basket. Naturally, Jessie takes his camera everywhere, from graduation day, to the dicey party he crashes with Hector, to the empty apartment that was the recent scene of a murder committed by Jessies otherwise ordinary classmate, Oscar (Jorge Diaz). In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with this trope, but the delicacy with which the supernatural was introduced in the original is nowhere in evidence here. Instead of odd noises, and doors that may or may not be opening on their own, there is a mysterious bruja in the downstairs apartment who performs peculiar rituals on nubile young women while both are in the in buff. Hidden chambers hold a plethora of occult objects, an adorable grandmother consults the local shaman in search of cleansing rituals, and the family pet isnt just making odd growling noises at his formerly beloved pal, Jessie, hes defying the laws of physics. The psychological divide between the mundane and the otherworldly, the key element in the originals effective creepiness, is lost.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE MARKED ONES is not the worst horror film every made, nor is it even the worst one of the franchise, but it is an unworthy successor to the original and would have been far better off being satisfied forging its own not uninteresting mythology instead of piggybacking on someone elses.