Released: 29th October
Seen: 23rd November
In 2009, the movie Paranormal Activity was given a wide release and signalled a change in Horror movies that would almost dictate what the upcoming decade would look like. Before Paranormal Activity, the Horror genre was knee deep in so-called “Torture Porn” films that relied heavily on shock and incredibly over the top violence and gore.
Paranormal Activity almost single-handedly revived the found footage genre and brought on a wave of paranormal haunting style films, bringing on a wave of films like Insidious and The Conjuring and basically launching Blumhouse Studios into the horror masters they are today. Of course, like a lot of horror franchises, after 6 entries Paranormal Activity went quiet… until this year when Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin was thrown onto Paramount Plus where it now resides technically filling up space but offering nothing.
Paranormal Activity: Next Of Kin completely upends the franchise by taking place out in the woods around Amish country. Margot (Emily Bader) has done some research and discovered some relatives that are part of a little Amish community and so, like you do, she brings along her cameraman friend Chris (Roland Buck III) and sound technician Dale (Dan Lippert) to allegedly document Margot’s meeting her long lost family… but of course, this is a Paranormal Activity movie so it turns into a big weird supernatural mystery where loud creepy things keep happening and everyone carries a night vision camera around everywhere at all times to document the slamming doors and people suddenly appearing in view.
Whatever could be going on, what is that weird noise coming from the creepy church out in the forest and just what secrets does this Amish community have surrounding Margot’s mother Sarah? I don’t give a fuck because giving a fuck would imply that this movie did anything that warrants giving it enough attention to even locate a fuck that I could give.
To call Paranormal Activity: Next Of Kin scary would be like saying I was scared the last time there was a particularly strong wind that made the front door slam. Sure, something loud and surprising happened that forced an involuntary scream to come out of my mouth-hole but then I realised that it was absolutely nothing and felt like an idiot for letting it get to me. That’s what Paranormal Activity: Next Of Kin is… except with horrible framing, bad acting, a script that must’ve been written on cocktail napkins and so little tension that you have to wonder if they were actively trying to make a film that lacked any suspense whatsoever.
The entire found footage genre has this innate problem that you have to believe that there would be a good reason for everyone to constantly film everything, things like the V/H/S series always handled this pretty well but Paranormal Activity: Next Of Kin almost defies you to understand why everyone is filming (or how their camera batteries keep working when they’re in Amish country and rely on a single generator that keeps going out). It’s almost comical the number of times someone will fall holding the camera and reach over to adjust it ever so carefully to frame it so you can see what’s behind them… only nothing is there because this film can’t even do that right.
It’s stunning how little tension there is here, it takes almost half the film for things to even be a little weird (although by then we’ve already had so many loud noises that any tension became impossible) and only really turns into something potentially scary in the final act. There’s no moment you feel really uneasy or notice something weird going on just out of the main character’s vision. Either nothing is happening or they’re throwing something at the screen while slamming their hands down on a keyboard so the loud noise makes you jump. That stops being effective after a while… if it was ever effective to begin with.
That final act is where the was something resembling potential, especially the shots of our main characters trying to get out of the Amish compound when everything’s going bonkers. That presents a potentially interesting idea that could’ve led to a more interesting movie, without spoiling too much about what happens the ending suggests a strange power that could have led to a few weird or creepy tableaus… but that would’ve required them to plan this ahead of time and it never feels like that happened. It never felt like people ran with the potential of this film and they just relied on the brand name to build an audience… except the brand name has one movie that people like and 5 movies that ran between average and boring as piss. Sorry, but your brand isn’t enough to make this work.
Then there’s just how Paranormal Activity: Next Of Kin looks, which is not good. Found Footage movies have one little magic trick they can pull, namely that they’re meant to look like they’re filmed on consumer grade cameras and are being held by a character who is in the middle of the horror. This lets them get away with bad framing or shaky shots because the audience is aware that this is filmed by one of the characters. It hides a multitude of sins but also allows you to make things feel more realistic as long as you don’t do something stupid like constantly change camera angles to places where no character in the film would put a camera or just stop showing ‘found footage’ and looking like a regular movie, which this film does for several shots at the end. It never feels like a proper found footage film, which is the entire appeal of this franchise. It can’t commit to the very conceit that gives this film a reason to exist.
Here’s the truly upsetting thing, we know for a fact that the people behind this movie can make some great horror films. Beyond the Blumhouse name this film was written by Christopher Landon who made Freaky and Happy Death Day which are some of my favourite horror films of the last 5 years. The director is William Eubank who made Underwater, a film that might’ve had a bad script but was fantastically directed by William. This combo should’ve been a slam dunk, one of the best modern horror writers and a up and comer director who proved he can master tension and horror? Should’ve been the easiest win ever and it’s just not.
Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin is so lifeless that maybe we do need to contact it’s next of kin. It has nothing characters, no tension, is often painful to look at and often just ignores the basic concept of found footage films. Worst of all, the idea behind this is solid enough that it could have worked and could’ve been absolutely terrifying but for some reason they just phoned everything in. It’s a pointless revival of a franchise long past its use by date, everyone has moved on and there’s no point in this franchise even trying to keep going.