The Last Good Paranormal Activity Movie Marked the End of an Era

The most overlooked Paranormal Activity is worth revisiting.

Inverse Recommends

Few horror franchises have had as astronomical a rise and fall as Paranormal Activity, the collection of found footage horror films that helped define Blumhouse in the production company’s early days and has since become an oversaturated remnant of the past. The franchise calls on the allure of low-budget found footage films like The Blair Witch Project and was initially marketed as too scary to watch, simply advertising by showing clips of audiences’ terrified reactions to early screenings. Originally produced on a mere $15,000 budget, the first film would spur on one of the top 10 highest-grossing horror franchises of all time, as well as several less memorable sequels — with one exception.

While Paranormal Activity 2 and 3 were solid, albeit slightly redundant entries into the franchise that helped flesh out the demonic lore at the heart of the story, the fourth film marked a definitive drop in quality and left the franchise spinning its wheels. This unfortunately meant that many people missed out on 2014’s Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, which wound up being one of the best, most surprising installments in the franchise.

Directed by Christopher Landon (who also wrote or co-wrote Paranormal Activities 2 through 4), The Marked Ones smartly shifted the main narrative away from Katie Featherston and her sister, Kristi, who had dominated the past four movies, and focused on a new group of unsuspecting individuals. The story refreshingly takes viewers out of white suburbia and into a Latino neighborhood where two teens, Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) and Hector (Jorge Diaz), have just graduated high school and have their entire lives ahead of them, or so they think. When Jesse’s downstairs neighbor — whom the kids in their apartment complex half-jokingly refer to as a “bruja,” or witch — is murdered amidst a spate of strange activity, the boys venture into her apartment and find several creepy artifacts that only reinforce their suspicions about the woman. At the same time, Jesse begins to experience some strange symptoms, which initially seem to be fun signs of the paranormal but quickly prove to be much more insidious markers of demonic possession and control.

In addition to successfully endearing all of the characters to the audience (from the goofy Hector to Jesse’s sweet, superstitious grandmother), the movie also brings a subtle sense of humor to the franchise. This should come as no surprise, since Landon has always brought some levity to his horror, from the Happy Death Day films to the Vince Vaughn slasher flick Freaky. This humor is especially clear in the early moments when Jesse and Hector goof around with the new video camera, cutting between scenes of summer mayhem and highlighting the things that any teenage boy might be interested in. This also helps the franchise with a longtime problem: justification as to why the characters might be filming certain moments. By focusing on bored teens with a new video camera, the constant recording makes a lot of sense and helps keep the viewing experience as immersive as possible.

The Marked Ones was the last good Paranormal Activity movie. Too bad no one saw it.


While the movie introduces audiences to an entire new cast of characters, the insidious paranormal force terrorizing the teens stems from the same coven of witches involved in the haunting and possession of characters in past Paranormal Activity installments. Reminders of Katie and Kristi are peppered throughout (including in what is perhaps the film’s best jumpscare), and another familiar face helps the teens quickly get caught up on the lore. These loose ties effectively tether the stories to each other and keep the franchise true to its roots without recycling anything — a necessary reinvention five movies in. The final, damning scene also provides an illuminating connection and glimpse into the first movie, wherein viewers finally get to further understand a previously unseen moment (due to the nature of found footage constraints).

Does it totally work or reinvent anything for the horror genre? Not necessarily. But Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones took some big, necessary swings and helped breathe new life into a staling franchise. Although it was followed by two more disappointing installments, The Marked Ones remains the last valuable addition to the Paranormal Activity franchise. It is second only to the original film, which holds an inimitable place in the horror pop culture canon.

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is streaming on Max.

Related Tags