Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (2014)
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones continues writer Christopher Landon’s artistic mastery over the still highly profitable horror franchise, for the first time taking the director’s chair and clearly demonstrating even more clearly the mythic vision he has been developing further since taking the helm as lead writer on the uniquely engrossing and culturally relevant series.
Much has been made about The Marked Ones being a blatantly commercial attempt by Paramount to cash in on the increasingly more lucrative and profitable Latin and Spanish-speaking markets, but any critic taking a negative view of this is either being totally facetitious or deliberately ignorant as to the realities of Hollywood, which has been one of the core industries of the global capitalist economy since the end of World War II. Capitalism and Hollywood go hand in hand—it’s all about the bottom line: money, money, and even more money. After all, it’s never enough—in the golden green words of the language of international finance, it’s all about more.
The Latin movie-going audience in the context of the United States and Canada, which should not be confused with the Spanish-speaking market in general (as most native-born Americans and Canadians of Latin background largely speak English as their mother tongue), is a huge and largely untapped source of revenue for the big studios, a core economic sector which ironically they have not taken much advantage of, much to their own detriment considering the statistical fact that Latin movie-going teenagers are much less likely to watch Hollywood films online than others, interestingly placing them in the same category as homemakers, urban professionals in their thirties and forties, and more socially extroverted and culturally-motivated middle-aged suburbanites.
This is due to the fact that these populations are more inclined toward spending less time in the home environment and who tend to prefer traditional group activities, such as going to the movies, museums, and other such social venues. This is in interesting contrast to low and middle-income movie-watching populations who, regardless of race or ethnic background, show an increasing trend in the opposite direction, preferring online viewing, whether via legal methods or illegal.
Christopher Landon is probably the most culture-conscious and market-savvy writer in Hollywood today, briskly demonstrating an incredible talent for realistic dialogue and scenarios beginning with Paranormal Activity 2 and taking it up a few notches with the 1980s-based Paranormal Activity 3, which I personally consider to be the strongest and most character-driven entry in the franchise thus far. Landon’s technique in terms of presentation of dialogue is simultaneously stylistic and natural yet never hampering itself down with self-indulgent excesses that tarnish most genre faire in this day and age, most particularly in regards to such product targeted toward the teenage demographic.
What sets apart The Marked Ones from other attempts to cash in on a specific demographic is the fact that it not only does not pander or condescend to the target audience in question, but presents a good dose of a cultural reality indigenous to California that does not alienate viewers who may very well be totally unfamiliar with such cultures. Spending many hours in East Hollywood, Echo Park, Boyle Heights, and Baldwin Park, all Latin-majority areas, the response to the film was largely quite positive. Overwhelmingly, the response which I received that seemed most universal was that the film did not come across as exploitative, certainly not in a flagrant manner although more than a few felt, and rightly so, that exploitation, albeit very much subtle and to a greater extent subdued, was ultimately the overriding goal of the studio.
In this regard, I cannot fault Christopher Landon, as given the constraints and limitations imposed upon him by Paramount, he has done an immensely superb job in minimizing all forms of exploitation and product placement—the latter highly restrained, especially in comparison to 99.9% of other Hollywood faire which are essentially commercials for Apple, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and so on and so forth—and keeping things as tightly focused on character and plot development as much as possible.
In The Marked Ones, Landon is also quite intriguingly continuing his ever more scathingly subversive critique of both second-wave feminism and the nuclear family unit that he began in Paranormal Activity 2 and increased by successive orders of magnitude from PA 3 to PA 4. Ironically, the more Landon deconstructs the hypocritical contradictions and fallacies closely shared by both second-wave feminism and postmodernist revisionism of the nuclear family, the more he is revealing how he views contemporary American society rapidly approaching the Rubicon of its own self-destruction, which, if finally crossed, will herald the inevitable decline of Western civilization.
Disregard this as pure pretentiousness and self-indulgence on my part, but there can be no denying the fact that regardless of whether one considers themselves on the left, right, centre, or in some third or fourth alternative worldview, no sane individual believes that given the status quo most of us are subjected to, that the world is progressing toward a brighter, less violent future devoid of limitless snark, sarcasm and stupidity.
Ask yourselves this, as the years advance, as our technologies and sciences progress toward hitherto unknown heights, are we becoming more human than human, or are we just becoming a mere shadow of our former selves, or in the words of a wise man of yesteryear, as we continue to become assimilated into the global monoculture of mediocrity and collectivism, are we simply becoming a society of assholes and idiots?
If the lowest common denominator continues to obsess over the likes of Justin Bieber and other such monstrously banal incompetents, then I daresay we are quickly reaching such an apex.
And that is one seriously major fucking asshole.