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Devil in the Barrio: A Review of ‘Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones’ 

click to enlarge paranormal-activityjpg

Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) taking crusty eyelids to a whole new level.

If Mexicans are going to fight ghosts, they better be the toughest Mexicans you can find—Oxnard, that is, the place where most badass Latino boxers come from or train at in Southern California.

That’s what immediately hooked me to the new Paranormal Activity installment, which is not a sequel-sequel but more like a spinoff of a found-footage idea that didn’t need a sequel in the first place.

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (the first one directed by series writer Christopher Landon) is a radical change of gears: bilingual hand-held mayhem with a mostly all-Latino cast. It starts promisingly and, even though it loses team midway through it, it’s the funniest of the five chapters (the “official” Paranormal Activity 5, which will actually be the sixth chapter, is coming up later in 2014). The acting is above average and the spirit of the barrio is well-captured in those first scenes.

Yes, it’s funny, until it stops being funny and goes back to the cliché-after-cliché nonsense the masses love so much. But bitching about clichés on a Paranormal Activity movie is like renting a rat-infested apartment and then complaining about rats—you know what you were getting into, and if you find it stupid that these vatos never let go of the camera in the middle of a bloody supernatural attack, all you can do is shut up and keep watching: you deserve it (I know I did).

Our victim is Jesse (Andrew Jacobs), whose family has a dog named Chava that, of course, is a Chihuahua (get it? In the movies, Mexicans only have Chihuahuas as pets, in the same way Italian families only eat spaghetti). After witnessing disturbing events taking place in the downstairs apartment, Jesse is possessed while dreaming, and has a bite-looking mark on his forearm to prove it. His first symptoms are kind of fun: he can float, jump and have the flexibility and strength of Spider-Man. But instead of exploiting this new angle, Landon soon makes our Spider-Man meet The Exorcist and next The Exorcist turns into, well, Paranormal Activity. From then on, the same usual parade of cheap thrills: the infamous “door on the floor” and diabolic notebook that were already old when Evil Dead came out, and a bunch of idiots running scared and going back to the same places they were running away from, for no reason. Instead of a Ouija board, they find answers playing the Simon game; when all hell breaks loose and they need more answers, they do the only smart thing to do: ask Simon! Again and again. People leave when they’re supposed to stay put, and they stay put when they’re supposed to run for their lives; the only “scares” are well-executed low blows you’ve seen (and felt) a million times before.

One big revelation of the movie is a new, imaginative method to protect oneself from evil spirits: hit them in the head with a baseball bat, as one of the female characters showed (forgot her name but it doesn’t matter; they’re all interchangeable and put there for the sole purpose of looking scared; the more scared people in the scene, the scarier the movie, understand?).

If you want to get drunk and have a good silly time with the most unique chapter in the Paranormal Activity series, go for it. But if you expect anything more than that (say, a good movie), you might as well keep drinking and pass out before the flick starts—you won't have missed much.

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones


Writ. and dir. Christopher Landon; feat. Andrew Jacobs, Jorge Diaz, Gloria Sandoval, Gabrielle Walsh, Renee Victor (R)

Opened January 2 at all Santikos locations (except Bijou)

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