Don’t be a dog in a horror movie, that’s my advice to my one canine reader. They have a miserable time of it. The cute Chihuahua in this one is scared of its owner, locked in the cellar with a demon, demonically stuck to the ceiling and, worse of all, forced to dance on its hind legs to R n’ B. It’s terrible for the poor little fella, and yes it is a boy, you see his cock quite clearly during the dance scene. I never knew Chihuahua’s were so well hung.
You never find out what happens to the dog at the end though because this is, as we all know, a found footage movie and the first rule of found footage movies is that none of it really has to make any sense because it’s “real” and real-life doesn’t always make sense.
I don’t know about you guys but I’m getting sick to death of found fo… oh I can’t even be bothered typing it out any more. I’m getting sick to death of FFMs. To give theParanormal Activity franchise its due, they are the ones which kicked FFMs into the stratosphere. Obviously Blair Witch, etc. came first, but the glut of FFMs we have now are all Paranormal’s fault, I mean, influence. The sequels were becoming increasingly dire though. I can’t even remember what happened in Part 4 despite the fact I saw it only a few months ago. Even Paramount found themselves running out of ideas which is why there wasn’t one this Halloween, like there has been for the last few years. What we have got is to start 2014 with a Latino twist, and it’s definitely an improvement.
Instead of white middle-class America we are on the tough streets of Los Angeles with second generation Latino kids, just having graduated from High School. Jesse lives upstairs from some crazy old supposed witch and after she is murdered, he and his friend – best mate Hector – investigate who or what killed her. Meanwhile Jesse has developed a bite mark on his arm and seems to be going through some weird changes… The main story is the over familiar haunted/possessed person we’ve seen again and again of late. It’s the usual bunch of clichés, although at least we don’t have to sit through the whole setting-up-a-camera-to-film-them-sleepwalking-thing again. Although saying that maybe that’s a bad thing. The first Paranormal Activity relied heavily on very little happening. The audience was expected to just watch the screen for clues and images, some of which created an exquisitely unsettling atmosphere. The Marked Ones on the other hand, relies so heavily on jump-scares there’s little room for genuine atmosphere. The jumps come so thick and fast that you soon enough you’re expect them to happen and so they stop being scary or shocking at all.
On the positive side, the Latino setting and characters make a nice change. The teenage best-friends are goofy and believable, and their family and friends are a likable bunch. Of course they have a crazy old Grandma who only speaks Spanish, and who doesn’t want one of them in their family. Of course crazy old grandmas are in more trouble than dogs in horror movies so you know she’s in trouble the moment she shuffles into shot.
You get a good sense of the world these kids live in, which is probably as much to do with the FFM format as anything else. The police come and go like something from another planet. Jesse and Hector don’t even consider talking to them, they’d rather investigate the murder themselves. Gang members are also a daily part of their lives, they’re always trying to avoid a beating from some thug or another. However when things get nasty toward the end, it’s the gangs they go to for help: poverty separates the poor so much from authority and government that they can only turn to their own criminals for protection.
The acting, which is what a FFM lives or dies on, is good across the board, naturally played by even small characters. It’s just that it all feels so familiar, be it because we are tied so closely to a franchise, or just that FFM movies in general are now so ubiquitous. Of course (BIG SPOILERS) it also does what all FFM movies do and ends with the camera falling over while the operator screams (and is presumably dragged away to their death, as is often the case). Surely they can do something different with these endings? IT’S THE SAME IN EVERY ONE OF THESE MOVIES. The only exception to this is Chronicle which had a proper, almost, God forbid, cinematic ending. Why must we go on like this? Please FFM makers out there, think of something else now or I’ve had it with you!
Talking of Chronicle, there’s a bit in the middle of the film when Jesse starts showing signs of magic powers, so they film him trying out various tricks. This feels really at odds with the rest of the movie, like the filmmakers saw Chronicle and thought “we wanna bit of what they’re doing” so did it. But Chronicle only came about because ofParanormal Activity’s success. Why is one of its sequels mimicking a movie which was only made because of one of this films predecessors? And not doing it as good?
Who knows and who cares? We’re on the fifth film of an increasingly tired franchise. Or are we on the first spin off of a very cheap-to-make series of shockers? Or is it both? Well it’s better than the last two and not as good as the first two. I like the Latino twist, I don’t like the same old story, and I do love a dog dancing to R n’ B. Make of that what you will…