What I'm Watching: Paranormal Activity - The Marked Ones
As usual, killing some time before the new main review goes up in a few days, and thought I'd sprinkle in at LEAST one new quickie review, and hopefully a few more before then!
I have long been a champion of the Paranormal Activity series, loving each of the movies to SOME degree, and they grow on me more and more over time, even if I walk out with more of a "Hmm" reaction to the last few. So, it's no surprise that I went to see The Marked Ones, although it took me awhile to get there.
The movie follows a family in the LA area, several years after the original events of the first movie, and focuses around some Latinos just after graduating high school, and discovering the woman that one of them lives above may in fact be a witch.
Marked Ones breaks from the more 'security' oriented type of found footage that a lot of the other PA movies use. Yes, they use a lot of handheld as well, but a lot of the PA visual language comes from a lot of establishing shots setting up each area in a repetitious manner, and this movie did away with all that.
This is both a good thing, and a bad thing. On the one hand, you lose a lot of that building of tension you get with that style. You lose the, "See, everything is normal, just like the night before, and the night before, and the night before, and...NOW THERE IS AN EXPLOSION OF CABINETS." That's a good way to lull the audience and pull the rug out from them, and this movie replaces those with a few lingering shots of the same room, until eventually something happens during the lone scene. And that's fine, and works well with a more handheld style.
But it also gives this movie it's own visual style, its own identity, and that's good, because it allows this movie to stand on its own merits, and not be "Paranormal Activity, but with Mexicans." It really is its own thing, and it mostly works.
The movie is smart enough to use some of the same tropes from the main franchise though, so you don't feel alienated. They sprinkle in JUST enough references to remind you this is the same universe, while at the same time expanding the mythology. We get a lot of potential backstory here, and since it's not connected to Katie's story, or the new random family of the week, it gets to establish things on its own and fill in some blanks that might have otherwise been difficult to work in.
We get a good number of scares, and since they involve possessed people, we actually get to SEE things happening, and not just exploding cabinets, falling knives, or floating sheets. We get more physicality of the evil in this movie than we have in previous films, save for Katie's occasionally villainous appearances.
They do a number of new things that really caught me off guard, because they're not typical to a PA movie, and again, these things were welcome. Warping space in camera was such a "WHOA" moment for me, because such visual effects just aren't done here, y'know?
My fave bit must have been this movie's use of one of the best tropes of the series; the possessed creepy 80s toy. We've seen it with the Lite Brite, Teddy Ruxpin, and this movie gives us a communicative Simon game. That was brilliant, awesome, and SO creepy in its simplicity. But man, they missed a trick with it though, and I wish the scene had gone on for *literally* two seconds more.
If you're a fan of the PA movies, this is a MUST see. It matters to the series. It does different things, has a different voice, but is, in my opinion, important to the mythology. I enjoyed it as much as the rest, and probably more than the third installment. Do not skip this movie just because it's not in the main branch!