In “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones,” the fifth installment of the horror series and first to feature an all-Latino cast, a group of teens begin to experience supernatural things after a mysterious neighbor is found dead in her apartment. Leading the cast are actors Andrew Jacobs and Jorge Diaz as Jesse and Hector, two best friends who capture video of the bizarre occurrences on their camcorder. When Jesse (Jacobs) is possessed with an evil spirit, Hector (Diaz) tries to help him understand what is happening to him as the entity begins to take full control of his being.
Andrew Jacobs: When we went in to audition, we had no idea it was a “Paranormal Activity” movie. We just knew we were auditioning in a Paramount [Studios] lot, but we had no idea what it was for. When we got closer to booking the film, that’s when we found out it was a “Paranormal” thing. When we found out it was an all-Latino cast – one of the first to be backed by a major studio – we were excited because that opens the doors for everyone.
Jorge Diaz: Within the Latino culture, there is so much mysticism and superstition you grow up with. There are all these stories like La Llorona and El Cucuy. There are also stories about brujeria (witchcraft). There’s so much to explore in that world, which I feel hasn’t been done in many movies. It has opened the doors to new possibilities for this franchise, which I think is awesome.
Have either of you experienced any of those alternative healing remedies growing up in Latino families?
JD: Yeah, actually, the limpia (cleansing) scene where the grandma puts the egg on Jesse is something that my grandma used to do to me and my brother growing up. It’s like an energy cleansing. My grandma was really into a lot of holistic remedies. A lot of the prescriptions used today aren’t really cures. They’re more like Band-Aids put over what the real problems are.
AJ: I have a lot of friends that grew up with the same type of stuff. I was adopted and grew up with a French mother, so that was different for me. But all my closest friends are Mexican American. Their families believe in the Santa Muerte. I’ve heard a lot of stories.
JD: Every Latino culture is different. This story in the film isn’t supposed to be representative of all Latinos. It’s a story specifically about a Mexican American family in Southern California in a certain type of neighborhood.
Had either of you ever stepped inside one of those stores show in the film, like a botanica (retail store that sells things like alternative folk medicine, religious candles, statuettes, etc)?
AJ: That was actually the first time for any of us. I’ve walked by them plenty of times, but had never gone in. You can definitely feel the energy in there. In the film, it was a real botanica we walked into and that guy was a real curandero (healer). He wasn’t a character.
Do you guys believe in the healing powers of these things? Can rubbing an egg on your body really rid you of a sickness?
JD: Absolutely. People might be skeptics, but I would tell them to go out and seek their own truth. They need to have their own experiences before they judge something like that. I think I’m a believer based on experiences I’ve had myself. I do believe in a lot of holistic remedies. There’s so much evidence for it.
Jorge, was there anyone in your family that was maybe a little concerned that you were going to be in a film that played around with the idea of religion and possession and evil?
JD: There were parents of friends who were concerned. They were like, “Oh, you don’t want to touch that stuff!” I wasn’t scared because I try to understand everything. Something I was scared of was the Ouija board. We actually had to use one when we were screen testing. We didn’t actually play it, but we had it out and had to touch it. I was scared to be around it because I had heard so many stories about how real it is.
Was it easy for you guys to leave everything on the set, or did you come home and freak yourself out when you turned off the lights to go to bed?
JD: (Laughs) I think me and Andrew had more fun than anything. The more stressful scenes to shoot were when I actually had to be scared. I wanted it to be as realistic as possible, so if I didn’t believe it myself I didn’t think the audience would believe it. I really had to be in it as an actor.
I think “The Marked Ones” is the first movie I’ve ever seen where a gang member goes head to head with a witch. Since your director Christopher Landon’s next film is called “Scouts Vs. Zombies,” I’m wondering if you think there’s room in the horror genre for another spinoff, “Gangstas vs. Witches?”
AJ: That would be funny. I’d go watch that if there was. I’d be first in line.