Certain things are extremely rare to find in this life. White peacocks. Purple carrots. Shakespeares’signaure. A Honus Wagner mint condition rookie card. A Phantom Corsair. You get the picture, right? I would like to add one thing to this list and my addition would be a good horror film. These are rarer than albino humpback whales. Plenty are made, but rare is the one that would make my list. I do have a list. It would include such classics as Psycho, Rosemary’s Baby, The Evil Dead, and The Birds. They do exist though they don’t come along very often. The last good horror films that I saw were The Cabin in the Woods (2012) and The Conjuring (2013). I keep going back to the well and keep coming back disappointed and thirsty.
When The Blair Witch Project was released in 1999 and was such a huge, unexpected hit it spawned a series of mockumentary and found footage films. Even big film directors like J.J. Abrams began making Hollywood films using this style in his films Super 8 and Cloverfield. Soon there was a whole sub category of this style in horror. In 2009 a low-budget (it cost approximately $15,000 to make) film called Paranormal Activity was released. When it was a huge hit grossing over $100 million in the United States alone you had to know that a film series was born.
The series was based on found footage shot with handheld, shaky cameras making the inherent tension in the stories about hauntings and paranormal entities that only can be seen by certain people even that much more creepy. Soon every year a new Paranormal Activity would come out meaning that enough people went to see it to keep producers sinking money into making them. Finally in early 2014 the fifth installment was released called Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones.
The one was written and directed by Christopher Landon, a guy who had written and produced several of the previous Paranormal Activity films. This one has a slightly different premise in that it is not really entity haunting a house or people rather it is more a possession story. Jesse (Andrew Jacobs – first film) is seventeen years old and just graduated from high school in a California. He and his friend Hector (Jorge Diaz) begin filming themselves doing silly stunts and things. Soon they begin filming everything they do. After a party and a night of wack behaviour Jesse wakes up with a bite mark on his arm. Though he wonders how it happened Jesse does not think anything of it.
When Jesse and Hector are attacked by thugs shortly afterwards Jesse shows incredible strength in fending them off. The two tell their friend Marisol (Gabrielle Walsh) what happened and Jesse begins to realize that he can do a bunch of crazy things.
When a neighbour who lives nearby in the same apartment complex is killed and their classmate Oscar (Carols Pratts) is the main suspect, Jesse and Hector decide to investigate. Inside the victim’s apartment they find a notebook filled with magic rituals and a picture of Jesse. After some other weird things happen Jesse finally catches up with Oscar, who tells him weird things began to happen to him after being bitten on the arm by Anna. Everything seems too much for Oscar and he commits suicide by jumping off a building.
Now Jesse begins acting strangely. He seems to not be in control of his actions. Hector and Marisol decide that they need help and so they turn to Ali Rey (Molly Ephraim), a woman who tells them about a coven that possesses in order to create an army. Time is of the essence or they will lose their friend forever.
The series has struck out in a new director and while for the most part it is not successful there are still some scary moments within the film. They still use darkness and suggestion to create tension in the viewer rather than blood and guts. Though I do have to admit that the whole found footage thing is wearing a little thin with me. The effort is there, but in the end it just ends up being a sub-par horror film. The search for good horror continues.
-Previews of The Wolf of Wall Street, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, Ghost Team One