Though it’s hard to believe, nearly 15 years have passed since Paranormal Activity rode a brilliant marketing plan en route to massive box office success. If The Blair Witch Project introduced mainstream audiences to the found-footage format, Oren Peli’s Paranormal Activity solidified it as a bankable horror subgenre. Five sequels follow over the next eight years with diminishing quality. But that didn’t stop the series from becoming one of the more financially lucrative horror franchises. Somewhat unexpectedly Paramount announced a belated new entry for their streaming-only platform, Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin. More of a reboot than a sequel, there’s some genuine talent behind this effort to resurrect the defunct series.
For years Margot has obsessed over the identity of her birth mother who abandoned her as a baby, She has watched hospital security footage of her mother leaving her outside a hospital over and over. Now she may finally have some connection to her mother. When a young man named Samuel contacts her, Margot and a small camera crew travel to a remote Amish village to document her past. But Samuel and his community are hiding a secret. And Margot and her friends may never be able to leave.
Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin Offers Familiar, But Effective Scares
First things first, Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin proves there aren’t too many new tricks in the found-footage bag. As expected, a slow build-up gives way to methodically increasing happenings. There’s the eccentric locals who are clearly hiding something, followed by late-night footsteps from an attic above that’s supposed to be unoccupied. Bits of exposition after discoveries of secret churches and strange markings lead to the inevitable ratcheting up of demonic-inspired horror. Most of Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin feels familiar. It just feels more like The Last Exorcism than, you know, Paranormal Activity. In spite of its overall familiarity however, this reboot has a lot going for it.
…Eubank exploits the wintery scenery to surprising effect.
With no connection to the series itself, Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin does offer an intriguing mystery alongside its slow-burn. While you know something’s wrong – this is a horror movie – it’s never immediately clear where the story will take you. And its eventual direction ultimately satisfies with intentional ambiguity paving the way for what feels like an earned sequel. In addition, director William Eubank (Underwater) introduces some unexpected visual style. That is, Eubank exploits the wintery scenery to surprising effect making early-morning fog feel creepy and later creating some claustrophobic horror in a blizzard. Like most found-footage horror, Eubank makes sure you pay attention to the corners of the screen with a few pay-offs. And the movie’s finale delivers a handful of disturbing images. Ultimately, the reboot feels familiar, but it compensates with a truly tense final act.
Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin is most Definitely Not a Sequel
Since Paramount announced a new Paranormal Activity movie was under production, there’s been little information about the movie. In fact, Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin feels like something of an afterthought. Most horror fans have probably seen little advance marketing. Moreover, Paramount has kept this reboot for its new streaming service in a weekend where it will compete with two new theatrical horror releases – Antlers and Last Night in Soho – alongside Halloween Kills. One day prior to its release, even the movie’s IMDb page had no official synopsis. Maybe that was by design since Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin has nothing to do with the existing series.
In fact, Next of Kinds share more DNA with, say, The Last Exorcism, than it does with the Paranormal Activity series.
No, Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin isn’t even a temporary detour, like The Marked Ones. Writer Christopher Landon (Happy Death Day, Happy Death Day 2U) has penned an entirely new story in a new setting. In fact, Next of Kin shares more DNA with, say, The Last Exorcism, than it does the Paranormal Activity series. Aside from the use of the found-footage format, this an entirely different direction, which may alienate some views. Yet it’s also a fresh start considering that the Paranormal Activity series ended on a limp note. Arguably, the series was beating a dead horse for its final three entries. So a reboot with a fresh direction makes sense. Nonetheless, one has to wonder if using the ‘Paranormal Activity‘ title was even necessary. It feels like a bit of a cynical cash grab.
Paranormal Next of Kin Offers New Direction for the Defunct Series
On one hand, Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin offers nothing new to the format. It feels completely familiar. But what it does bring to the table, it does quite well. Certainly, there’s a steady build-up of tension wrapped in some refreshingly genuine mystery. And it’s last 20 to 30 minutes offers almost non-stop, edge-of-your-seat thrills. That it’s in no way connected to the Paranormal Activity franchise may actually be a positive. After all, the series ran out of good ideas by its third entry. If you can get past the fact that use of the title, ‘Paranormal Activity’, is a cynical ploy to get you to watch, there’s enough here to enjoy this Halloween weekend.