The Marked Ones has been described as a “spinoff” of Paranormal Activity series. This is sorta/kinda true, in that this is the first film to not center around Kristi’s extended family (if you’re reading this, I feel safe noting Paranormal Activity 4 ultimately did tie in, given who the neighbors were in that sequel). Jesse is obviously dealing with people associated with the coven from the rest of the series, but he’s not as directly tied into the events of the previous films.
Still, at the end of the day, if you’d called this movie Paranormal Activity 5, it wouldn’t have felt out of place. As the trailer shows, there’s a brief appearance from Paranormal Activity 2’s Ali (Molly Ephraim), and she’s not the only familiar face from the franchise to pop up by the end. And once more, we’re given little pieces to the increasingly convoluted mythology regarding these witches and what it is they’re trying to accomplish. There is also a very cool extra way in which this film ties into the others that certainly got a big reaction from the crowd I saw it with and is a great payoff for those most familiar with the series.
If you enjoy the Paranormal Activity series, The Marked Ones works. Stronger than the low point of Paranormal Activity 4 (though not up to the heights of PA3), The Marked Ones benefits from opening up the series considerably. For the most part, the previous films were mainly set almost entirely inside suburban homes, filmed from the POV of fixed cameras (yes, there were some exceptions), but The Marked Ones is more like other found footage movies, shot as though it’s from the POV of cameras held by the main characters.
Christopher B. Landon, who has written all of the Paranormal sequels, writes and directs here. He does a strong job of establishing this new group of characters and Jacobs and Diaz are a likable duo, establishing a strong rapport as these old friends (Walsh is good as well, but her character feels the most extraneous). The Marked Ones has more of a sense of humor than other films in this series, thanks to the early scenes of Jesse and Hector running around, having a good time. There’s also some moments that echo Chronicle, as Jesse experiments with his “powers,” and it’s a fun mixture to have those sort of scenes intersect with the Paranormal Activity universe – and to even set up a funny bit about YouTube commenters.
The Paranormal series has perfected the art of the sudden, shocking thing happening during a seemingly quiet moment, which continues here. As Jesse’s journey continues, we get some suitably creepy glances at ghostly little girls, depraved old women and more. While this remains a low budget series, there are some notable special effects that are effectively used to add to the jumps that occur throughout the film.
Overall though, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is a satisfying installment for this franchise. From Friday the 13th to Saw, any long-running horror series of this kind has its own formula and standard beats, and it just becomes a question of whether a particular sequel gives fans what they came to see in an entertaining manner. The Marked Ones does, while still making us ask if we’ll ever fully understand what the hell these women are doing... and just how much video footage exists of their evil deeds to get some sort of bigger investigation going.
- +Likeable cast.
- +Effective, spooky moments.
- +The tie-ins to the rest of the series are cool - especially one big surprise.
- –Some clunky dialogue and awkward moments.
- –Despite trying to account for it, the "Call the cops!" moments stand out.