Director: Christopher Landon; Screenwriter: Christopher Landon; Starring: Andrew Jacobs, Jorge Diaz, Molly Ephraim, Richard Cabral; Running time: 84 mins; Certificate: 15
PLEASE stop finding footage of idiots encountering demonic entities. Burn it, hide it, recycle it or relabel it 'SuBo Sex Tape'. Anything to prevent it from reaching the public, like this lazily cobbled together offshoot of the Paranormal Activity movies. This horror subgenre has numbed enough brains, with its limited format looking increasingly stale and the shaking camerawork threatening nothing more than motion sickness.
Marketed as a 'cousin' rather than direct sequel to the mostly impressive franchise, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones revolves around the harebrained sleuthing of Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) and Hector (Jorge Diaz), two Latino youngsters who recklessly probe a murder in a nearby apartment.
Before long, Jesse's increasingly volatile behaviour suggests that he may well be possessed. Or perhaps turned insane by his pal Hector's pathological insistence on filming his every move - even when he's asleep and having a penis daubed on his cheek with a felt tip pen. (This actually happens.)
There's an overwhelming sense of déjà vu as the usual demonic paraphernalia and imagery are discovered, an Ouija board-style electronic device is used to communicate with the spirit world, and a demonologist turns up to monotonously drone on about ancient symbols in a bid to reinforce the gravity of events. Triple yawn.
As events escalate, with Jesse initially testing out his superpowers in sequences that evoke Chronicle, the signposted attempts to orchestrate scares become increasingly overfamiliar and utterly bereft of imagination. It all inevitably culminates in a lot of frenzied running around in the dark, with creepy figures appearing out of nowhere whenever a character turns around and objects being hurled by an unseen force at the camera. The cheap tactics used are the same that led to the languid likes of The Chernobyl Diaries and The Devil Inside provoking howls of derision.
The found footage conceit - which once appeared so fresh in The Blair Witch Project and was rejuvenated by Paranormal Activity's use of static cameras - is now in dire need of a rest or reinvention. Now that the novelty has worn off, the mechanics are brutally exposed and we can only sit there and wonder why a character - supposedly fighting desperately for survival - is still holding and pointing his camera in the right direction throughout the supposedly terrifying ordeal. There's suspension of disbelief... and then there's sheer stupidity. The latter appears to be expected of audiences in order to be gripped by the events of this movie.
To their credit, the cast all work hard to sell the supernatural events to us, despite the central characters exhibiting behaviour that's beyond dumb. Andrew Jacobs and Jorge Diaz imbue the young leads with a sense of adventure, determination and likeability, despite their dialogue mostly involving reactionary wails of 'oh s**t!'.
Welcome comic relief comes from Jesse's superstitious grandmother, who likes to perform egg-based exorcisms and have a sing-song after a few drinks. The cacophonous warbling is reminiscent of Edith from classic British sitcom Allo Allo, although Rene Artois sadly isn't on hand to brand her a 'stupid woman'. One can but dream, and for large parts of the turgid storyline the mind does wander off in surreal directions.
While The Marked Ones is intended as a standalone movie, there are a couple of moments that briefly reward the attention (and patience) of Paranormal Activity fans. But yet another entry in this 'cheap and easy' found footage subgenre only serves to increase the pressure on the upcoming Paranormal Activity 5. The novelty of this format has long since worn off and it's about time the filmmakers and studios woke up and performed an exorcism of their own.