[Screen It]


(2014) (Andrew Jacobs, Jorge Diaz) (R)

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Horror: Two high school graduates must contend with one of them being afflicted with a supernatural curse.
It's 2012 and Jesse (ANDREW JACOBS) and his best friend, Hector (JORGE DIAZ), have just graduated from their Oxnard, California high school and are ready to party. But their celebration is eventually interrupted when Jesse's older and reclusive downstairs neighbor, Anna (GLORIA SANDOVAL), is murdered, quite possibly by their classmate, Oscar (CARLOS PRATTS). After getting high one night and long after the police have left the scene, Jesse and Hector decide to let themselves into her place to snoop around. They end up getting spooked out of the place, but not before grabbing a journal filled with supernatural material, something they show to their friend, Marisol (GABRIEL WALSH).

Following that and other entries into Anna's place, Jesse begins to act oddly, first with telekinetic powers and then abrupt and mean changes in his personality. With Marisol and Hector -- who has his video camera running nonstop -- becoming increasingly concerned about what's happening to their friend, more and more strange and spooky things keep piling up all around them.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
Our reviewing policy for films that aren't shown in advance to critics (or in this case, very late the night before release) is that we'll only provide a couple of paragraphs about the film's artistic merits.

In what can only be considered a marketing ploy, the "Paranormal Activity" series has now splintered. Whereas "PA 4" was released in October 2012 and "PA 5" is scheduled to come out later this year, we now have "Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones." Targeting an underserved but apparently horror friendly demographic of Latino audiences, the film is a spin-off meets sort of sequel hybrid. While there are connections to the other films (including a somewhat creative wrap-around one at the end), this is for the most part a standalone pic, albeit also of the "found video footage" sub-genre.

Unfortunately, it jettisons most of the earlier efforts' static camera shot frights (including the brilliant oscillating camera shots in installment number three) for nearly nonstop shaky handheld camerawork that's supposed to instill more "you are there" fright but simply serves to be nausea-inducing visual torture. There are some decent jolts here and there, but this sort of material is starting to wear as thin as the hanging plastic sheets the filmmaker uses in hopes of goosing the viewer several times during the film's thankfully brief, 84 minute runtime.

Strangely enough, writer/director Christopher B. Landon introduces the protagonist as developing "Chronicle" like telekinetic powers, only to pretty much forget about them later on. I've always thought it would be fun to give characters in these sorts of films the ability to fight back against the supernatural and evil baddies, and it certainly seemed that was the direction Landon was heading with the material. But then it all but disappears and we're left with more of the same old, same old. Not surprisingly, that includes characters doing typical stupid horror movie things as well as carrying a video camera around and shooting everything rather than dropping it and getting out of Dodge ASAP.

If you're a fan of the series, you might enjoy or at least appreciate some of what's offered, but it's time to bury this franchise once and for all. "Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones" rates as a 3 out of 10.

Reviewed January 2, 2014 / Posted January 3, 2014

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