The low-budget leviathan that is the Paranormal Activity franchise continues with this spinoff set in a Hispanic community in a Los Angeles suburb.
Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) has just graduated from high school, but his summer takes a strange turn when he and his friend Hector (Jorge Diaz) realise that his neighbour is a witch. After she dies, they soon realise that a supernatural force has started protecting Jesse, but what does it want in return?
One of the biggest challenges with the franchise is how you keep a found-footage series set in peoples’ houses interesting after four films.
After the resoundingly negative reaction to the last film, writer/director Christopher B Landon makes the very sensible decision to approach the story from a slightly different angle, with a new setting, new characters and broader scope. If you responded positively to the feeling of claustrophobia evoked by the original films then you might be disappointed by this, but it’s frankly a relief that Landon allows the film to breathe, as Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is bigger, broader and more action-packed.
The film works best during its first half, as Jesse and Hector discover the former’s ‘guardian angel’, engaging in Spider-Man-esque feats of agility and sending a couple of muggers flying through the air. The relationship between the two is convincing, helped by decent performances from Jacobs and Diaz. It’s only once the film needs to deliver a sense of menace that things start to really fall apart. It’s still entertaining, but it’s not particularly scary.
Landon mounts some great ‘boo!’ scares, but the more outrageous moments do come at the expense of credibility. Similarly, much was made of the series’ new mythology, but it still feels under-explored, and a determination to tie the film into the rest of the series will make it very hard work for anyone who hasn’t seen the previous movies.
Despite this, it’s good to see a franchise take a chance and acknowledge the need for a fresh approach. If anything, it doesn’t differentiate itself enough.
It’s pacey, fun and rarely dull; if you’re looking for a bit of late-night entertainment then you could do a lot worse.