Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (2014)

This is Only the Beginning…The Fifth Beginning!

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (2014)I’ve made no secret about my love for ghost movies, but my friend Don’vang did.  I figured I would be seeing today’s movie by myself before he propositioned me to go see it with me.  “Dandy!” I says to myself before agreeing to go with him.  This movie is the fifth part in a series, no matter what they tell you.  They kind of acted like this movie was a “cousin movie” to the franchise, but I’ve seen it now; it’s basically a sequel.  I’ll just call it part five.  This series hasn’t always been the greatest, but I’ve pretty much liked them all.  And I’ve reviewed them all already, so I might as well review part five or as they call it Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, written and directed by Christopher B. Landon, and starring Andrew Jacobs, Jorge Diaz, Gabrielle Walsh, Carlos Pratts, Richard Cabral, Katie Featherstone, Molly Ephraim, and Micah Sloat.

In Oxnard, California, recent high school graduate Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) and his friend Hector (Jorge Diaz) witness their classmate Oscar (Carlos Pratts) running from the scene of a murder in Jesse’s apartment complex.  They go to check out the lady’s apartment and find signs of witchcraft in the apartment and a picture of Jesse.  The next morning, Jesse finds a strange bite mark on his arm and odd things start happening to him, like floating when he falls backwards, being able to fling thugs with superhuman strength, and having conversations with an old Simon toy.  And then shit starts getting weird.

The Marked Ones was not drastically different from the other Paranormal Activity movies, but I don’t really want it to be.  It always takes them a bit to get into the action, showing a lot of boring stuff like the guy’s graduation and his purchase of his camera that he will then be filming the rest of his life with, but this movie doesn’t waste that much time getting into it.  Much like the previous movie, this one was solid throughout and had a very strong ending, involving a full-scale shootout and a fantastic tie-in to the first movie.  And it had some interesting ideas.  I thought the Ouija board Simon was kind of a funny take on the Ouija board.  There was also some decent and sometimes funny writing, like the Sherlock Holmes joke.  …I guess to get that one you have to hear it out loud.  It’s set in a Hispanic area!  You know how they call each other “Holmes” sometimes?  Ah, forget it!

As with all of these movies, there are also some problems.  Not enough to take away from my enjoyment of the film, but certainly enough for me to make fun of in review form.  First of all, this movie wants us to believe that someone is giving out free GoPro’s with the purchase of a regular camcorder?!  POPPYCOCK!  And all other forms of cock as well!  One of the actual things I thought about was the fact that these movies do make us waste a lot of time with these characters, such as when we had to watch them making a movie about making his pet Chihuahua dance.  I would like to request that the further movies only show us things that progress the story.  A lot of these found footage movies like to present themselves as if they were FBI archived footage of the events they found on the camcorder, but I think the FBI would find that particular piece of footage removable.  That’s the other big thing about these movies: why are they recording everything?  It’s the thing you could say about a lot of found footage movies.  When they were talking about all the kids they found pictures of, they said the things these kids all have in common is they’re the first born, they’re male, and they’re missing, but made no mention to the fact that all of them have a penchant for recording every little detail in their lives.  It feels weird to say that the supernatural stuff didn’t all make sense, but it’s true.  I found it amusing when they were going through a bunch of stuff that seemed all witchy that they found in the witch lady’s apartment and one of them was a dream catcher.  Is that supposed to be voodoo or something?  ‘Cause I have a demonic artifact hanging over my bed if that’s the case.  I also thought Jesse had a gross misunderstanding of his guardian demon.  It catches him when he falls down but doesn’t push those skanks away from him when he’s trying to get lucky?  A bruised coccyx fixes itself, but herpes is forever.  The biggest problem is that this movie had absolutely no concern for the audience’s ability to speak Spanish.  You can mostly understand the movie without it, but I feel like I missed some stuff because I don’t speak this language.  Are a few subtitles too much to ask, or are your inside jokes only for Mexican people?

