‘Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones’ Review

Published 1 year ago by , Updated October 17th, 2014 at 9:20 pm,

Paranormal Activity The Marked Ones Andrew Jacobs Jesse Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones Review

Despite improvements to the story experience, The Marked Ones proves that what we can actually see, no matter how dangerous, is significantly less terrifying.

A spinoff of the mega-successful Paranormal Activity franchise, The Marked Ones continues the trend of demon possession and found-footage cinematography – this time following the story of Oxnard, California resident Jesse (Andrew Jacobs). After his elderly neighbor, Anna (Gloria Sandoval), is found dead, Jesse along with his best friend Hector (Jorge Diaz) investigate the woman’s apartment only to discover a room filled with demonic iconography, ritual tools, mysterious VHS tapes – and, most disturbing of all, pictures of Jesse.

Soon after, Jesse notices a sizable bite mark on his arm, followed by enhanced physical strength and otherworldly abilities. It isn’t long before the super-powered fun wears-off as violent paranormal events leave Jesse fearing that he is being haunted by a malevolent entity – desperately seeking a way to banish his pursuer. With each passing day, the situation becomes increasingly dire, as Jesse, himself, grows more powerful (and subsequently more dangerous) – now a potential threat to his friends and family.

Paranormal Activity The Marked Ones Andrew Jacobs Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones Review

Andrew Jacobs as Jesse in ‘Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones’

For Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, writer/director Christopher Landon (Burning Palms), who wrote the screenplay for Paranormal Activity 2-4, side-steps the main Katie-centric franchise plot to explore a (mostly) new found footage story line. The result? A mixed bag that improves upon the convoluted narrative of the last two movies, ups the action quotient, but fails to deliver where it really counts – scares. Aside from the first two entries, which are typically considered the best of the franchise, The Marked Ones imparts the most coherent, and at times most ambitious, Paranormal Activity story. Yet, a majority of the film’s biggest frights, of which there are only a few, have been featured in the trailers – and none are as memorable as the iconic set pieces that put this series on the map.

One of the largest complaints about the Paranormal Activity films, at least in recent years, has been a muddled and over-complicated mythology that, by the end of each film, resulted in more questions than answers. In The Marked Ones, Landon makes smart use of his side-entry – delivering a character story that works as a standalone arc (with some genuinely humorous sequences) while also adding a few concrete details and direct ties to the larger franchise narrative.

Paranormal Activity The Marked Ones Demon Bite Mark Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones Review

The mark of ‘Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones’

Similar to its predecessors, The Marked Ones is not a particularly deep exploration of the characters or lore, since almost everyone is just reacting to events around them – with a few “knowing” participants offering up expository dialogue (read: on-the-nose explanations) to contextualize any supernatural events. Still, those who were disappointed by recent third act WTF moments in the series will find The Marked Ones actually manages to answer a couple of long-running questions along the way – before, once again, cracking the door open to another new, and no doubt controversial, expansion of the series’ lore.

Characters are thinly drawn, with very little time spent building on-screen chemistry or relationships, but the primary cast is par for the course in the inherently awkward and stilted found footage format. Andrew Jacobs is a solid lead as Jesse – tasked with balancing the eighteen-year-old’s carefree nature against a steadily darker influence. It is, possibly, the most thorough look at the actual demonic possession process the series has provided (so far) – which, for some, will be a welcome break the franchise’s normal template: spying on a hostile spirit as he terrorizes suburban home dwellers.

Paranormal Activity The Marked Ones Demon Ritual Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones Review

Anna’s ritual items in ‘Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones’

Jacobs may be in the headlining role but Jorge Diaz, as Jesse’s best friend Hector, is also a standout – since, as the situation escalates, the actor is responsible for carrying a significant portion of the story (and some very over-the-top moments) on his shoulders – while still acting as functional comedy relief. Following Jesse as the demonic presence around him intensifies is interesting but following Hector, who many will (at first) dismiss as a brainless joker, as he deals with the subsequent fallout injects an extra layer of weight to the limited but serviceable drama.

That said, an adequate story isn’t the reason that potential moviegoers will watch Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones – since, from the beginning, the franchise has always revolved around a carefully crafted batch of scary setups and ensuing frights. Unfortunately, as mentioned, actual scares are in short supply this round; instead, Landon increases the amount of action (with several outright explosive scenes) and relies almost entirely on jump scares to keep viewers tense. Franchise fans who are still haunted by memories of the fan cam/demonic sheet combo (Paranormal Activity 3) or Toby’s talcum powder footprints (Paranormal Activity) will find a significant shortage of similarly imaginative scares.

