'Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin' review: Seventh entry finds some life and scares
Courtesy of Paramount+
William Eubank’s “Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin'' doesn't have much resemblance to the six previous entries in the mega popular, micro-budgeted franchise, and maybe that’s its greatest strength. The “Underwater” director, alongside writer Christopher Landon (“Happy Death Day”), seem to have slapped the “Paranormal Activity” logo atop their sequel for no other reason than brand recognition. And when there’s a fancy new streaming service thirsting for content (in this case, Paramount+) the consensus of studio brass is pull out ole’ reliable. Fortunately for “Next of Kin,” being apart of a larger franchise doesn’t hinder one’s overall enjoyment, even if the tried-and-true formula of the found-footage genre hasn’t done anything remotely innovative since “Chronicle.”
Eubank is smarter than most, his “The Signal” and “Underwater” are some of the better horror titles of recent memory and though he could do with a meatier script, “Next of Kin” stands out because it doesn’t conform to our expectations. The final 25-minutes are a jolt of electricity and manages to keep audiences on edge, which is the mantra of this series: It’s not how you start, but where you finish. And “Next of Kin '' finishes strong.
Probably the only correlation I could make between “Next of Kin,” and the previous “Paranormal Activity” ficks, is the camcorder filmmaking style and the ensemble of mostly unknown actors. Aside from that, “Next of Kin” doesn’t have a tripod set in the corner, documenting nighttime shenanigans; rather it follows Margot (Emily Bader) and her squad of movie-making pals as they traverse a small, Amish community where Eubank stays faithful to their religious practices. Margot, who was adopted young, is shooting a documentary about her biological family after she connects with them via genetic testing. The goal of the doc is to provide Margot closure as to why mom gave her up when she was a baby. This storyline, while redundant and overwrought, already has more stakes than previous “Paranormal Activity” entries where we just sat and watched a camera loop all night.
Sure enough, Margot and her crew shack-up with elder Jacob (Tom Nowicki) and his family to gather footage before sinister forces and creepy churches lure them into the woods, where they discover…something. Credit to the production design team and the producers at Blumhouse for injecting life into a withered series, the landscape and foundation of which holds more weight than any tiny bedroom ever could. These minor tweaks (not to mention Bader’s earnest performance) gives “Next of Kin” momentum through the sluggish patches. The main event doesn’t disappoint either, culminating in a haunted-house style climax that feels derivative but at least manages to get the job done.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: NEXT OF KIN is now streaming on Paramount+