This year marks the eleventh anniversary of the first film about paranormal activity entering the horror scene, and no one denies that the genre has been shaken. The large-scale debut brought a once dormant subconscious back into the subconscious and helped produce many imitators who tried to imitate it and take advantage of its narrative success.
But as calm as anxious and unforgivingly paranormal, the diversity of his composition was anything but surprising. Since then, horror has generally spread widely. More and more filmmakers like Jordan Peel and Karin Kusama are at the forefront of the genre. They have introduced new perspectives and characters from different cultures and backgrounds, contributing to the feature of inclusion that we now see more often. But in 2014, the Paranormal franchise may have had a similar plan when the fifth franchise record appeared, which was underestimated by The Marked Ones– perhaps it was just a few years ahead of its time.
According to history, the first paranormal version was released in 2009 and will soon be a devastating blow. With the overwhelming success of the first film – and the support of several producers – the sequel to the manual phenomenon has been demanded with great enthusiasm. Thus arose the tradition of publishing a new contribution almost every year, which satisfies the hunger of both the main viewers and fans of the genre. However, when the fourth volume was published, something became very clear: These paranormal films look and feel the same.
You don’t believe me?
The first four films usually used the same space and followed an upper middle-class white family living in a large house in the suburbs. After a series of strange incidents, families use cameras to document their experiences. Usually the first nights are filled little by little, because then the characters (which some people portray a little badly) and the tone of the film are determined. Over time the fears grow stronger, until our heroes inevitably die a terrible death.
Enter the highlighted characters.
Paranormal Activity 5, released in 2014, gave us something completely unique. By inserting a suite mainly in Latin and in an urban context, he gave us a different character and opened up possibilities for something more interesting than the same old group of Caucasian families afraid of a big house.
Marker Onas follows Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) and Hector (Jorge Diaz), two best friends who have long been trying to get the best out of their summer. With the money from the prom, a couple buys a camera and spends their time recording themselves and having fun. Shortly after, Jesse’s neighbor Ana (Gloria Sandoval) was found brutally murdered in her apartment, while Oscar (Carlos Chalabi), one of Jesse’s former classmates, was seen running away from his home. After the police left the crime scene, a group of teenagers searched Ana’s apartment and found all sorts of spooky photos and a notebook with spells and portals in other dimensions, as well as some videotapes and other materials. This incites Jesse and Hector, together with their friend Marisol (Gabriel Walsh), to perform one of those rituals that set the whole thing in motion.
One evening the trio finally comes into contact with the ghost through part of Simon, against whom superstitious grandmother Jesse Irma (René Victor) immediately assumes the role of the ghost. She warns teenagers of the dangers this could mean for them and insists that they give up. After being attacked by criminals, Jesse discovers that he has been given supernatural powers – including the ability to levitate, as well as telepathy – which he and Hector use to have fun by recording tricks and posting them on the Internet. But one night two people returned to Ana’s apartment and found Oscar, who apparently was in a hidden part of the house. Oscar warns Jesse that the troops are about to take his body, and that the only way to stop them is to take his life. Then there’s a pretty cool and intense scene with Hector and Jesse looking for Oscar landing on a nearby car after he jumped off a roof. After Oscar’s death the three explore a hiding place and find an altar for rituals and some pictures of pregnant women, including Jesse’s mother, who was seen with the patriarchal chief of the Lois clan (Hallie Foote), Kathy and grandmother Christie from part 3.
Later in the film we’ll see how Jesse radically changes his personality and becomes more and more cruel, not only for Marisol and Hector, but also for his family. The situation becomes so difficult that Irma goes to the Botanicals, a shop known in Latin American culture, where herbal medicines, religious charms and spiritual cleansings are sold. This rather small scene is in fact an excellent example of the attention to detail that writer/director Christopher Landonde Mark One gives to the Latin American community and its heritage. Those who are Hispanic and grew up in a religious household (like me) are familiar with the famous botanicals where parents and/or elderly relatives collected religious items for the home. And this is just one of many examples where the film refers to real and tangible things in the collective unconscious of Latin American culture. In an earlier series, Hector jokingly refers to El Cucuis, an urban legend passed on to children who misbehave, similar to the bogeyman.
It’s those little nuances that show how much care has been taken to make Mark Ones feel authentic – that’s what Landon and the producers worked hard to write the script. In an interview with Ryan Turek for Shock Till You Drop in 2014, Landon mentioned a young Latin American woman who was part of a focus group for the third paranormal. Her involvement with the films and the way she related them to her own experiences and her family inspired Landon and the producers to take the franchise to a different kind of community perspective than had previously been seen. Secondary outcome – Marked was born.
Although Mark Ones is actually considered a by-product of the rest of the franchise, he has helped to connect many of the weak points within the franchise. We see the return of Ali Rey (Molly Ephraim) from Paranormal 2 – the first real mention of her or the Rey family since the beginning of the third recording. Ali tells Hector and Marisol everything that has happened and warns them of the alarming plans of the pact. Landon wanted to make sure that this plan, despite the fact that it differed from earlier versions, did not feel so disconnected from the rest of the series. Ironically, this has helped to make the film more coherent than some other shots, and has contributed to the good quality of writing that can be seen in this film.
In fact, he wanted to make the film feel connected to the rest of the franchise and gave us one of the best, if not the best end of the Paranormal series, because the film runs through the entire cycle and brings us back to Cathy (Cathy Featherson) and Mickey (Mickey Sloat) from the very first Paranormal film. The finale of Marked Ones gives us a different perspective than the first film, when Katie walks down the stairs to the end of the film; but this time she finds Hector confused and ashamed and resorts to Jesse’s obsession. The mad Cathy finally admits Hector and screams for Micah, who is in a hurry to confront Hector, who is killed in the process.