Paranormal Activity The Marked Ones Cast Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones Review

Jorge Diaz and Gabrielle Walsh in ‘The Marked Ones’

Separated from its Paranormal Activity branding, The Marked Ones is a pretty standard found footage experience. Landon crams so much side story world-building and superhuman action into the film’s brief 84 minute runtime that very few of the actual horror setups are given enough room to mature and produce worthwhile scares. For years, the success of the Paranormal Activity franchise has been grounded in exploiting what audiences cannot see, playing on anticipation, and expectation to deliver a unique brand of found footage horror. Sadly, despite improvements to the story experience, The Marked Ones proves that what we can actually see, no matter how dangerous, is significantly less terrifying.

If you’re still on the fence about Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, check out the trailer below:

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Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones runs 84 minutes and is Rated R for pervasive language, some violence, graphic nudity and some drug use. Now playing in theaters.

Let us know what you thought of the film in the comment section below. If you’ve seen the movie and want to discuss details about the film without worrying about spoiling it for those who haven’t seen it, please head over to our Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones Spoilers Discussion or read our Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones Ending & Connections Explained post.

For an in-depth discussion of the film by the Screen Rant editors check back soon for our Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones episode of the SR Underground podcast.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for future reviews, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.

Our Rating:

2.5 out of 5
(Fairly Good)

Follow Ben Kendrick on Twitter @benkendrick
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  1. I actually really liked this movie. No it isn’t anything groundbreaking, but it was definitely enjoyable and I think it’s a step in the right direction for the franchise.

  2. I hate these movies so much I wanna kill the whole “genre”, then I think of chronicle and good that was, then recede back into my cave.
    btw Im a dragon.

    • A dragon with gold? Where do you keep this gold? Can I take the gold? I’ll trade you a bunch of dwarves for it.

  3. I go into these movies with an open mind and just enjoy the ride and I really enjoyed this one along with the first two. Hopefully they show more of the demon in the fifth movie

  4. So I guess since they retired the Saw franchise,I guess the powers that be thought it would be a good idea to replace it with the Paranormal Activity franchise,huh?

  5. Other than Chronicle, The Blair Witch Project and to a much lesser extent IMO the first Paranormal Activity I am having trouble thinking of another “Found-Footage” movie that was actually worth shelling out $10-$12 to see in the theater.
    Seeing them at home via rental or HBO is one thing because at most you’re spending $6 but based on the fact that it seems as though 90% of these movies aren’t any good unless a rare case comes along and I see 4 or 5 star reviews I’ve pretty much given up on seeing these movies in the theater.

    Can anyone think of any movies that I’m forgetting that you can say seeing it in the theater was a must?

    • I think Cloverfield was a must-see in theaters. Also, these weren’t released in theaters, but I thought that the V/H/S movies were probably the best found footage movies I’ve seen, aside from Chronicle.

      • @ Ben

        Good call on Cloverfield, I forgot about that one.
        I liked V/H/S well enough probably the only reason I even watched it though was because it was on Netflix. Part 2 has been streaming, I should check it out.

      • I found cloverfield so-so as I didnt really like the characters, but was more interested in the monster.

        • Cloverfield was amazing. The only great character in there was Hud but still, didn’t stop me seeing it 3 times at the cinema within a week of release.

          V/H/S 2 is better than the first. Loved the succubus segment from the first one though. Grave Encounters was brilliant too.

          There’s quite a lot of great found footage movies out there, it’s just that the terrible ones get the most publicity and marketing. It’s like James Wan movies, everyone talks about how brilliant and scary The Conjuring and the Insidious movies are but the reality is, they’re terrible and not scary at all and you’ll find better horror if you look hard enough because the good movies are released without a shred of publicity.

          • I just watched V/H/S 2 last night and I agree that it is better than the first.
            I disagree with you about James Wan, The Conjuring and Insidious though.
            I know I’m in the minority because I actually like Insidious 1 and 2 more than I liked The Conjuring but I think all 3 are pretty great.

            Horror and what’s deemed as “scary” is entirely different from person to person. What may scare me or you may not scare someone else so while you may think The Conjuring and Insidious are terrible or not scary it’s hardly a reality it’s just a difference of opinion or personal preference.

            As far as marketing and publicity goes horror in general always gets the shaft. It’s the same thing for every movie. Just show some spooky scenes, add a few quotes from “critics” nobody has ever heard of about how scary it is and wait for the money to roll in. Even though horror movies generally are more of a sure bet for studios based on investment versus return it’s always treated as a second class genre which is a true shame.

  6. So, Chronicle, but with demons.

    • I find that demeaning of chronicle.

  7. VHS is actually pretty good with its different segments . Cant wait until VHS3 ^.^

  8. I found this film to be extremely laughable and very un-scary. The PA series has run out of steam (actually did by the 3rd one), they need to move on to something else.