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Though this year was the first one without a Paranormal Activity sequel since the series began haunting theaters in 2009, the franchise returns as soon as the calendar flips over to 2014 with the release of Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, headed our way in one week.  But what exactly is it, and how does it fit in with the other installments in the franchise?  If you’re finding yourself a bit confused, we’re here to help!

In October of this year, just a few days after the release of Paranormal Activity 4, Paramount announced that another sequel was already in the works.  Though the announcement didn’t officially come until the fourth installment proved to be a hit at the box office, a fifth installment in the series was actually already on the table, before the film even hit theaters.

After the end credits of Paranormal Activity 4, during its theatrical run, a 30-second clip (seen above) showed a Spanish-speaking man filming inside of a convenience store, and coming across a creepy woman.  “This is only the beginning,” she says to the man, before he hightails it out of the store.

Along with the official announcement of ‘Paranormal Activity 5,’ the mystery of the clip was revealed, and it was confirmed that the fifth installment would be a spin-off rather than a sequel, catering to a Latin American audience.  According to a Paramount insider, Latin Americans have been the biggest supporters of the franchise, which is why the company decided to aim an off-shoot directly at them.

In the summer of this year, we learned that the untitled sequel had officially been given the name Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, and would be debuting in theaters in January of 2014 – the original plan was for it to arrive in October of 2013, the same month all the other sequels were released, but a longer than expected production time delayed those plans.

Written and directed by Christopher B. Landon, who wrote Paranormal Activity 2, 3 and 4, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones features the same demon from the other installments in the series, who this time around sets his sights on a young Latino man named Jesse.  After a woman mysteriously dies in his apartment complex, leaving behind a picture of him on an altar, Jesse discovers a strange bite on his arm and soon discovers his body has become the new host for a demonic entity – like Katie and Kristi before him.

The Marked Ones embarked on a brief theatrical run on December 13th, in 13 select U.S. cities as well as 13 different countries around the world, and the fan reaction to those screenings has for the most part been overwhelmingly positive.  From what I’ve heard, the film is very much a direct sequel to the previous installments in the series, expands on the mythology and is a real treat for fans of the franchise.

Best of all, the general consensus seems to be that it’s precisely the shot in the arm the series needed, after the lackluster Paranormal Activity 4.  As a big fan of the franchise, even I was quite disappointed by 2012’s sequel, and was left feeling like it was time for something new.  Something new is the name of the game with this one, and I for one am quite looking forward to it.

Gear up for Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones‘ January 3rd theatrical release by checking out a handful of clips from the film below!

2014 will also see the release of Paranormal Activity 5, an ‘official sequel’ that will once again feature Katie Featherston.  Written by Jason Pagan and Andrew Stark, and directed by Gregory Plotkin, the sixth installment in the franchise will haunt theaters on October 24th.  A big year for fans of the series, to say the least!