In the final moments of the film screening, Hector stumbles over a completely demonised Jesse, who puts an end to this saga. By putting everything together and giving the audience an unexpected turn in the finale, he helped give the film (and the franchise) the freshness it so desperately needed. Once again, the film not only conveys the feeling of people wandering aimlessly through the big house for more than 90 minutes, but also the fascinating script and characters, who ironically bring to life a series that focuses on the dead and haunts the living. However, this is a bit surprising when you consider that many viewers didn’t shoot the film in a friendly way. The ghost dimension took $90 million out of the fund, making it the second smallest gross application of the franchise (the ghost dimension remains the smallest at $70 million).
How was marked for its time?
Well, it’s the first in the series that takes us to a place other than the white suburbs. We show the film in a residential complex where both Hispanics and Latinos live, and our main characters are different groups of teenagers, which gives us something radically different from the paranormal franchise we are used to. Few franchisees reinvent themselves so radically and often give us the same worn-out tape to support the appeal of the mass market. Christopher Landon learned this and decided to tell us a paranormal story through another lens; a story in which, frankly, horror does not always appear in the right light. Latinos and Hispanics rarely have a real image in horror movies, and when they do, their characters feel persecuted and inaccurate; it doesn’t matter if it’s a minor character who dies before we’re halfway through the second act, d.Ismael (Danny Trejo) by Rob ZombieHalloween (2007), a sneaky asshole/criminal, who plays Diego (Noel Gugliemi) in the film Cleaning: A… Anarchy (2014), or the religious saviour of the continuing evil as Sean San Dena (Adrian Barraz) from Pull me to hell (2009). It often seems that these characters are just plotting techniques and not real people in a story that deserves to be told.
In the novel Markers, however, they are at the heart of the story. The audience develops the bond with three friends and their relationship with each other. Even though we are told that the trio grew up together, we recognize them by the way they talk to each other and make jokes when something terrible happens. The idea of setting a standard before the chaos in the cinema is something very important, so that we, the audience, can feel and understand the violation of the status quo. In addition, he attaches great importance to the themes of the Latin alphabet, which are repeated throughout the film. Those who grew up in an urban district in Latin America can testify to an unspoken sense of community and familiarity that everyone shares. Whatever relationship we have, we care about each other and talk to each other like we’re family – that’s what Jesse, Hector and Marisol represent so well. The first ten minutes of the film show this perfectly when Jesse’s entire apartment complex gives him a ball night. There is a feeling that the whole community is there, because for people who are Hispanic, it is the same as for Hispanics. In a way, we all share the same euphoria because we understand how difficult it is for people like us to achieve such a goal. Simply put: If one of us wins, we all win.
I want to make it clear that I’m not just saying this because these hieroglyphs are just good, well written characters that are also Latin (and as a lover of Latin forms of horror I would like to see many such hieroglyphs and identify with them). Hector, Jesse and Marisol are close figures who simply share this past. So their ethnicity is an extra layer, not a stool you can rely on.
In an interview with Fred Topele in 2014, which he described as mandatory, Landon admitted that he was a white man who wrote about a Spanish family and the respect he had for them. You realize you’re only telling the story of your family, and you’re only telling the story of your best friends. That’s, I think, the emotional anchor of the film that it’s really a story of friendship. Landon wanted to honor the community he and the producers recognized as a strong pillar of the paranormal series. By telling a story based on friendship, these heroes feel more reasonable and realistic than the aforementioned stereotypes that have already conquered the genre. At the same time, the shot in the film seems fresh and relatively authentic.
The Latin community has always felt a strong bond with paranormal arson, thanks to its strong link with religion. The vast majority of the Hispanic community, including myself, was raised according to Catholic or Christian mores. The inborn connection with good and evil – heaven and hell, God and the devil – is rooted in culture. We were brought up to believe in the supernatural and we have to be afraid of things that are outside of ordinary life or have to do with evil – to be able to stand up as a child (especially fairy tales like La Llorona and the already mentioned El Cucuy/El Cuco). These monsters/demons can be played as stories passed down from generation to generation to ensure children’s behavior, but this is a more telling example of how Latin American communities cultivate this myth of the paranormal. I even claim that it was this intimidation tactic that attracted us to the darkness and ultimately caused the horror. Watching these kinds of paranormal films strengthened our faith in the fear we had to fear as children.
As a big horror fan, who also comes from a similar (Dominican) background and would like to work in this genre one day, I can identify and appreciate this form of performance. And as I can confirm, Hispanics and Hispanics love the genre. A study by The Hollywood Reporter and Morning Consult shows that the vast majority of Hispanics say horror is their favorite genre, just after 69% of Afro-Americans. It is interesting to note that for fans of the genre, while people with skin tone have the strongest demographic image, they are probably the most distorted or underrepresented.
But it’s never too late. Since the huge success of Get Out in 2017, the audience has shown how open they are to seeing people with colour at the centre of the story and/or how they behave behind the cameras. Issa Lopez, for example, told us in The Tigers are not afraid of, through his own Mexican lens, a fascinating story about the Mexican war on drugs. Lopez gave us completely authentic characters, not just stereotypical Latinos in combat positions; and it’s no surprise that the Tigers were a hit with horror fans from all walks of life. The potential of what Mr. López and other Latin American filmmakers/writers can do now, because we live in a much more diverse atmosphere than before, is infinite.
Paranormal activity 5 : Marked Ones is one of the most interesting and exciting recordings in the found video/surrectional subgenre. As we travel through the twenties – a decade that will undoubtedly contain more complete and varied stories for all horror fans – I hope we can look back on this rather underestimated gem and see that it is ahead of its time by offering a different perspective on the genre. What we appreciate more today.