Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin Synopsis: Margot (Emily Bader), a documentary filmmaker, heads to a secluded Amish community in the hopes of learning about her long-lost mother and extended family. Following a string of strange occurrences and discoveries, she comes to realize this community may not be what it seems.
It’s odd to think of Paranormal Activity as an antiquated fad, yet 2009 original feels like a distant memory in horror zeitgeist. The word-of-mouth phenom spawned a traditioned Halloween franchise while revitalizing found footage’s imperfect intimacy to the mainstream consciousness (the guerilla-style was a fixture in the early 2010s before vanishing from the Hollywood scene).
With several horror favorites receiving a modern paint job, it’s only fit for the found-footage franchise to return from its six-year dormancy. Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin admirably attempts to reinvigorate the genre’s once-beloved trappings. I give Next of Kin credit for ranking above some of its tired predecessors, but the played-out formula rarely elicits life into this scare-free affair.
Next of Kin certainly isn’t without good intentions. Director William Eubanks (of the supremely underrated Underwater) certainly understands the time-honored rhythms of horror fright fests. His methodical escalation of unnerving jumps builds to a fittingly unhinged finale – a section where Eubanks empties a bucket of creative wrinkles to enhance the demonic mania.
I have to say; it’s a pleasure to see the found-footage films make a return. The subgenre’s critics weighed too harshly on the middling misses (The Gallows) rather than the inventive hits that cleverly utilized the technique (Hardcore Henry, Unfriend: The Dark Web, and indie darling Rec are all enhanced by their harsh realism streak). When Eubanks can conjure the subgenre’s messy thrills, the film serves as a spirited attempt to recontextualize the franchise’s binary code.
That said, I don’t think Next of Kin fires on all cylinders. Eubanks and Cinematographer Pedro Luque imbue a clean, HD sharpness with their handheld visuals. The new choice adds a cinematic touch that doesn’t mix well with found footage’s Cinéma vérité reality. Several shots here feel too pristine in their execution, while other frames stumble into the “what cameraman is shooting this” mishap that’s plagued other found-footage offerings. Aside from a spirited third act, the style of this more-conventional reboot feels rather lifeless.
It’s not like these films were ever a benchmark in storytelling. Screenwriter Christopher Landon leans into the ominous dread behind the religious cult trying to ingratiate Margot. While some horror films have effectively unnerved through their eccentric subjects (Midsommar comes to mind), this film makes little impact on a narrative front. Margot’s journey into her long-forgotten past is a road riddled with uninteresting cliches, with most audiences likely predicting the unceremonious twist from a mile away. A mix of stagnant dialogue and ineffective performances only highlights the narrative shortcomings further as the narrative leaves little to engage.
I appreciate Next of Kin’s remodeled approach, but this sixth entry doesn’t bring much life to the stagnating franchise.
Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin is now available as a Paramount+ exclusive.
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