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Subtitle Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

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subtitle Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

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Last October marked the first since 2008 in which Paramount Pictures did not have a Paranormal Activity film in theaters. It may have looked like surrender, much like the one that Lionsgate eventually, begrudgingly gave their Saw franchise whose thunder the even more frugal and fruitful Paranormal series stole. In fact, the absence of a new Paranormal installment did not signal the end of an era but a change in strategy. Instead of the usual pre-Halloween debut for a sequel, Paramount released spin-off film Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones to theaters in January, a month when movies are expected to be bad and one in which they can succeed despite a lack of quality.Grossing over $86 million worldwide on a production budget of just $5 million, Marked Ones must be considered a success commercially. At the same time, its returns were by far the brand's lowest to date. The reviews were also worse than those of any installment but the deservedly maligned Paranormal Activity 4. Christopher Landon, who wrote that film and the two sequels before it, gets promoted to director on Marked Ones in addition to serving as its only credited scribe.The Marked Ones centers on Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) and Hector (Jorge Diaz), two best friends who have just graduated high school together with the Class of 2012 in Oxnard, California. Intrigued by strange noises they hear through a vent, they thread a camera inside it and capture neighbors engaged in some naked ritual. It's perhaps their first brush with the otherworldly, but certainly not their last.Jesse wakes up one morning with suspicious bite marks that seem to bestow upon him powers comparable to those gifted to Peter Parker by that radioactive spider. Jesse and Hector document his newfound gifts, which find him able to inflate an air mattress in just a few seconds, keep his balance while leaning to extreme angles, and hurl gang members with a flick of the wrist. Of course, with great power comes great unrest. (As usual, a dog is the first to notice something amiss.) While exploring the murder scene from which they witnessed class valedictorian uncharacteristically fleeing, the two friends discover that Jesse may be targeted by a coven of witches who abduct first-born sons around the world. There's also an old electronic Simon game functioning as a kind of Ouija board as it uses its red and green lights to answer Yes or No questions. The Marked Ones still belongs to the found footage genre, but it is less homebound and surveillancey in its design. With Hector usually in control, the camera keeps running even when it doesn't make sense to self-document, as in a crashed party or in the climax when a couple of armed gang members lead a rescue mission. The video is often shaky, but disbelief isn't hard to suspend. With a subtitle instead of a number, this film is freed from establishing a firm connection to the original film's couple, although it still seizes an opportunity for a context-supplying Katie Featherston cameo that proves Landon is at least giving this some thought as a film universe. (Series alums Micah Sloan and Molly Ephraim also appear briefly.) One negative consequence from that link and the title is that we are constantly aware that The Marked Ones isn't blazing entirely new trails. This is a film that would seem so much more creative without the Paranormal series already standing as Hollywood's most extraordinary return on investment. Even if we set aside the similar high-concept movies that paved the way, like The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield, the design has become just too commonplace to make the waves Paranormal films not so long ago did.One of the more notable features of The Marked Ones is its use of a Latino cast. You can easily argue that Landon and company are pandering to one of supernatural horror's most devout demographics. At the same time, such prominent Latino representation in mainstream American films is extremely rare. While African Americans have become an integral part of the business and enjoy plenty of movies where they are the focus, other minority groups are continually marginalized. I don't know that this film is worth praising on that basis any more than the Harold & Kumar comedies warrant celebration for their use of protagonists of Asian and Indian descent. Still, there is a distinct culture on display and one almost never seen in wide release feature films.Following the pattern set by its predecessors, The Marked Ones hits Blu-ray combo pack and DVD this week, the Blu-ray part of the former treating it to both theatrical and unrated cuts. The latter runs nearly 17 full minutes longer, qualifying as more than mere sales gimmick. The difference is comprised of many scenes and extensions woven throughout the film, including a substantial family party scene. 041b061a72


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