Let’s see if we can reboot.

Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin is the new attempt to reboot the flailing series by adding new perspectives, abandoning old lore, and changing things up. It also changed the distribution (due to Covid) and became a Paramount+ streaming exclusive, which is stupid. By locking the film behind a streaming subscription (not allowing a rental), the film basically ensured its own failure. I do not have Paramount+ nor do I want it. The deluge of streaming services and now locked content (even if you want to spend the money for a rental) is completely asinine. I’m not sure how successful this film would have been otherwise, but the idiot executives who are locking films away better realize they are hurting their own bottom line.

Anyway, we have new characters and lore this time around as we follow adopted Margot (Emily Bader) who wants to connect with her Amish birth family. She takes her friend and documentarian Chris (Roland Buck III) and tech guy Dale (Dan Lippert) along with her to the community. However, once they arrive strange things begin… and holy shit the film isn’t entirely found footage. 

We have a mixture of found footage and actual shots, which makes me wonder why they didn’t just make the film without the found footage. We seem stuck with thinking that is a necessary moment. They abandon everything else in the PA universe, so why not this?

This is one of the major flaws of the film. It kind of feels like a Paranormal Activity film but also doesn’t. Either this is an attempt to completely reboot the story or the Paranormal Activity moniker was thrown on a different but close enough story. The problem is that I’m not entirely sure which one it is. We see this in the Hellraiser films where Pinhead is edited in at the last moment to say “aha it has been Hellraiser the whole time.” I am genuinely uncertain which angle this film takes as it has the flavoring of the franchise, but is also so far removed and also not very paranormal. 

Our characters are both smart and completely stupid at the same time. They act smart while doing dumb things is perhaps the better way to put it. It becomes clear almost immediately that something is up and when the battery in their car mysteriously dies they choose to not simply leave. Yes, walking to town would suck but it is probably better than being demon food.

The Amish community is creepy enough in a distant and othered way. The othering aspect here isn’t dehumanizing (in my opinion) but rather establishes how distant the community is from our tech-forward and hyper-connected society functions. Perhaps more frustrating is that we get weird reasonings or answers to questions and the characters choose to not follow up. Everything is done in service to the plot moving forward to get certain characters in position for when the scary stuff begins.

Small moments of humor from Dale help bring some life into the scenes. He seems willing to engage with the community and is the only character who seems to not know he is in a horror movie. Dale also gives strong responses to the skeptical Chris when things start getting weird.

I feel like I am treading water on this review. The movie is okay. I liked it more than almost all the other sequels but that doesn’t say much. I know that “it’s fine” or “it’s okay” isn’t much of an endorsement for a movie but there isn’t anything else I can really state. 

Here we have a pretty standard haunting. Young adopted woman is actually important to the cult and must unravel the mystery before time runs out. Fortunately, this one does go a bit crazy at the end with some enjoyable horror madness. Before the conclusion? It is a bit boilerplate.

The found footage genre has become such a standardized experience that I can’t say this one does anything inherently wrong with its plot but it certainly avoids doing anything too exciting. We have throwaway references to Covid and the Amish setting is largely wasted, but this isn’t too different from most horror films.

The first Paranormal Activity set a new bar in low budget horror. The sequels drained all life and interest away and now we have a reboot that wants to have a broader scope but isn’t doing anything technically superior or narratively distinct. It has a larger budget and it shows. However, is it enough to revitalize the franchise? When mixed with incredibly limiting streaming options I am not sure.

It’s fine.

2 thoughts on “Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin (2021) Film Review

  1. I thought this was quite a good one but very forgettable.
    You should do a review on The Offering. The movie is very interesting and I thought it was a story well retold.


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