Far from the privileged homes of Calabasas, away from the domestic squabbling of Katie & Micah—and the rest of their extended family—the fifth installment in the hit ‘found footage' series gets a much-needed siesta in East LA. Recent high school grads Jesse and Carlos (fresh faces Andrew Jacobs and Eddie J. Fernandez) look forward to a relaxing BBQ-filled summer in the barrio. They live with la familia that includes a loveable hard-drinking abuelita and a sassy sister. Carlos got a new camera for a graduation present so he'll be capturing, well, everything. The murder of a local witch in their apartment complex leads the teens to investigate, stumbling upon those marked symbols.
The verdict: the Mexican-American culture, plus fun times with an old school Simon game places this smack in the middle. Not as effective as the groundbreaking first or the VHS era third, but more engaging than PA2 and PA4.
Five things to know about The Marked Ones:
1. Simon BEEP! Is Code for KILL!: Milton Bradley's seminal 70s electronic version of Simon says makes for a superior Ouija board. Getting a green answer for "yes" is creepy enough. Pray it doesn't light up red. Plus, considering most Ouija boards are made by Parker Brothers "authentic" has never been much an issue.
2. A Genuinely Funny Activity: The whole cast is strong, with a relaxed, loose energy. Jesse is hoping to score with a gal from a party eventually confronts a not at all locked tight cellar door a la Evil Dead, but before all those scary movie chills, there's plenty of laughs just hanging with BFFs Jesse and Carlos. They feel like real friends.
3. Bromance Version: The first (and still best) PA got under our skin by extremely effective lo-tech FX, but also by focusing the tension squarely on a couple who move in together. Here, Jesse and Carlos have been buds since they were little, but now that one might move on, the fragility of their bond is truly tested.
4. Super Powers, Sawed-Off Shotguns Less Scary, Way More Awesome: After Jesse acquires the mark, he also gains a ghost bodyguard. Naturally, he begins to kick butt in the hood. Just like any teen, Jesse exploits his newfound abilities to the fullest. Who wouldn't want to take down thugs by tossing them into a vending machine? When it's time to take those witches down, however, it's hilarious to have strapped associates ready for to mow down nasty witches.
5. An American Meh Story: As has been the case with a lot of the PA flicks, the explanations about the witches, the pacts, the markings continue to underwhelm. We dug the Latino take like a bowl of bloody eggs. Still, just how many "chosen", er, "marked" ones are out there? We'll have to wait for officially named Paranormal Activity 5 next year to find out.