Film review: Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (15)

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Horror movies breed like rabid rabbits.

Collectively, we jumped, gasped, shrieked and recoiled at our first encounters with Psycho, Night Of The Living Dead, The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, The Amityville Horror, Alien, Friday The 13th, The Evil Dead, A Nightmare On Elm Street, The Blair Witch Project and Saw.

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However, our love for these diabolical cinematic milestones has been gradually eroded by myriad sequels, prequels, spin-offs and contemporary remakes.

The same is true of the original Paranormal Activity. Made on a shoestring budget by writer-director Oren Peli, the found-footage horror became a global sensation in 2007. Since then, the mythology has been expanded in three further hauntings and Paranormal Activity 5 is scheduled to spook audiences at Hallowe’en.

In the meantime, Christopher Landon writes and directs this bridging chapter, which centres on teenager Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) in June 2012 as he graduates from high school in Oxnard, California. Jesse celebrates his academic success with his father (David Saucedo), sister (Noemi Gonzalez) and best friends Hector (Jorge Diaz) and Marisol (Gabrielle Walsh).

Festivities are punctuated by speculation about one of Jesse’s downstairs neighbours, Anna (Gloria Sandoval).

“You know what everyone says in the neighbourhood - that she’s some bruja or witch,” he confides to the omnipresent video camera.

Soon after, Anna is murdered in her apartment by Jesse’s valedictorian classmate, Oscar (Carlos Pratts), who goes on the run.

The boys decide to play detective.

“Dude, I bet we could find clues and stuff,” Jesse tells Hector as they break into Anna’s apartment and make a grisly discovery in one room.

Jesse subsequently discovers a bite mark on his arm and begins to exhibit alarming powers. As fear takes hold, the 18-year-old learns he has been chosen to fulfil a grim destiny that tips the balance of power in favour of the forces of evil.

For the opening hour, The Marked Ones seems to be a self-contained story that owes more to the 2012 rites-of-passage film Chronicle than the Paranormal Activity saga.

Then writer-director Landon adds references to the past including a brief appearance by Ali Rey (Molly Ephraim), whose parents were killed in Paranormal Activity 2.

For a clunky final flourish, he introduces a hellish portal that facilitates travel through space and time, thereby allowing one character from this film to gatecrash an earlier instalment.

Scares are largely recycled and, as with previous films, characters abandon common sense at crucial junctures to place themselves in harm’s way.

The introduction of the Simon electronic memory game as a makeshift Ouija board is rather neat with the green and red lights indicating yes and no responses.

Alas, like other elements in Landon’s script, the device runs out of juice.

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