The Paranormal Activity series dominated the October box office for at least the first few installments in the late 00s/early 10s. By the 5th iteration, it seemed that audiences were tired of the franchise, and a 6th and “final” entry was meant to end it back in 2015.
Now with the advent of Paramount+ and the desire to create more content, we now have a 7th film in the series that serves as something of a spinoff, although it does very loosely “connect” back the original series. The resulting film is a decent attempt to revive the franchise, but honestly it doesn’t even feel like a Paranormal Activity movie.
Next of Kin
Set in the backdrop of a snowy winter in upstate New York, the movie follows Margot (Emily Bader) as she travels to meet her biological relatives after being given away by her mother as a baby. Accompanied by her friends who are documenting everything, she travels to the very close-knit, Mennonite-ish village from which she originally came.
The people there are a bit shy, and devoted to living a simple “pure” life. But they’re welcoming enough. Margot speaks with her biological grandfather Jacob (Tom Nowicki) in order to find out more about her mother and why she was shunned from the community.
But she begins to notice strange customs that seem more nefarious than typical Amish. This leads her and her friends to begin digging into this community and finding unsavory and downright terrifying things.
Unlike the previous installments of this series, all of which had a very “home movie” look to them, this entry is done as a mockumentary. The result is a higher video quality, and an almost cinematic look at times.
Aside from a few sweeping aerial shots that capture the beautifully snow-covered wilderness, everything in the film is from the perspective of Margot or whomever is holding the camera at any given time.
The result is a movie that feels less homemade, and more your typical found footage film. And while this does help justify why they always have a camera rolling (because they’re trying to document everything), the final act still begs the question of why they’d risk trying to keep the camera running while trying to fight for their lives.
It’s an issue that all found footage movies run into, and this series is notorious for that. Perhaps the only one that found a way around it was the use of the security cameras in Paranormal Activity 2.
To its credit, the move makes use of its style and setting by crafting some really cool shots that are lit only by candlelight. Given that they’re staying in a community which does not have electricity, there’s a real ambience and glow created by the candlelight. It starts out as kind of beautiful, but gets creepier as it goes.
Right Tone, Wrong Franchise
If you’re expecting another creepy haunted house story with an invisible force exacting suspense and terror like the rest of the Paranormal Activity movies, you might be disappointed. However, if you’re looking for the series to break its usual formula, this movie might be just right.
Its connection to the other films is very loose at best, so it honestly would probably work better as a standalone movie called Next of Kin. The Paranormal Activity title certainly gives it more name recognition, but it might set up expectations for something that this movie isn’t.
Given its plot, themes, and overall third act, it has a lot more in common with 2010’s The Last Exorcism than it does any of the other Paranormal Activity movies. It’s the Halloween III: Season of the Witch of its own franchise.
As its own movie, it’s a decently creepy mystery/thriller with a great sense of paranoia that is just subtle enough that it doesn’t come off as in your face. But as a sequel/spinoff to Paranormal Activity, it reminds us that the only reason the title is there is due to some marketing campaign.
What did you think of Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin? What’s your favorite movie in the franchise? Let us know in the comments!
Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin is streaming exclusively on Paramount+