Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin (2021) Review!!

Synopsis – Margot, a young woman who was abandoned by her mother as a baby, travels to a secluded Amish community with a documentary film crew seeking answers about her mother and extended family.

My Take – Upon release back in 2007, the Oren Peli directed Paranormal Activity not only scared up the audience raking in $193.4 million worldwide on its $230,000 budget, but also revitalized the found footage horror sub-genre following the scrutiny the equally financially successful The Blair Witch Project (1999) received.

Receiving excessive praise for its new and inventive approach, the supernatural thriller’s success naturally led to the spawning of a franchise. A franchise which over the course of five films, despite depreciating returns and praise, kept things remarkably consistent right up until the sixth entry, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (2015), effectively killed the series, confirming that there was no life left in its concept or characters.

But as successful franchises never actually stay dead, seven years later, Paranormal Activity is back in rebooted form with no connection whatsoever with the previous entries. Leaning more towards cult horror and feeling less like a familiar entry, the only elements that make it appear as part of the franchise are the found-footage and timeline elements.

Sadly though despite all that, it’s never exactly good. Feeling like just another low budget horror, which just used the title of Paranormal Activity to get a marketing recognition bump. Making matters worse is the fact that director William Eubank (Underwater, The Signal) and returning franchise writer Christopher Landon (Freaky, Happy Death Day) fail to deliver even a fraction of the scares and suspense of the previous entries. But instead opt to keep more than half of the film dull and uneventful, leaving all for the final act. Sure, it has its moments, but just not enough of them.

The story follows Margot (Emily Bader), who upon finding a security-cam footage of her birth mother, Sarah, leaving her as a child at a hospital door, sets out to find more about her and her actual family. She enlists the help of her friend Chris (Roland Buck III), who decides to make a documentary chronicling her quest to find her blood kin, who are Amish. Margot even ends up making contact with Samuel (Henry Ayres-Brown), a relative who confirms her mother’s identity and connection to his parish. Even offering to take her and her crew, which also includes hired sound tech Dale (Dan Lippert), to their farm compound and help her learn about her mother and her upbringing.

But when they get there Margot finds out that Sarah no longer lives in the Amish community, no one will speak openly about her or where she ended up, and even her biological grandfather, Jacob (Tom Nowicki) is vague on the matter, although he expresses gratitude that Margot has returned to them. Upon digging deeper, she realizes that something evil is lurking among the inhabitants of the farm, something that is deeply connected to her than she ever thought possible.

Though slickly produced as any mid-budget horror, with drone shots, slow-motion effects, and multiple camera angles, the film doesn’t bring anything fresh to the series, and unfolds predictably. There are a few obligatory scenes shot with night vision, but director Eubank doesn’t add any creative visual touches to the format.

Although it’s theoretically shot by Margot and Chris, there are several glaringly obvious moments that couldn’t possibly be captured by any of the characters, director Eubank doesn’t seem overly concerned with the realism of the found-footage approach, which was one of the series’ biggest strengths.

The film is also severely lacking in the element of horror. Most of the horror derives from the family’s atypical customs and their peculiar behavior, which are seasoned with some cheap jump scares here and there. The earlier movies of the franchise were situated in closed spaces, such as the homes of innocent people, which were invaded by unseen sinister supernatural forces. But this one opens up the space by hurling the movie into a farmland.

Owing to this tactic, the original elements of horror invading sanctuary spaces, that made the previous movies chilling to the bone, disappear. It also doesn’t help that the characters don’t any depth. They have literally no other personality and nothing to add. Thus, you never really attach yourself to anyone in the film.

Redeeming the film is its final acts which are shockingly intense and packed with horror. The last few minutes are somewhat decent and have some action and gore. The shaky, handheld camerawork amplifies the tension by providing horrifying angles of whatever is on the loose. However, it doesn’t make up for the painfully boring and predictable first half of the film.

Performances wise, Emily Bader, Roland Buck III, Henry Ayres-Brown, Dan Lippert and Tom Nowicki are alright in their roles. On the whole, ‘Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin’ is a stereotypical and lifeless horror reboot that adds nothing to an already dead franchise.

Directed –

Starring – Roland Buck III, Emily Bader, Kyli Zion

Rated – R

Run Time – 98 minutes

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