*1/2 (out of four)
The ’80s light-up game “Simon Says” doesn’t normally answer yes-or-no questions. Still, you’re more likely to laugh than scream during “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” when Jesse (Andrew Jacobs), convinced that an evil spirit communicates with him through the game’s red and green buttons, screams, “Leave me alone, now!” It’s only slightly scarier than a Kerplunk tower throwing sticks at the players after someone shouts, “My grandma could hold those marbles!”
Considering “The Lego Movie” opens in February, expect “Kerplunk: The Tumbling” (starring Jason Statham) to arrive around 2016.
Not called “Paranormal Activity 5” for reasons not worth analyzing, “The Marked Ones” arrives after the series’ usual Halloween-ish release date in an assumed effort to distance it from the actually intense and horrifying “Captain Phillips” and “12 Years a Slave.” “The Marked Ones” is merely a drag. Yes, there’s a distant creaking noise followed by a closer bump, and characters occasionally ask, “Did you guys hear that?” After Jesse and his best pal, Hector (Jorge Diaz), witness their high school valedictorian acting bizarrely and appear to kill the rumored neighborhood witch, naturally they investigate her creepy cellar without contacting the authorities. They’re hoping to explain why Jesse suddenly has the power to lean on air, send attackers flying and, less significantly, inflate a mattress at maximum speed.
Long-time “Paranormal Activity” writer Christopher Landon takes over as director for “The Marked Ones,” and he wisely dispatches with the typical time stamps. (Who cares if an incident occurs at 2:43 a.m. or 3:17 a.m.?) However, he can’t create a good reason for the film to look like characters captured the video footage, meaning Hector shrieks and runs for his life and we’re still supposed to accept his determination to get all of the events in the frame.
“Paranormal” needed a change, but the point was to be better, not just mildly different. Now with the series batting one for five (respect to “PA3”) and the style unfunnily spoofed in both “A Haunted House” and “Scary Movie V,” these demons are due for retirement.
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