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Movie Review: ‘Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin’

It's 2021: Where's the gimbal?!

by Timothy Rawles
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Paramount

Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin has hit Paramount+ and if you’re a fan of the franchise you might consider getting a free trial subscription. If you’re not, stick with the original.

To help with your decision, we ask these questions: Is this entry worthy of standing with the best ones in the series or is the battery already drained on this screenlife concept?

This time around a young woman named Margot (Emily Bader) utilizes a mail-in genealogy test and finds out she’s got family among the Amish. She meets them for the first time all under the watchful lens of her friend’s camera who—as these things go—-is documenting her entire journey. That means he is constantly filming even if it makes no sense to do so.

Margot is not only meeting her new extended family for the first time, but she’s also investigating her birth mother who once lived on the same farm before abandoning her. She was left in a box on the street as a newborn — there’s even CCTV footage!

As Margot gets enthusiastic about her newfound tribe and their 200-year-old customs, things start to go bump in the night and strange red lights can be seen in the darkness within the forest. The children on the farm act weird and the adults appear hospitable but quietly agitated.

Upon further investigation, the film crew discovers there’s more going on here than the farm life traditionalists. To say more and whether or not this film lives in the Katie and Micah universe might go into spoiler territory.

What’s both good and bad about this film is that the formula remains the same. The film brings nothing new to its technical elements except maybe a drone but we already saw that used to greater effect in another found footage feature: 2016’s Blair Witch Project.

Christopher Landon (Paranormal Activity 2, 3, 4) is back as screenwriter, and Both Jason Blum and Oren Peli get credit as producers. Peli was the genius behind the original. As director of that one, he kept the buildup interesting and the scares frequent. This time around, the gimmick feels dated and unnecessary.

In fact, I don’t use the term cash grab very often, but here it seems fitting. Next of Kin feels like an aggregate of ideas from the past films, not just the formal franchise, but every original horror movie idea to come along since then. That would be okay if it was under the guise of Easter eggs, but the film wants to pretend it’s got something new to add: It does not.

Lead actress Bader does a fine enough job as the woman in peril, but unlike the first film where everything seemed improvised, here the delivery feels memorized, even (eek) scripted. Landon and director William Eubank give Margot plenty to do, but it’s redundant and makes no sense. Why would you use the night vision feature on your phone and not the flashlight if you hear something in the dark?

The better of the cast lies in Margot’s friends Chris (Roland Buck III) and Dale (Dan Lippert), the camera and sound guys respectively. Chris is a no-nonsense guerilla filmmaker who plays the tough guy, while Dale is his level-headed sidekick. Dale gets the best lines and delivers them beneath a Prince Valiant haircut which might be the only original thing worth noting in this film.

Another problem I found that took me out of the story was the movie makes sure you know the events are happening in 2021, yet Chris doesn’t own a gimbal which makes everything shakey even when he’s filming proper documentary footage. It’s almost as if the filmmakers wanted to purposely put the audience through vertigo because that’s what happens in these types of movies.

Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin should be the last of these films. Sadly, the ingenuity is patinaed to the point of rust. The bloom is off the rose and sadly, Juliet, it does not smell as sweet.

That being said, if you haven’t seen a horror movie in the last decade you will probably enjoy Next of Kin, but if that’s the case, skip this one and watch Peli’s original classic.

Much like an operating system, if the franchise were given the option to shut down, restart or sleep, I’d say it’s time to power off for good.

Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin is currently streaming on Paramount+.

My rating:

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