The performances were fine but as with most horror movies, their performances didn’t require much more out of them than to be really scared a lot.  And Andrew Jacobs had to get all evil-like.  He did that fairly well.  I had some troubles with Jorge Diaz’ character in parts.  First off, who’s dumb enough to enter a room in a spooky witch coven house when the light on your flashlight was tripping out?  Stay where you are and wait for that shit to come back.  And that’s just the first dumb horror movie character cliché he falls into.  The next was shortly after that when he tells Gabrielle Walsh’s character to wait while he looked around the spooky house.  Really?!  And you’re surprised when she’s gone when you come back?  And you’re filming it all!  Well I guess that’s more of a problem with Richard Cabral’s character Arturo.  He’s supposed to be this big gang banger character and yet you let Hector film you and your gang banger friend breaking into a house and gunning down old ladies just because you believe they’re witches?  I feel like a real gang banger wouldn’t like the video evidence being around of all his worst crimes.  Of course, none of the gang bangers in this movie were that wise.  Like the ones that get flung off by Jesse’s guardian demon.  You guys were punching him in the arm and shoulder!  You trying to give him a Charlie horse or kick his ass?

There were definitely some problems with Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, but nothing that took too drastically away from my appreciation of the movie.  The story was okay but not drastically different from the other movies.  The same basic set up, some decent action once it gets going, some tension and suspense without too much for scares, but a very solid ending that I appreciated for how it linked the movies.  The performances were good even if the characters did fall into some familiar horror movie clichés.  All around a good movie.  Probably not quite good enough to win over any new fans, but existing fans of the Paranormal Activity movies will appreciate a little more of the same and the expansion of the existing plot.  Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones gets “You ever get the feeling that someone’s just watching you?” out of “He won’t be Jesse anymore.”

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Paranormal Activity (2007) and Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)

I Don’t Know If The House Is Haunted, But I Hope It Is.

I don’t know if I’m happy or sad to see the October Horror-thon come to a conclusion, but we’re nearly there. Today, I decided I’d go see the third of the Paranormal Activity series in theaters, but that review comes tomorrow. Today, I will slam Paranormal Activity 1 & 2 together in one review so we can be up to date with PA before I bring you the third. Paranormal Activity was written and directed by Oren Peli and stars Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Mark Fredrichs, Amber Armstrong, and Ashley Palmer, and Paranormal Activity 2 is directed by Tod Williams and stars mostly the same people, but adds Sprague Grayden, Brian Boland, Molly Ephraim, and Vivis Colombetti. Prepare yourself for spoilers.

Paranormal Activity

Katie Featherston comes home to find that her boyfriend, Micah Sloat, has purchased a brand new camera in order to attempt to capture signs of ghostly activity that Katie claims has haunted her since her youth. After playing around with his camera as any good Technophile would, they retire for the evening and leave the camera running just beyond the foot of their bed, looking down the hallway. Prepare to see a lot of this camera angle. At first, the activity is fairly uneventful, catching mostly the sound of footsteps and lights turning on and off by themselves. Then, it escalates drastically to Katie’s keys being found on the floor! So they hire a psychic named Dr. Mark Fredrichs, who decides that they are not haunted by a ghost, but by a demon. He gives them the phone number of a demonologist named Dr. Johann Averies and advises them to contact him. Katie wants to, but Micah is an idiot. He thinks he can handle this ghost problem with a Ouiji board and a punch to the mouth of that ghost if he steps out of line. The activity slowly escalates night by night. It goes to a door moving by itself, Katie hears voices that rouse her from her sleep, and finally a load roar and a thud from downstairs, prompted by Micah’s taunts. Katie begins to get super creepy by waking up and standing next to the bed staring at the sleeping Micah for hours before walking downstairs. Micah finds her sitting in a swing outside and refusing to come back inside. When he tries to get a blanket for her, she appears in the doorway and goes back to bed. The next morning, she doesn’t remember any of it. Micah goes against the wishes of the Doc and Katie and brings home a Ouiji board and tries to get Katie to use it with him before they go out for the evening. She doesn’t take it well. She storms out and he follows. Shortly after, footsteps can be heard walking downstairs, then the planchette starts to move on it’s own and then the board catches fire. Micah decides to sprinkle talcum powder in the hallway to see the footsteps and that produces 3-toed footprints from the attic into the bedroom. Investigating the attic, Micah discovers a photo of Katie that cannot possibly exist because it should have been lost in a fire from her youth. After a picture of the couple is smashed during the day, they try to call Dr. Averies. He’s not there, so they call Dr. Fredrichs again, but he says he can’t help them. That night, Katie is dragged out of bed and bitten on the back. They decide to go to a hotel, but Katie changes her mind. That night, Katie wakes, creepy-stands next to Micah, then goes downstairs and screams. Micah investigates only to get the shit killed out of him and have himself thrown into the camera by possessed Katie. Micah’s body is discovered by the police, Katie remains at large.

