In general, people in theaters who shout things out during movies should be roasted in an auto-da-fé atop a giant burning pile of celluloid. But this rule doesn’t necessarily hold equally across all types of movies, and for some reason I tend to enjoy a bit of audience participation with my horror films in a way I wouldn’t enjoy someone yelling “Don’t go in there, dummy!” at Judi Dench in Philomena. Case in point, the original Paranormal Activity was one of the best moviegoing experiences of my life specifically because the audience was so lively. People were screaming, running up and down the aisles, and insulting the protagonists relentlessly, and it improved the experience tenfold. Especially when, immediately following the scene where the Ouija board burst into flames all on its own, a grown man ran out of the theater, never to be seen again, shouting, “I’m going to church, yo!”
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, the latest in the found-footage franchise, doesn’t ever reach the heights of scaring people back into religiosity, but the spin-off at least gets a couple decent jolts out of its Santeria-themed occult plot-line, which by default probably makes it the best in the series since the first one. The reason The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity were so terrifying at first was because they didn’t play by the rules and tempos of the horror genre. We were so subconsciously attuned to the bathroom-mirror fakeouts and musical stings of traditionally made scarers that the lo-fi shockumentary frights of these movies managed to get under our skin in an entirely new way. Unfortunately, we’ve now seen plenty of this in the time since—the trailers that screened before The Marked Ones featured both Devil’s Due, a found-footage Rosemary’s Baby starring young people, and Welcome to Yesterday, a found-footage Primer starring young people—and the returns have diminished.
There were a couple of cute twists in this latest installment: the Simon séance was fun and raises my hopes for the next film to feature a demonic Skip-It. In terms of actual scares, the film relied almost exclusively on, well, curtains. Shower curtains, window curtains, bead curtains, you name it. Still, there were at least a few well-orchestrated frights. For me the biggest jump came from the quick shot of those two black-eyed girls and based on the amount of popcorn that came flying over my shoulders, it was also the biggest jump for the guy behind me.
Those of you who caught The Marked Ones, what did you think? Were there any bits that had you hiding behind your hands? Or are you tired of watching horror movies directed like America’s Funniest Home Videos?