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Bigger Budget, Hispanic Influence Drives Fifth 'Paranormal' Film

28 Mar, 2014 By: Chris Tribbey

LOS ANGELES — Veteran actress Renée Victor (”Weeds”) took one look at the crowd’s reaction during the first screening of Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, and knew she (and everyone involved with the film) had done their job.

“They were frightened,” Victor said. “That’s what we wanted. That’s what our writer-director Christopher Landon wanted.”

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones — out on Blu-ray Disc and DVD April 8, and already available on digital from Paramount Home Media Distribution — may be the fifth installment in the franchise, but it’s not your typical “Paranormal” film. While sticking with the found-footage style that makes the “Paranormal” films work. “Marked Ones” — thanks to a budget bigger than any of its predecessors — didn’t stay in just one or two locales, but moved all over the streets.

“In most of the ‘Paranormal’ movies it stays in this one house, a presence in one location,” said actress Gabrielle Walsh. “We get to move around in this film, see some of the Hispanic culture: superstition, black magic. [There are] things that go into the other paranormal movies, but [Marked Ones] stands alone as it’s own separate [movie].”

Set in the Latino barrios of Southern California community Oxnard, Marked Ones follows a young Mexican-American teen who encounters bizarre, unexplained paranormal activities, shortly after his secretive neighbor dies. And (predictably but no-less-entertainingly) death begins to follow him (and his friends) wherever he goes.

While the dialogue is almost exclusively in English, this “Paranormal” film was geared toward Latinos from the outset, according to Landon. And with a worldwide $86.3 million box office take for a film (made on a reported budget of less than $5 million) that strategy worked.

“[This film] touches on … prominent topic[s] in Latin America culture: la brujería (witchcraft), black magic, santería,” said actor Jorge Diaz. “It only touches on [those themes], but it opens up so much for the ‘Paranormal’ franchise. It opens up all types of possibilities now, which is cool.”

The home entertainment releases from Paramount includes an additional 20-plus minutes of footage not seen in theaters, and even the actors haven’t seen the cut Blu-ray and DVD fans will get.

As for the franchise in general, “Paranormal Activity” creator Orin Peli said he’s still shocked over the reception each film has received. Since the first film in 2009, done on a budget of $15,000, no film has gone over a production budget of $5 million. The total box office take for all five films? An estimated $380-plus million.

“I never could have conceived what it would become,” he said, smiling.

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