There’s also a couple of different endings to this. On the BluRay, you can also watch an ending that is similar, but in this ending – instead of walking in, sniffing Micah’s corpse, and attacking the camera – Katie walks in covered in blood and clutching a butcher knife, seemingly having killed Micah downstairs. Then she slits her throat. This particular ending would put quite the damper on sequels so it didn’t get used. There was also an ending I never saw where Katie kills Micah downstairs and comes upstairs with the butcher knife, sits on the bed, and rocks back and forth. The camera indicates that days begin to pass until Katie’s friend Amber comes over and discovers Micah, screams, and leaves. Later the police come to find Micah. There’s also one I saw on YouTube where the same thing happens but the police come upstairs and find Katie, she snaps out of her daze and waddles towards the police holding her knife and completely confused. Then they shoot her.

Paranormal Activity 2

We backpedal a bit to a couple of months before the events of the first movie. A different couple named Kristi (Sprague Grayden) and Dan Rey (Brian Boland), return home with their newborn son, Hunter. The tape of that joyous occasion is then recorded over with a tape of the couple filming their trashed house after a supposed break in. Every room in the house has been trashed except for Hunter’s room and nothing has been stolen. Dan reacts by having security cameras installed all over the house, thankfully giving us a bit of change to the camera angles. Shortly after, something spooks the family’s beloved maid Martine (Vivis Colombetti), inspiring her to spread sage all over the house to ward off evil spirits. Dan fires her, probably saying “How dare you try to protect my family?!” Later, Kristi’s sister, Katie (yes, that Katie), comes over and Dan and Micah mock Kristi and Katie for believing in ghosts. Dan’s daughter from a previous marriage, Ali (Molly Ephraim), is also quite skeptical, until something happens to her. At home alone with Hunter, Ali’s boyfriend comes over and they decide to bust out a Ouiji. Ali asks the spirit what it wants and it first says “Pussy”. Okay, that was her douche nozzle boyfriend. But then it starts spelling out “H … U … N … T” but then the camera cuts away to Hunter’s room so I have no idea what it was trying to say. Ali doesn’t notice. Later, she naps and a shadow comes over her, waking her up. A knock at the door inspires her to go outside to investigate and she’s locked out of the house, getting her into trouble with her parents. Just as in the first movie, things begin to escalate to creepier and creepier occurrences, coming to a head when the family dog, Abby, is attacked violently off-camera. Dan and Ali take the dog to the vet, leaving Kristi at home alone. She goes to check on Hunter and has her legs swept out from under her by an invisible force and she is dragged downstairs into the basement. She stays there for several hours until she walks calmly out of the basement. The next day, Dan leaves Ali alone with Kristi and Kristi is acting weird, spazzing out whenever Ali goes near Hunter. Ali also discovers scratches and writing on the inside of the basement door. She calls her dad home to show her the surveillance footage of Kristi being dragged downstairs and Dan calls Martine. Dan is an asshole, so he decides he’s perfectly comfortable expelling the demon, even knowing that it will immediately go over to Katie. It works and all is well … until Katie returns to the house after the events of the first movie and kills the family, abducting Hunter never to be seen again.

