Dave's Rating:

3.0

Death stalks another camera.

Don't be fooled by words like "reboot" or "spinoff." It's a "tributary," maybe, but narratively this isn't even close to being a fresh start. It's a sequel and you'll know it the moment a newspaper clipping with the headline "Carlsbad Couple" makes an appearance in the stumbling investigation of all-enveloping evil conducted by this film's three teenage Bad Luck recipients.

Hector (Jorge Diaz), Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) and Marisol (Gabrielle Walsh) are convinced that a witch is living in their rundown Oxnard apartment building. There's video evidence, of course; they see the bruja painting a symbol on the stomach of a naked woman. Soon, Jesse wakes up what appears to be a bite mark on his forearm, the immediate results of which involve happy-go-lucky levitation stunts and a newfound ability to hurl local cholos through the air.

Because he's 18 these developments feel about 10% weird and 90% awesome. Too bad he's never seen Paranormal Activity or its three sequels or else he'd have been able to figure it out a little faster, maybe identify those two little girls with no eyes right off the bat, or at least get himself to an exorcist more powerful than his superstitious, bodega-visiting grandmother. More importantly, he'd make Hector dump that perpetually-recording digital device, since that seems to be the way the Unstoppable Camera-Smashing Demon chooses its victims.

It unfolds the way you expect, in almost patented PA style. Trap doors in murder-apartments are opened and inexplicably investigated, clearly demonic clues get ignored until its too late, commonplace objects become imbued with eerie significance. But throughout, writer-director Christopher Landon delivers a freshly invigorated feeling to the now-familiar routine. His cast is loose and natural, their high-spirited goofiness organically giving over to screams and more screams. The low-key comedy almost weighs as much as the horror (a quality it shares with the "mumblegore" of You're Next) and the lived-in quality of the setting and the details of Southern California Latino culture feel like a new toy for the franchise to play around with.

And it made me jump and yell, which is more than August: Osage County was able to pull off. And for 90 minutes of a neverending demon story, that's plenty.

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