REVIEW: ‘Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones’ isn’t creepy but offers some scares

paranormal-activity-the-marked-ones-movie-poster-4After Paranormal Activity 4, the creators of the franchise admitted that it needed something fresh. The story was tired and it was close to burning out fans of the series. So what do they decide to do? Head to the barrio to see how Latinos handle their demons! Don’t worry, it’s not that bad.

The film follows Jesse, played by Andrew Jacobs, a recent high school grad living in a predominantly Latino neighborhood in Oxnard, CA. After Jesse’s dad gets a video camera, he and his friend Hector, played by Jorge Diaz (who you may recognize from Filly Brown and East Los High), are inspired to start documenting their summer on video.

When promotion of the film began and it became known that the cast would be Latino, there was a concern of stereotypes, you know, gang-banging vato locos blasting demons or something like that. That isn’t the case at all. Okay, there’s one scene, but it fits! Jacobs, who grew up in L.A.’s MacArthur Park area, and Diaz, also from Los Angeles, portray a couple of your average Latino teenagers from a working class family, just trying to have fun. They’re cracking jokes, playing pranks on each other and trying to get their grandmother drunk. The first half of the movie is actually pretty funny.

Things get a bit serious when their weird neighbor, who everyone thinks is a witch (or bruja), is murdered by a classmate. Being the teenagers they are, Jesse and Hector investigate the bruja’s apartment with hopes of finding some clues as to what’s been going on. The next day, Jesse wakes up with bite marks on his body and starts developing telekinetic powers. The idea definitely brings to mind that other “found footage” film Chronicle. Of course the powers start to take a toll on Jesse and it becomes a demonic possession.

MarkedOnes

Being that grandmothers know when their home is spiritually in danger, Jesse’s grandmother goes to a local botanica to get some spiritual council. That was the other concern about the film — would it mock Latino spirituality by including some evil uninformed interpretation of how Latinos use saints with their Catholicism or Santeria practices? Nope. It doesn’t even get that deep. The “evil” sticks to your basic witchcraft imagery with no basis in Latino spirituality. The grandmother is advised to just pray over Jesse with hard-boiled eggs which is a familiar ritual among spiritual healers that’s said to rid the body of demons and unclean spirits.

Marked Ones isn’t as particularly creepy as the original Paranormal Activity. The first film in the franchise had you leaving the lights on around the house and maybe not going to sleep right away. Marked Ones offers a handful of “gotcha” moments, some of them expected, but it doesn’t stay with you after the film is over. Probably because we’re so used to the same scare tactics with shaky first person cameras. Fans of the franchise will probably be excited, however, with some new mythology added to the overall story of the films and the involvement of a coven.

Overall, Marked Ones was entertaining and momentarily gives the franchise new life, as long as you’re not sick of the “found footage” genre of horror films. Many people are. But it was Jacobs and Diaz’s chemistry that kept me interested, hopefully we’ll see more of them in the future.

About the author

Quibian Salazar-Moreno is co-founder of The Hollywood Shuffle. He's an experienced entertainment journalist based in Los Angeles, by way of Denver, Colorado.