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Horror movies often generate sequels, even if the original elements that made them scary to begin with get repeated to the point of numbness. The fourth Paranormal Activity sequel, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, is an easy watch, it’s relatively entertaining, but the format is wearing a little thin. It has some effective jump scares, but that’s about it.

The Players:

  • Writer /Director: Christopher Landon
  • Starring:  Andrew Jacobs, Jorge Diaz, Molly Ephraim
  • Cinematography by: Gonzalo Amat

The Plot:

Jesse (Jacobs) has just graduated from High School and has been given a camera, which his best friend Hector (Diaz) uses to film their hijinks. The downstairs neighbor is creepy, possibly a witch and is murdered by one of the fellow classmates, who’s also the school valedictorian. On top of that weirdness, Jesse wakes up one morning with a bite mark, and it’s a sign that he will be possessed by the devil soon. A number of first born children are — as the title suggests — The Marked Ones.

The Good:

  • So, They Watched Chronicle: The middle section of the movie lets the characters have a little bit of fun with the supernatural. It seems obviously drawn from what may be the best found footage film of the last five years (Chronicle), but the good news is that The Marked Ones isn’t all doom and gloom for 84 minutes.
  • Jump Scares: This movie is filled with a number, and most are pretty effective.
  • Inoffensive: Howard Hawks once said a good movie has three great scenes and no bad ones. This has no great scenes, but no bad ones either.
  • The Ending: Something pretty awesome happens toward the end when the good guys team up with some unexpected assistants. But to give that away is to ruin one of the best moments in the film.

The Bad:

  • The Conjuring: If this film suffers, it’s because 2013′s The Conjuring did what this film is trying to do and did it about a hundred times better. It also helps that that film is directed by a pro, whereas here we’re stuck in the found footage format.
  • Found Footage: Speaking of, horror is a director’s medium, as most horror films are made by tone and camera placement. The found footage conceit works well for a couple of things that are effective in horror, like obscuring vital information, but it also means that chunks of this movie feel like they’re directed by someone with no visual sense, which makes it somewhat boring to watch. This far into the genre, and found footage is no longer an effective tool, it’s more a marking of how cheap these movies are.
  • What is Horror?: As a fifth entry in this franchise, there’s legitimately nothing about this film that has any lasting emotional impact. The ideas presented in the film have no resonance, they’re not scary — except maybe to those who think witches and Satan walk among us plotting evil. The film is no more or less than someone shouting “Boo!” every five or ten minutes.

Overall:

If you want a movie that will make you jump out of your seat once or twice, or one that might make a date do the same, this is good for that. But if I wasn’t writing about this film shortly after getting out of the theater, I doubt I would be able to remember much about it in a week’s time. I doubt I’ll give it a thought until Paranormal Activity 5 is released. But it was fine to watch.

Rating: 6.8/10

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is in theaters now.

Trailer: