Friday, January 03, 2014

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones Scares Scott Into a Thought-Provoking Rant

Scott is back with his weekly box office predictions, but he only has one new release to talk about.  But boy, does he ever have much to say.  He actually talks about some of the same issues that I had with Paranormal Activity:  The Marked Ones, which you may remember from my Collective Publishing article.  After getting his justified rage out of his system, he also provides an in-depth analysis of how he thinks the horror picture will do this weekend.  It is a prediction very different than some other experts, but he backs it up well.  A really great read this week.

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After a holiday weekend that was incredibly busy with new releases, which saw five new wide release movies enter the fray as well as the year’s final Oscar contenders squeezing in with limited release formats. The year has come and gone, the old is out and the new is upon us. With the turning of the calendar come resolutions for a better year. People decree changes for the better, vowing to improve their quality of life by exercising, eating well, quitting smoking, and getting a better grasp on their finances. It is the most hopeful time of the year, where anything is possible and sights are set on the positive instead of the negative… it truly is a magical annual moment in the cycle of human behaviour.

And, with all of the hope and positivity in the air, how does Hollywood respond? Well, there is one movie debuting in wide release this weekend and it is Paranormal Activities: The Marked Ones. While I would love to be able to separate myself emotionally from my writing at this point, this movie has the ability to get me quite charged, filled to the near literal brim with piss and vinegar.

The Marked Ones is a spin-off of the Paranormal Activity movie franchise, a series of films that uses ‘found footage’ to tell tales of supernatural tormentings. Spin-offs are not always a great thing, as the Urkel enriched Family Matters is an example of the dangers of such endeavours, while Frasier is the prime example of what can happen when it goes right. The Marked Ones is not a spin-off that follows a character from the other films, but is one that is specifically designed to be ‘the Latin version.’

Blumhouse Productions, which is responsible for the Paranormal Activity movies, as well as a lot of films of similar format, have usually relied on their stories being about white people in large houses with an obvious lack of minority representation. Back in June when The Purge came out, it did indeed have an African American, but essentially that character was just a vehicle to bring pain and suffering into the film. I am making no statements about their personal beliefs or feelings other than the fact that the movies seem to be a ‘whites only’ club.

When first hearing of this film, I joked around with my friend that the Latinos portrayed in the film would probably be stereotypes and not the traditional ‘big home owners’ that Caucasians are in these films. We lightly threw around the fact that there would probably be a lot of gang members, that they would be living in the bad part of town, that Catholicism would be involved, and that a male character would be a gardener and a female character would be a maid. When I saw the trailer for first time, I was absolutely shocked at how right we were in our jest. The only thing yet to be confirmed (and I would probably need to actually watch the movie to find this out) is if there is a gardener and a maid.

The Marked Ones looks to change the "whites only" stigma, but not in an organic and natural way. Instead of simply weaving Latinos into the fabric of the franchise, they are given an offshoot, something that is related but not. Kind of like the creepy uncle who is only an uncle through marriage but not through blood. We are allowed to be creeped out by him and his bush beard and beady eyes, but always reminded that he isn't quite family. To myself, this movie represents an inability for people to understand what makes people tick and how to incorporate ethnicities into film. How should people feel if they are thrown a bone and said, you get this spin-off because we are not ever going to include you in the main franchise?

Perhaps I am too down on this movie without even seeing it. Perhaps I have gotten off course from my weekly predictions and have gone too far down the road of analysis, but I believe I have some legitimate fears about this movie. If it is a great success, it will be hard to be able to tell if it was because of the Paranormal Activities name attached to it or if it was because of the racial audience targeting.

Should the film bring in boat loads of dollars, what message would this send to Hollywood studios and executives other than the fact that franchises need not include minorities, but rather just give them their own spin-off because then it is related but not, just in case it does not work out.

Are audiences going to want stereotypically driven stories such as a jive-talking priest from the hood trying to redeem his past mistakes of dealing crack and pimping by doing an unauthorized exorcism of a child in The Exorcist: Harlem Frights? Do we need a story about a small beach community in Mexico that is inflicted by drug war violence and Los Zetas members being terrorized by a shark in Jaws: Sangre, Por Favor? Perhaps Hollywood would be best suited to include people in well written stories that do not rely on stereotypes and show that people are all really the same regardless of skin colour, although that hardly happens as is, and a successful run by The Marked Ones would further endanger that from happening.

Well, all of that aside, it is time to look at how this movie may do in theatres this weekend. It really is a wild card, and I would not be too surprised if it failed or succeeded. The way I see it, anything between seven and twenty million could be fair game for this film. Horror movies have done well the first weekend of the new year before, with The Devil Inside opening with $33 million in 2012 and Texas Chainsaw 3D opening with $21 million in 2013. While a lot of Oscar hopefuls are supplying audiences with thought provoking or heartwarming content, it is a time ripe for horror to offer counter programing for those who need something more visceral.

While the weekend has been kind in the past, The Marked Ones does suffer from a few detracting factors. First of all, it is not a true sequel in the Paranormal Activity franchise, but an off shoot. Even though there is a connection to the popular horror series, it is a franchise that has been struggling. The last movie, Paranormal Activity 4 domestically grossed less than Paranormal Activity 3 made in its opening weekend. On top of that, Paranormal Activity 5 was wiped from the release schedule this year as it is the first time there is not an annual offering from the series. The waning interest could be an indicator that the iron was hot to strike two years ago, and this attempt may be coming after the shark has already been jumped. If we add onto that the fact that it is not performing well on Twitter (it has seven thousand tweets the day before release compared to the approximately seventy thousand right before The Conjuring opened last July) it could be most probable that this film will fall short of expectations.

The Marked Ones Opening Weekend Prediction - $10 million

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