Saturday, 11 January 2014



It's tempting to suggest that with this incredibly tedious piece of artless, craftless garbage that the Found Footage genre has reached a new low. But in truth, it hasn't. It's just continuing to scrape along the bottom of a very shallow canal, the same canal that was already dredged dry decades ago by The Blair Witch Project and the first few variations on that theme. Granted the first Paranormal Activity just about got by, probably because we hadn't seen that many found films at that point. But the fact is that found footage is a very empty bag of tricks that even regular, "real" film makers like Barry Levinson and George Romero haven't been able to do anything remarkable with. And if they can't make the format work, what hope does Christopher Landon, a man who has something called Boy Scouts Vs Zombies in development, have?

Absolutely none, it turns out to no-one's surprise. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is absolute rubbish, barely watchable at its best, boring, annoying as hell and scary only - and I repeat ONLY - in the way of sneaking up behind you and yelling "Boo!!!". That's easy: I can do that. Most grannies can do that, it's really nothing special. This is a tangential spin-off of the franchise, a kind of Paranormal Activity 4A, in which a couple of Latino teenagers uncover the demonic cult that's marking the unborn as future soldiers of Satan. Finding the coven's headquarters, they round up a couple of friends, one of whose brothers has already killed himself as a result of his possession, and break into the house, filming everything as they go....

That's where it falls apart, of course. The fact is that while you could argue that the first Paranormal Activity was trying to use the home video technique and format in a way we hadn't really seen before, there's nothing in Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones that couldn't have been done as a film, a regular narrative film with edits and lighting and music and camerawork and tripods. In fact, it could have been a perfectly decent horror movie. But they're shackled to this idiotic camcorder gimmick, which doesn't add anything except motion sickness to a film, doesn't make it look any more convincing or realistic, and isn't doing anything we haven't seen hundreds of times before, except not as well. And they can't give up the gimmick because they have no idea what else to go: it's the only card they've got.

And the makers, of this and however many other pieces of found footage tedium are out there, are not doing it because it makes their films any better. They're doing it because it's easy: any idiot can film these things because they're supposed to look like an idiot filmed them, and you don't have to bother with, or know anything about, lighting, scoring or camera technique. More importantly, they're doing it because it's cheap. The Marked Ones' budget is listed on IMDb as a paltry five million and it's already taken eighteen million in less than a fortnight: the numbers add up so they will continue flogging this migraine-triggering rubbish until the audience finally wise up. As far as aesthetics are concerned, it's unspeakable rubbish, but as far as accountancy is concerned it's a literal goldmine. That's why there's another PA instalment already in pre-production, that's why there's another found footage horror movie out in a couple of weeks (The Devil's Due  - I'm not going anywhere near it), and that's why they're rebooting the Friday The 13th franchise as a found footage project. They're dirt cheap to churn out, and idiots keep going to see them. I'm ashamed to admit I was one of the idiots who went to Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, but it's sure as hell not going to happen again.


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