Paranormal Activity: Next Of Kin Review

next of kin
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2.5
On October 29, 2021
Last modified:October 29, 2021

Summary:

Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin doesn't reinvent the wheel, and it won't win over many new converts, but it's the best entry in the franchise for a long time.

As well as being the film that put Blumhouse on the map as cinema’s foremost purveyor of low-risk/high-reward genre films, Oren Peli’s Paranormal Activity also launched one of the most profitable franchises in the history of cinema. The six installments to date have earned $890 million at the box office on combined production costs of $28 million, although five sequels in quick succession inevitably saw the law of diminishing returns set in.

Having been absent from our screens for the last five years, the found footage series is back with Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin, which marks the first entry to debut exclusively on streaming. Is the property back with a bang, reinventing itself and discarding old tropes in favor of a brand new and bold creative direction? In a word, no.

Underwater director William Eubank doesn’t break the mold all that much from a visual perspective, but thanks to a somewhat refreshing spin on the standard formula and plenty of unexpected twists and turns, you could make a very real argument that Next of Kin is the best we’ve seen from Paranormal Activity in a long time.

If you’re not a fan of the found footage subgenre, or this franchise in particular, then Next of Kin isn’t going to convert you. There are still vast swathes of screentime dedicated to virtually nothing, while the explanations as to why the main characters feel the need to carry a camera around and document everything even when they’re running for their lives remains suitably detrimental to the immersion, but bonus points for using drones to explain why there’s sweeping aerial shots from time to time.

The plot follows Emily Bader’s Margot, who was abandoned by her mother as an infant, but managed to track down a blood relative via the internet to connect with her real family for the first time ever. She brings along Roland Buck III’s Chris and Dan Lippert’s Dale to help her document the experience, which happens to involve a trip into Amish country. That’s right, it’s Paranormal Activity in the rural backwoods of America.

If you’ve seen at least one of these films, then you can piece the plot together in your head. Things go bump in the night, shaky cam abounds, you may or may not be seeing creatures lurking in the background, the local community are almost certainly harboring secrets they don’t want Margot to find out about and the occasional jump scare punctures the various lulls, before all hell breaks loose in a third act that’s every bit as entertaining as it is exciting.

The only problem is that the first two acts frequently descend into tedium, which has been a recurring fault of Paranormal Activity since the very beginning. Sure, you can’t give the game away too early, but it’s not as if any of the major reveals are groundbreaking or even difficult to see coming from a mile away, so it’s often a case of waiting for the characters to do the things we all know they’ll get around to doing eventually.

As you may have gathered, Margot’s abandonment wasn’t quite so straightforward as her mother simply giving her up and being shunned by the Amish, but we don’t get spoon-fed the information as to why. Writer Christopher Landon knows Paranormal Activity like the back of his hand having been involved in every one since the opener, so he’s fully aware of how to slowly crank up the tension rather than playing his hand too early, despite the broad strokes being signposted from the second they turn up and are immediately asked to turn back.

This being a horror movie, though, the characters are as one-note as they are idiotic. Oh look, someone’s built a 100-foot deep mine shaft in a church hidden at the back of the woods that nobody dares mention out loud; let’s strap into a crudely-made harness and mosey on down with a camera in tow. Suspension of disbelief is always key to getting the most out of the genre, and you’ll need it in spades for Next of Kin.

The performances are solid, the setting mixes things up significantly, the juxtapositions between the tech-savvy ‘invaders’ and the Amish sets up conflict that’s equal parts thematic, subtextual and primal, so the latest Paranormal Activity has plenty working in its favor.

Take a splash of Witness, add it to The Blair Witch Project, stir in a soupcon of Midsommar and a touch of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village, and you’re somewhere towards Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin. The fact that the majority of those aforementioned titles proved to be very polarizing among audiences also tells you all that you need to know. Make no mistake about it, this is far from the last film in the franchise, and how you feel about that depends entirely on your mileage and personal preference.

Middling

Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin doesn't reinvent the wheel, and it won't win over many new converts, but it's the best entry in the franchise for a long time.