Friday, May 8, 2015

7 Hauntings - Night 6: Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

History: Initially teased during an after credits sequence at the end of Paranormal Activity 4, a scene only shown in theatres. It hinted at taking a Latino direction in the franchise, for a lack of better terms.
This installment was different in many ways. One, it wasn't part of the main story. It was a spinoff set in the same universe but not the same characters. Also, due to longer production time it was released in January 2014, breaking the Halloween tradition the last four installments had.
It was received with mixed to negative reviews, but slightly higher than Paranormal Activity 4. With that said it was another financial success like every other installment, but was the lowest earning. Even on opening weekend it ranked #2 in the top 10 just behind Frozen, which was in it's 7th week in the top 10. Says a lot either about the insane popularity of one movie, or the depleting interest in a franchise. In the end it earned roughly $90 million.

Personal History: Skipped this one theatrically after how bad #4 was. Once again I am thankful for Netflix, so I don't have to rent it elsewhere for more money or... worse yet... buy the DVD to satisfy my curiosity.

Version I Watched: Netflix instant streaming of the unrated extended cut.

Review: UUUUGGGGGHHHHHbllleeeeeeggghhhh..... I don't want to do this... but for the sake of completion I will tackle this garbage.

First off it didn't help I didn't even want to watch this. Thinking back to even the trailer of this movie I could tell how dumb and bad it would be. And since I was hot off the disappointment of part 4 I knew I wouldn't like this. And trust me, it's not like I went in with good expectations. I just tend to know what I will like and I was predicting this would be one I would not like. But what about it was bad? Plenty. And to repeat myself from my last review... where do I begin?

To get the obvious out of the way I hated how paint by numbers this one was.
My primary complaint of the previous titles, in case you didn't fully read the last few reviews (or at all) one of my most common complaints is how the newest movie is a rehash of the old with some new ideas that don't always work, making it uninteresting. While each entry has had varied levels of success this one didn't event try.
I wouldn't be surprised if this was some separate script rolling around studios (probably called The Marked Ones) and was hastily turned into a Paranormal Activity movie to continue banking on the success of the franchise.

Every step this entry takes is so typical and so cliche of possession movies. There are the people who think it is stupid or not real, our heroes. There's a crazy person who is made fun of but is clearly the first antagonist we meet who will open a door to the insanity that follows. There's a scene when the demon CLEARLY possesses our hero. Then when they realize there's a demon they do demon research and discover it's dark history. Lastly things slowly getting worse and worse in his life until it either A) completely takes him over, or B) there's a ritual to rid him of the demon. Guess what... this one had both, technically.

Almost any other example of this I would pass off as "well that was okay at best" but when it's trying to be part of a long running franchise it will definitely have a standard to live up to. I've said it before and I'll say it again, the first movie in this franchise is hands down one of the best horror movies to come out since the turn of the century. This being the fourth sequel (or I guess spin off as they are calling it online) doesn't mean it has to live up to those standards, but they could have at least tried.

As much as I hated part four at least they TRIED. Sure a lot of it turned out to be shit but they tried. They tried new methods of getting found footage, they tried a new perspective, they tried plenty of new or different things instead of resorting to Demon Possession Script Writing 101.
The Marked Ones is as simple and safe as this whole franchise has been. Everything you expect will happen does happen and it makes for a boring experience. I can't think of a single moment when I felt scared or unsettled, something that happened in at least one or multiple moments in the previous ones (well... the jury is out on four but I digress.) Everything was laid out for you with some of the loosest, laziest, and far fetched connections to the original story as possible. Then when they introduce new elements to the "lore" of the franchise it conflicts with what we've been told, or doesn't make sense to be there. Likely all in an attempt to further "amp it up" like previous titles tried.

I don't even want to try and describe what all I didn't like in the first and second act here, I'd rather talk about the last act and the ending because those were the worst and most far fetched.
But first I'd like to talk about the elephant in the room... racial insensitivity.

