The scariest thing about some horror movies might be when “5” appears at the end of the title — little good has ever come from that.
So it’s not surprising the team behind the Paranormal Activity films has gone an alternate route, adding a non-numbered secondary title of The Marked Ones on the franchise’s fifth entry.
The wildly successful series of low-budget films have trafficked in a sort of charged mundanity, the movies’ found-footage aesthetic based on the essential angst of “Who’s there?” and “What’s that?” in their shaky gaze toward darkened doorways and empty rooms.
The new film shifts from the suburban anxieties of the white middle class to a group of Latino teenagers in an apartment complex. The change is sharp, giving the new film some much-needed freshness.
The series has a large Latino fan base, and in a way the audience has been the true auteur from the first film forward. Producer Jason Blum seemed to steer the series more than Oren Peli, writer-director of the original, and the result has been something oddly decentralized about the Paranormal films. Now it seems to make sense, businesswise and creatively, to tailor a film directly to the most ardent fans.
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones picks up with new characters – teenagers played by Andrew Jacobs, Jorge Diaz and Gabrielle Walsh – who stumble onto an unsettling mystery when a reclusive woman in their apartment complex dies. They dig deeper, and it turns out that some of them have been unknowingly involved in a sinister plot involving black magic mysticism and possession for years.
Christopher Landon, who has written for the earlier sequels, directs for the first time in the series. His film doesn’t have anywhere near the formal inventiveness of the third or fourth Paranormal films. It also has no such aspirations, as The Marked Ones is refreshingly uncynical and straightforward in its desire to simply be a movie that makes the audience jump and be scared. It’s a fun fright film and wants to be nothing more.
The finale of Landon’s movie has a smart callback connecting the new film to the mythology of the earlier ones. What comes next remains to be seen, but Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones feels like a fresh start.