As viewers of horror cinema, we are living in dark times – jump scares are everywhere, torture porn is still a thing, that filthy cunt hair who made Serbian Film is still apparently alive despite calls for the contrary, and if all that isn’t cringe worthy enough, James Wan is considered by many to be the last beacon of hope for the genre. Excuse the rest of us with any good sense as we are reduced to murder, suicide, necrophilia or worse. I hear Stephen King is writing the script for the new Saw movie starring Patrick Wilson!
God, are they still making Saw movies? I lost count at around 15 or so. Sometimes it’s alright to let a franchise die and it was these thoughts that saw me humming and hawwing over if I would see Paranormal Activity 5: the Marked Ones. I have seen all of the Paranormal Activity movies and aside from enjoying the self immolating Ouija board and the extremely low budget of the first movie, I haven’t had much good to say about the movies. On a whole they are boring as hell, punctuated with pseudo witchy moments and epic jump scares. Yawn. Boring. Against my better judgement, Scotty Floronic and myself attending a dreary Monday night showing with some chocolate, tequila, and zero expectations and for once we were pleasantly surprised.
Story goes, that the Paranormal Activity franchise sells especially well to the Latino community – which is a bit racist on first glance, but Santeria is a real thing, and the Spanish as a whole do tend towards being superstitious. Apparently it was this selling point that sparked off the fifth instalment of the PA series.
Allow me to say that I met some pretty awesome members of the Latino community this year at Housecore Horror Fest and the only thing that frightened them was running out of beer. Love you Denise, Steve and Bloody Ben. I hope you don’t get haunted because I wrote this.
The story follows Jesse, a high school grad who gets a digital camera as a graduation present and he along with his friend Hector begin to do what teenage boys the world over are prone to do with cameras – record themselves being assholes.
Allow me to say that this premise for having a camera made so much more sense than staggering around your house clutching a MacBook moaning about evil incoherently and under your breath. No one carries a MacBook anywhere unless it’s in a dang fancy case so can we just write off Paranormal Activity 4? Like just pretend it wasn’t made?
Hector and Jesse, boyfriend and boyfriend live in a Spanish barrio with Jesse’s grandma who is taking care of him because jesse’s mom died during her childbirth. Pay attention to this. In the midst of their teenage shenanigans, the pair record some strange comings and goings at a neighbor’s apartment. This neighbor, Anna is rumoured to be a bruja, the somehow more frightening Spanish version of a witch. During some clanging around they lower their camera down to Anna’s apartment and find her with another woman, nude, doing freaky shit – and to be clear not sexy freaky shit, weird shit.
As with all Paranormal possession movies, PA5 follows much the similar plot line – weird shit starts happening, in this case, levitation, the emergence of magic powers and so on followed by strange ghostly seance interactions – but in this case the communication device is not a Ouija board (for once) but rather is a busted ass Simon Says game machine and truth be told – originality points all around because I wasn’t expecting that at all and I was pretty amused.
I’m not going to reveal too much, because I do think this movie really has to be seen to be believed, but there is a part towards the end involving tattooed Spanish gangsters with shotguns literally blowing rampaging witches away. Quite literally. And it’s so ridiculous and intense that I now think that Paranormal Activity 5 is easily better than all the rest.
It’s interesting to me that what seemed originally like a racist cash grab of a failing series, ended up being fairly entertaining. I mean, the movie isn’t great, aside from the haunted Simon Says and aforementioned rampaging witches being gunned down by gangsters, the movie isn’t really adding anything new to the genre but it’s still thinking somewhat outside the box so points for trying.
So while it might seem easy to be disheartened in a world full of Stephen King, fat goth girls who think their opinions matter, and James Wan.. Just remember that somewhere out there, not everyone is punching themselves in the dick and some people are slowly trying new things, so let’s just all sit back and watch these marsupials learn how to use tools. Fascinating.
Until next time kids, stay out of the barrio, throw out your old Simon Says, if you drink tequila make it a double and always stay spooky.
When Robin mentioned that the newest installment of everyone’s favorite annual horror series Paranormal Activity was out in theaters, I was less than enthused to head out to the theater to check it out. Can you blame me though? I’m willing to venture a guess that at least half of you (likely more) share my sentiments towards the series. It has innumerable unnecessary sequels, shaky camera work, uses jump scares to beat the band, sub-par story telling…, the list goes on. So yeah, I was a little trepiditious as I took my seat, sure that I’d be locked into an hour and a half snooze fest punctuated by cheap people jumping out of the darkness scares. Roughly 90 minutes later I walked out into the florescent lights of the theater lobby pleasantly surprised that a series I had written off 2 sequels ago managed to keep me entertained even if I didn’t fall for most of it’s predictable (to me at least) jump scares.
You know the PA plot framework by now: people encounter some spooky stuff/spooky person, one of the family members/friends gets possessed/haunted by spooky demons/ghosts, weird shit starts going down (aka jump scares), no one believes it’s ghosts/demons until some REALLY weird shit goes down, everyone researches past incidents and discovers the person is doomed, some big climactic people vs slamming doors and flying chairs event happens, cut to black as movie ends. See ya next year folks!
Being an annual (or near annual) series is a double edged sword. They’ll follow basically the same ideas that have been laid down by the previous movies in the series, adding a few new ideas here and there to freshen up the window dressing; In this case, that window dressing happens to be tequila shots and tortilla chips. On the positive side, these annual types of movies allow you to check your brain at the door and just strap in for the ride knowing they won’t be throwing any ideas that are too lofty at you. The other side of the argument is almost identical: There are no groundbreaking ideas being presented. It’s a fine line to walk and more often than not sequels tend to lean towards the negative. Thankfully here the filmmakers planted there flag firmly on the positive side of the line.
Something that always bothers me with the Paranormal Activity movies was how they shoehorn in the necessary first person camera. Last time out, the girl carried around a fucking Macbook which bothered me to no end and didn’t make much sense, at least here at DIAG HQ. This time around the main characters just straight up have a camera, sidestepping any awkwardness in that department which I applaud.
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones isn’t breaking any new ground really, but for being the fifth movie in a franchise that long ago lost it’s novelty, this one surprisingly injects some new ideas that manage to make it an entertaining popcorn horror flick. If you hate first-person shaky cam movies though, this isn’t going to be the one that changes your opinion in that regard. if however you’re just looking for a scary sate movie or just some mindless horror to throw on give this one a shot. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.