The dilemma that the writers for the “Paranormal Activity” series now find themselves in is that “Paranormal Activity 3” was a prequel that told us everything we needed to know about this mythos. We began with Katie, continued with her sister, and then found out why they were so special. The third film ended the saga. Now, the continuing sequels are really just running on fumes and scrambling to find ways to continue a story that doesn’t really need continuing. “The Marked Ones” is a great effort, but a sub-par horror film.
Its concept of steering the ship to the Latin American culture is a really good idea, since the Latin culture is primarily centered on superstition and the supernatural, and “The Marked Ones” really tries to branch off from the series and pave its own path. It’s kind of a sequel, but also a spin off that may or may not become its own series. It’s a part of the mythos of the “Paranormal Activity” series, but who knows what the larger effect it will have? Maybe at some point the producers will assemble all the surviving stars, but it might contradict the attempts at simplistic horror to finish with a huge supernatural showdown. Plus, the series is sorely bereft of protagonists and heroes.
Every movie ends with a body count and everyone falling victim to the demons, so where it’s all going, I’m sure only the producers know. “The Marked Ones” is a shaky production that tries to derive scares off of gimmicks (A sentient “Simon Says”! Boo!), and really can’t deliver any really powerful terrors. Jessie is a young Mexican man whose just graduated from high school. After shopping for a new camera (of course), he begins to chronicle the goings on in his cul de sac that revolve around a weird downstairs neighbor, and a friend from school accused of murder. One of the more alienating aspect of the film is rather than the characters falling victim to the demons, they walk in to the trouble head on and are seemingly punished their ignorance. Soon Jessie begins to discover he’s transforming in to something, and that the random series of events may not be so random. The movie is ridiculously confused to the point where we can never be sure what’s random and what’s planned. If Jessie has been tapped to be this demon for so long, did the entire incantation in the church really pose a relevance to the movie at all?
Aside from pandering, “The Marked Ones” offers no real point for centering the story on Latin characters. Rather than take the bull by the horns and use this opportunity to further flesh out the mythos with a more coherent idea of what the evil force is that’s overtaking these people, and why, it’s still all just vague. In the end, it’s still just a generic demon, and generic witches with a generic cult. There’s also no real indication of the brujeria is in the same vein as the black magic being practiced for this demon, and why Jessie in particular is so special. There’s also no clues on what the master plan is for these villains, and it remains about as vague in the closing credits as it was when we enter the film. “The Marked Ones” with its silly shoe horned ending, plodding narrative, dull characters, and lack of emphases on the demonic force, is filled with untapped potential. It takes the series and goes absolutely nowhere with the mythos, the writers and producers are so anxious to lay down.