Wow. That’s a lot of typing to get to this point, but let’s review these bitches. I like both of these movies, as should be expected from my revelation about loving ghost movies. I like so much about these movies beyond the movie themselves, and then I like the movie. For instance, I like the “found footage” idea. Obviously I’m not dense enough to believe this movie was real, just like the Blair Witch, but I do allow myself to believe it for the time while I’m watching the movie. I feel like it gets you more involved in the movie if you allow it to. But don’t be dumb enough to think it was a real movie. Another thing I like about them is that they make so much money and cost relatively little to make. And, even though they cost so little to make, they still do a lot of stuff that is fascinating and cool. Obviously they save a lot of money on casting by having a super small cast of unknowns and only needing one or two locations per movie and that could allow them to do cool stuff in the movie. Things like the demon footprints, the cabinets exploding open, and getting dragged by nothing are the kind of things that I can’t figure out how they pull off without cutting away. They hide their tricks very well and I like that. In PA2, I also like the way they set up things for later in the movie. Small things falling in the kitchen before all the cabinets bust open later in the movie and the dog messing with the basement door because something is down there. It’s things you may not pay any mind to the first time but notice on the second viewing. The story isn’t really what I’d call a story, but that’s not saying they’re bad movies. Most of the interactions seem improvised and so I wouldn’t say there’s much story involved to the movie, but that’s what they were going for. I did, however, think some of their demon information was glossed over or incorrect. Or maybe the people were just supposed to be kind of dumb. Micah decides at one point to burn the picture of Katie to show that demon what’s what. You think that one picture was what allowed him to manifest himself? I did, however, prefer one of the 4 endings that was not determined to be the real one more than this one. The one of her sitting on the bed rocking back and forth would’ve been much better. Then you could’ve made her run or disappear when the police arrived. I think that’s way more unsettling. And one other thing that bothers me every time I watch this: How do they get mad at Ali when she gets locked out? If there was ever any dispute about something in the house after it was completely covered in cameras, it would be as simple as “Let’s check the tapes.” Then you see the shadow, the knock, the door closing on it’s own, and Hunter being lifted up and out of his crib by a ghost and you maybe don’t get your asses killed by the end of the movie.

I’d say you’d have to give the acting a round of applause in these movies. All of the characters in the movies seem very real and make the situations suck you in more. If the lines are improvised, then you can extend that applause for a little longer. Their performances were almost enough to make me believe that this really was found footage, so that’s a compliment to the actors. If I might insult some of the actors though, I didn’t like looking at Katie in this movie. She has the look of someone that borders on looking good but hit the Haagen Daas a little too hard. And the movie scared me by having Micah try to get Katie nude on camera a few times. I’m not looking for that, man. I can expect it from Micah though, because he seemed to be either a douche nozzle or a moron through most of the movie. He did the exact opposite of what Katie requested and then seemed to get all innocent and play dumb when she got mad at him. Really, dude? And for him to be dumb enough to KNOW there is ghostly activity in his house but turn down the help of a professional because he’s so macho he thinks he can handle this shit by himself is retarded. I understand turning down a psychic because you don’t believe in this stuff, but if you’ve seen it many times, take the man’s word for it. You could still be alive. I was happy when Sprague Grayden entered as Kristi because she was actually good looking. As was Molly Ephraim … maybe. Depends on how old she is. I also liked the little kids that played Hunter. I don’t know if it was intentional, but to have the kid staring at something that isn’t there from the moment they bring him into the house is a nice touch. I would’ve liked it if they either made the Mexican maid speak English or subtitled her, though. I am not fixing to learn Spanish to get possible inside scoops on this movie.

So I kind of like both movies here, but let’s compare the two. Most people liked PA a lot, but most people did not like PA2. I’d call it a bit harsh to say I DIDN’T like PA2, but it was definitely the worst of the 3. Even though there are a lot of things that are almost exactly the same between the two movies, I feel as though the second movie gets docked a little bit because it wasn’t the one that started it. Kind of like Bioshock 1 and 2. The second one wasn’t a bad game and had the same feel and atmosphere as the first, but it didn’t start it. It just recreated it. I did like that PA2 gave us more than the one camera angle while simultaneously making the footage we’re watching more believable. I doubt Micah would take that camera every single place he went during the course of the movie and I’m sure Katie wouldn’t have allowed it, but when you make it surveillance cameras you can believe that the footage was caught. I would say both of the movies start pretty slow, but both also build the tension by just shoveling it on top of us over and over until the movie ends. The biggest problem, PA ends in a cool crescendo, PA2 instantly deflated me with the goofiest neck snap delivered by Katie to Dan that I’ve ever seen. It bummed me out so much that it was really goofy and unrealistic. You could’ve done so much better. Either something supernatural or even just having Katie come up behind him and stab him or slit his throat. That neck break took me down quite a bit on my enjoyment of PA2.

I’d say I’ve gone on long enough, eh? Come back tomorrow for my review of the prequel, Paranormal Activity 3. I promise it will be shorter. Both movies are good, but PA is far superior to PA 2. I say watch them both and then you can find out tomorrow if I think you should watch all three. I’ll give Paranormal Activity “What it probably wants is Katie” out of “That’s a thing of beauty.” Paranormal Activity can have “We just can’t let this affect us that much” out of “Who left the front door open?”

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