Fran­chise spinoff leaves home for new ac­tiv­i­ties

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Ran­dall King

AT its best, the Para­nor­mal Ac­tiv­ity fran­chise has de­liv­ered pure ex­is­ten­tial horror in its re­vamp­ing of the haunted-house genre. You still get the bumps and thuds and in­ex­pli­ca­ble events of, say, Pol­ter­geist, but large por­tions of the movies con­sist of long, pon­der­ous shots of empty rooms, with the au­di­ence wait­ing breath­lessly for some­thing to hap­pen. (The fran­chise’s real in­ge­nu­ity is that it leaves the heavy lift­ing of fear-in­vok­ing to the au­di­ence’s col­lec­tive imag­i­na­tion.) The fifth in­stal­ment, which may be more of a spinoff than a proper se­quel, of­fers a change-up: less lin­ger­ing dread, more ac­tion. In­stead of be­ing set in another white-bread sub­ur­ban McMan­sion, the set­ting is a Latino com­mu­nity in Los An­ge­les, where a young man named Jesse (An­drew Ja­cobs) is grad­u­at­ing from high school. He and his best friend Hec­tor (Jorge Diaz) en­joy spec­u­lat­ing about the strange pow­ers, has been the ob­ject of the dead woman’s at­ten­tion since birth. And as his pow­ers in­crease, Jesse’s per­son­al­ity un­der­goes a ter­ri­ble change. The change in Para­nor­mal Ac­tiv­ity? Not so ter­ri­ble. The thrills and found-footage es­thetic are there, es­pe­cially in the un­usu­ally ac­tion-packed de­noue­ment, but the ad­di­tion of hu­mour (thank you, Jorge Diaz), sex and a time-warp-y wrin­kle give some much-needed tex­ture to a fran­chise that was get­ting a lit­tle stale, es­pe­cially in the dull, re­dun­dant fourth in­stal­ment from 2012. This chap­ter de­lib­er­ately plays to the fran­chise’s large Latino fan base, but in the process, writer-di­rec­tor Christo­pher Lan­don, who wrote all the PA se­quels, con­nects with ev­ery­one else too... or at least those of us ea­ger to get past the white-kids-in-peril tropes and a glacially paced ap­proach to re­veal­ing the su­per­nat­u­ral mythol­ogy be­hind the jump-scares. Par­don the eth­nic metaphor, but The Marked Ones gives a tequila shot to a fran­chise that was start­ing to feel like a white-wine spritzer half­way into los­ing its fizz.

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