Reviews | Written by Jack Bottomley 29/10/2021

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: NEXT OF KIN

Hard to believe it has been six years since the last Paranormal Activity in 2015’s The Ghost Dimension 3D, but as horror is continually opening its arms to dormant franchises recently (see David Gordon Green’s incredible Halloween and Halloween Kills, Nia DaCosta’s Candyman and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett’s upcoming Scream), six years is really no time at all. 

Still, much like with Jigsaw and Spiral bringing back the Saw saga of late, we’d be lying if we said we hadn’t missed seeing the yearly occurrence of Paranormal Activity. And this Halloween, the found footage frightener is back, in Paramount+ exclusive Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin.

Taking the story to a secluded Amish community, this reboot of sorts (with room to potentially link up later), sees a young woman, abandoned at birth, seeking out her biological mother to document a potential family reunion. Tracing her to this particular Amish community, once she and her crew arrive, events begin to gradually spell out some very sinister goings on behind the scenes.

William Eubank’s (Underwater) Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin is probably the strongest entry in the series since the underrated (and arguably best) instalment Paranormal Activity 3. Indeed, this new film likely won't get those back who signed off on this franchise years ago but - in a similar vein as Christopher Landon’s (who writes here) The Marked Ones - it feels refreshing in its change of scenery and approach. 

The formula is still there certainly but given an undeniable shake at points, as the snowy, windy, isolated Amish setting works its magic, with some expanded camerawork techniques (better cameras, drone footage) meaning Pedro Luque’s cinematography is made great use of throughout. It also really helps that the acting is of a good calibre, with Emily Bader and Roland Buck III being likeable sympathetic leads, and Dan Lippert’s goofy sound man being the right side of fun (instead of being a bit of a prat like the original’s Micah).

In fact, taking this one as a Halloween night viewing with mates, it may not be as effective as the likes of Rob Savage’s masterful pandemic pant-wetter Host but it is another slow build (before an all out climax that is) offering, with some effective scares peppering its admirably personal story. Sadly, the more you think on it, the more a selection of plot points don't quite mesh. As a few elements are left unfollowed up on, and some promising themes (this was filmed and set early this year amidst continuing COVID concerns) remain only acknowledged at best. 

Also, the action heavy finale, reminiscent of Eli Roth’s The Last Exorcism and Supermassive Games’ Until Dawn, stretches the found footage laws, and leaves us with an ending bound to divide. That all said, Landon’s screenplay thrives best in the subtleties, its mythology building and some strong scares reliant on that heard but not seen, barring glimpses.

Flaws notwithstanding, we wouldn't have felt short changed seeing this streaming exclusive reboot/maybe sequel in cinemas (as was originally the plan - shame) and, whether it all works for you or not (there’ll be strong opinions on that either way), the Paranormal Activity series and its makers remain commendably committed to creating an ongoing lore and atmosphere.

Seven films in, and there is still activity here well worth investigating. 

Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin is available to watch now exclusively on Paramount+ and awaits its UK release.