Film Pulse Score

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Release Date: January 3, 2014
MPAA Rating: R
Film Pulse Score: 4/10

Spin offs.  9 times out of 10 they are likely not going to work.   Taking a thread or character that was popular and giving it or them their own feature film.  For every Beauty Shop, U.S. Marshals or X-Men Origins: Wolverine there is a Supergirl, an Elektra or a National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 2.  It’s not often that you see a successful horror franchise actually given a spin off while the original series is still active; Paranormal Activity 5 is slated for this October.  While novel it feels more like a sequel that is setting up the next installment as opposed to a straight up spin off. 

Strange events are going on in an apartment complex in Oxnard, CA. One of the neighbors, Anna, has been exhibiting odd behavior and she’s rumored to be a witch of some sort. After his high school graduation, Jesse and his friend Hector, while using their trusty video camera, begin to poke around after something sinister happens in the apartment below them. Soon after Jesse’s behavior starts to change and he begins to possess strange powers. Concerned for his well being, Jesse’s grandmother and his friends attempt to get to the bottom of what is going on with him.

The franchise has “jumped the shark.”  Well most will argue that happened in the last installment but this time they took the leap while skiing barefoot.   The first three films really stayed within the confines of the construct and the use of the camera made sense.   What happened in the fourth one?  Here you really have a hard time buying someone would continue filming when all kinds of freaky activity is going down.  The other films were dealing with static cameras but here they are active participants shooting the proceedings.   In all honesty this film might have worked if it was shot traditionally and they abandoned the “found footage” angle.  In fact you can’t even call it “found footage” anymore; if anything calling it P.O.V. horror makes more sense.   Okay but why has it “jumped the shark?”  For this viewer the series derailed when they brought in the whole coven angle.  The first three films were effective because it was an unknown and unseen force.  The fourth film gave them multiple forms, it was better when they were dealing with one demon, and the acts they pulled off were superhuman and stereotypical genre drivel.  There is an element introduced in this one that is so absurd you may find yourself shaking your head amazed that they had the audacity to do it.  The film doesn’t even end with a teaser to address this new element or if it will even tie in to the next film.  It’ll be pretty sloppy if it doesn’t.

Written and directed by Christopher Landon this installment is half decent and half subpar.  The change of scenery and characters really benefited this film.  Without any ties, on the surface at least, to the other films it did feel fresh and harkened back to the original as we witnessed the haunting and eventual possession of Katie.  Jesse’s encounter with the paranormal is at once creepy and sometimes funny.  In particular when they explore Ana’s place, when he shows Hector his new abilities or how a classic game from the ‘80s has become the new Ouija board.  However, once the possession goes full blown it kowtows to the cheap ass scares that populated the fourth film and it gets away from what made the others so good.   They even brought back the low bass score that telegraphs the scares.   In addition how the aforementioned shark-jumping moment comes into play feels so shoehorned in that it felt like they didn’t have the confidence to allow this one to stand on its own two feet and that it somehow needed that through line to succeed.

The Marked Ones is certainly better than the fourth film but still nowhere near as good as the first three.  The franchise has moved away from what made the series so effective.  This one is for fans of the series only but only for those who actually like where they’ve taken the series in the first place.

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