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Being pretty let down and disappointed with Paranormal Activity 2 & 3, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones was a breath of fresh air giving us back some of the originality that scared that crap out of us in the first one.
The story’s focus is on Jesse, a recent high school graduate who lives in a Latino neighborhood, in an apartment complex with his father, sister and grandmother. With money he received from graduating, Jesse buys a video camera from a local pawn shop, and we follow Jesse as he and his best friend Hector have fun with the camera, filming each other doing stupid stunts, and playing pranks on each other.
Soon the movie directs attention to Jesse’s crazy neighbor, Anna, in the apartment below his. The boys hear sounds through a connecting air vent to Anna’s apartment and decide to lower the camera so they can see inside. Shockingly, they find Anna drawing symbols on a naked woman. Of course the boys are too focused on the naked girl to really think anything of the ritual Anna is performing. It is all fun and games until a day later Anna is heard screaming in her apartment, and the boys see a classmate fleeing the scene, and Anna turns up dead. Soon things start to turn paranormal, as the boys investigate the now crime-scene in Anna’s apartment finding a book of rituals, Jesse finds a strange bite mark on his arm, and the boys, now along with Hector’s cousin Marisol, connect to a spirit through an old Simon game. Of course, the normal demon possession, people dying, and a mystery of exactly who the “marked ones” are play out in a relatively predictable way.
What really sets this movie apart from the rest though is the story, taking it outside of the “family” we kept seeing originating in the first movie with Katie. Although, ingeniously done, we do get to see Katie again but this time it feels “right," in a full-circle type of way.
The two main actors, Andrew Jacobs as Jesse and Jorge Diaz as Hector, are a highlight as well, seamlessly playing the part of teenagers, with complete believability. Jacobs and Diaz’s chemistry doesn’t seem forced and it works well enough to think they could really be childhood friends.
Some moments of subtle foreshadowing, really good jump-out-of-your-seat scares throughout, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones could have, and should have, been the second in the series. Rumors of a fifth installment only make us hope they keep up with the originality of this one.