While there may be truth to this considering where this franchise takes place, southern California, I couldn't help but feel uncomfortable for the Latino perspective given in this movie. Mostly in comparison to the racial perspective of the previous movies.
From the first to the fourth all the Paranormal Activity movies have taken place in large homes populated by white families. The first time around this was because in order to save money by filming in the director's home, which happened to be pretty dang nice. Then the trend continued for the following titles because, I don't know, the first movie did it?
But then we get to the Latino story in this franchise and they're in a shitty part of southern California, have a multi-generational home in a two bedroom apartment, have to deal with gangs, and any other insulting stereotype you can fit into that. The whole thing made me uncomfortable and I actually found it distracting. Not because of where it was set or the fact that it was Latino, but because it hit on so many cliches and stereotypes of the race that it distracted from the darker elements of the movie.
Also they would constantly speak like a bunch of idiot teenagers who walk, talk, and act... umm... how do I put this... ghetto? Acting like they're gangsta? You know what I mean?

Moving on...

So, spoiler alert if you care, but I want to talk about the ending of the movie.
After our hero (whose name is Jesse, by the way) becomes fully possessed, his buddy and the girl he likes (Hector and Marisol) find out about a house where big wig wiccan rituals happen and believe he went there. So they get some help from a hardcore gang leader and his buddy, who show up to this house with guns like they're about to tear the place apart with bullets (okay, okay, they each had one gun but seriously it was overkill the type of guns they brought.)
This is where the attempt to connect this story to the previous comes into play with a slap in the face and/or pander to the fans of the franchise because the house they show up at is the same house from the end of part three. Katie and Kristi's grandma's house... the grandma that turned out to be a witch, which was to clumsily explain where the demon came from... I guess?
It doesn't take long for everything to start going to hell. One after another our heroes are picked off by crazy witches who all look like they're possessed, leaving Hector all alone running from these predators, including the cameo from grandmama from part three.

What happens next was the dumbest and most pandering thing possible.

After running around the house screaming a bunch Hector finds himself cornered in an upstairs room where all the windows are sealed from the outside with wooden planks. He is being chased by his possessed friend Jesse and his only two options are out the door he came in, against Jesse, or through a mysterious door in this room. He takes the mystery door, wherein the video jolts and breaks for a moment, and when it becomes clear again he found himself in Katie and Micah's home the night Katie killed Micah in the first movie. He witnesses Katie kill Micah in a perspective we couldn't see in the first movie, runs back to the door he came from and is killed by Jesse before he can make it.
The Marked Ones takes place in 2012, the first movie in 2006. Hector fucking time traveled to a different location in a different city. It didn't entirely come out of nowhere but it doesn't make it any less dumb.

Early in the movie there's a throwaway line about creating a portal to time travel. However this portal will only time travel to an unholy place. Perfect time to throw in some fan service. Because from a context and writing perspective this just didn't make a ton of sense. More of a coincidence. Based on the events presented after the first movie it would have made just as much sense for him to wind up in Kristi's home ala part two, or the end scene of part four when there was a mob of demon witches attacking Alex.
No, not here, this was a supposed seminal moment that was important to transport to despite later event suggesting bigger things happening in later installments.

Which brings me to something that has bugged me a lot about this franchise.
It seems like since they started making sequels they've tried deflating the experience Katie and Micah went through. In part two they were in more control against the demon, actually drawing it out of Kristi very easily. In part three we get the explosive end with the witches killing Katie and Kristi's family only to take them away (and give them amnesia I guess since they NEVER talk about this.) Then in part four Katie seems to host a coven party of her own. All of which are events and elements that are bigger and seem more prominent than what happened in part one.
So why bring him to that night outside of fan service? Wouldn't it have made more sense for him to come out of the same door, same room, but during the final scenes of part three. That feels more unholy and more appropriate than the since deflated events of the first movie where he only transported there because, well, it was the first movie.

This is technically a spin off and has very few actual connections to the rest of the movies so. Unless they make future movies that have key moments connected to what happens here I can't see this as a necessary watch. It's not like the other movies where you almost had to have seen the rest of the movies to understand fully what's going on, or to get references that could be important.
There's just nothing here worth checking out for the franchise. It doesn't even feel like it lives in the same world. It feels like something made independently and claims to be part of this world, with the exception of the last couple scenes at the end.

This movie is mediocre at best as a possession movie. As a Paranormal Activity movie it is terrible. Worse than four.

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