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Friday, October 29, 2021

[Review] ‘Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin’ Is the Franchise’s Most Polished Film But Lacks Effective Scares

The long-running saga with the demon Toby finally reached a lackluster conclusion in its sixth entry, where we last left off with the Paranormal Activity franchise. Yet finality isn’t a word that horror understands, and the popular found footage franchise is back with a brand-new entry that promises to explore new terrain. On that, Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin more than delivers. No longer bound by tired mythology, Next of Kin presents a new supernatural mystery through its most polished effort yet. If only it included tension and scares, too.

Margot (Emily Bader) wants to know about her biological family. More specifically, she’s curious about her mother. Her search connects her with a cousin, who invites her to meet the family in a secluded Amish community. Along with two pals (Dan Lippert and Roland Buck III), she decides to make a documentary out of the experience, chronicling Margot’s discovery of her ancestral roots. The trio soon realizes that the isolated farmland harbors some rather sinister secrets that put them in danger.

Tom Nowicki in Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin from Paramount Players. Photo Credit: Courtesy Paramount Players.

Writer Christopher Landon (Happy Death Day) and director William Eubank (Underwater) modernize the familiar Blair Witch setup, resulting in the most polished and visually coherent franchise entry yet. The documentary approach means that the camerawork is stellar. The use of drones allows for a broader scope while relying on the snowy countryside setting to enrich the production value. Outside of the found footage element and the tell-tale dates marking the timeline, nothing about Next of Kin looks or feels like a Paranormal Activity movie.

That extends to the story’s progression and atmosphere, too. In previous entries, time passage ramped up the supernatural elements and scared at a steady clip. Here, the dates serve a specific plot purpose rather than a scare meter. Next of Kin spends so much of its attention on the mysteries of Margot’s family and how she may or may not factor into their designs, and the truth about her mother, that it forgets its namesake. Subtle hints of paranormal creep in every once in a while, but most of the unsettling moments come from the family’s peculiarities and atypical customs.

The larger scale of this sequel means a much more intense third act. The slow, steady folk horror tale gives way into a full-blown horror assault, filled with impressive set pieces and unsettling imagery. The mythology introduced is relatively satisfying, too. But for all of the new ideas that Landon and Eubank present, Next of Kin still stumbles into the trappings of the found footage subgenre that stretch plausibility at points. The lack of suspense and scares make these moments less forgiving.

Eubank knows how to use the environment in a POV-style horror movie to enhance his storytelling. He knows how to deliver a thrilling, action-heavy finale with the format’s limitations. And Landon smartly unshackles this franchise from Toby and introduces something very different and unexpected while retaining just enough franchise characteristics to make it at home among the universe and fans. For all it does right, though, Next of Kin struggles to engender audience interest or engender empathy with frustratingly counterintuitive protagonists. That might’ve been easier to overlook if it offered fresh scares or a tense atmosphere. Instead, it’s a lovely yet mostly monotonous trip to the farm.

Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin is available exclusively on Paramount+ on October 29, 2021.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/reviews/3687589/review-paranormal-activity-next-of-kin-franchises-polished-yet-lacks-scares/

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