Part of the popular horror franchise, but also one that COULD be watched by those who have yet to see the other instalments, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones deserves bonus points for actually delivering more than just one or two jump scares punctuating scenes of interminable boredom. There's a lot to be said for subtlety and understatement in the horror genre, but there's also a feeling that sometimes the Paranormal Activity series is slightly taking the piss.
Andrew Jacobs is Jesse, a young man who has recently graduated high school. He then decides to move forward in life by investigating the apartment of the neighbour who used to live below him. She was murdered, and her apartment is full of videotapes, weird markings, and stuff that looks like it could be used in spellcasting. Jesse then decides to try out a spell, joined by his friends, Hector (Jorge Diaz) and Marisol (Gabrielle Walsh). It turns out that attempting to cast spells that deal with temporal doorways and evil isn't the best thing to do. Jesse begins to change. It seems like fun at first, but soon starts to become worrying, and potentially dangerous.
Written and directed by Christopher Landon, with a number of elements that eventually tie into the concept created and developed by Oren Peli (of course), this is an enjoyable sequel that gets to have its cake and eat it. It's not strictly confined by the story developed in the other Paranormal Activity movies, it's not having to follow the template that requires most of the activity to be frustratingly inactive, and it allows viewers to spend time with some entirely new characters, who are all much better company than any of the previous potential victims.
Jacobs is good in the lead role, easy to like and tag along with even while he's being pretty foolish. Diaz and Walsh both prove to be equally capable supporting players, and Renee Victor, Noemi Gonzalez and David Saucedo do well in smaller roles.
The special effects are, for the most part, pretty well done. They're all the more impressive because they're actually used to create quite a few entertaining moments onscreen. Yes, the previous movies have used CGI, and they've had some decent sequences, but none of them feel as if they managed to embrace the true potential of the format in the way that this movie does.
Unfortunately, Landon seems to lose his nerve, or perhaps just remembers that he needs to deliver a product consistent with the branding, in the third act of the film, which goes for the usual tricks that we've now seen so many times in found footage movies. Night vision? Check. Sudden movement towards the camera accompanied by a loud noise? Check. Vision being obscured by decor? Check. All signs of a writer-director working on a movie that will get him a . . . . . check.
I wouldn't say that this is going to win over any new fans - the brand name either attracts or repels film fans by now anyway - but it ends up, surprisingly, being one of the best instalments of a franchise that just might end up having some life left in it yet.