On Activities out of the Norm
I often think that as fans of horror, we hold our franchises closest to our hearts. So, as we are disappointed when they inevitably start to decline and lose that magic, at the same time we expect it to happen. The thing is, though, the producers of these movies never really seem to catch on. A few installments down the line we might get one better than what we’re used to, but it’s basically still the same thing regurgitated over and over; it’s never as inventive or original as the first one or two.
But now here’s Paranormal Activity, a franchise that started with a bang. It was probably the most talked-about horror movie in recent memory with a profitable, somewhat original idea and a marketing campaign unlike any other. Then a couple of sequels, more of the same, with a couple of interesting twists. The fourth, however, was just boring. Not to dwell too much, but it had a redeeming factor: a story thread emerged that connected these movies beyond the surface.The best thing about this thread involving a secret cult or coven of mysterious women is the restraint the filmmakers show in, well, not really showing too much of them or their story. Originally, it seemed like this was just a plot device or an excuse for scares, but now, with The Marked Ones, the people behind Paranormal Activity are going for something much bigger.
It’s an ambitious idea, but it’s also breaking the boundaries of modern horror and the way franchises are “supposed” to go. The stage has been set with the story of Katie and Micah, but its ripples are the focus now. Instead of regurgitation, The Marked Ones has opted for a turnaround.
Nevermind the found-footage clichés; here we have an all-Latino cast in organic performances, all within a culture notorious for being deeply religious. Alone, it is a refreshing horror flick not about witches or demons or possession, but about reaction. Yeah, we know that white suburban couples will freak out when doors slam, but what about a tight-knit family of minorities? What will the impact lead to? And most importantly, why hasn’t it been done before?
The Marked Ones has done what I thought was impossible at this point:it has saved the Paranormal Activity franchise from a fate of annual one-time scares. It is expanding it into a universe within film, albeit fantastical and unlikely, something that can branch off of itself and not only grow for years, but remain fresh and interesting again and again. The common thread is just the start, if the franchise continues on this path. It can jump from one culture to another and, with some inventive writing, become something repeatedly decent, unlike anything the genre has ever seen before. There’s a ton of potential here, we just have to wait and see. See you next Halloween.