Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin, Next to No Scares at Home

Horror films are made to be seen on the big screen, with a wealth of sound tailored for jump scares and an immersive canvas meant for inviting you in to another world. The collective experience of sitting in a crowded theater amongst moviegoers, all of them forking over to be frightened for ninety minutes, is perfect for moments when everyone shrieks, then knowingly laughs immediately afterward. It’s like an American ritual, and said ritual has been upended by a combo of COVID and studios’ rabbit-hole of streaming, chasing they are the quick kick of Wall Street highs over long-term financial stability. Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin, a spinoff of sorts of the original franchise, is a prime example of why horror films don’t work nearly as well at home. Despite formal rigor and a few notable scares, the narrative neither fully coalesces nor becomes immersive enough for any audience watching from a couch, be it film snobs like myself or horror fiends looking for a harrowing fix. The conceit of an independent documentary crew with substantive equipment guarantees this is the best-looking found-footage film ever made, with many a scene set in the dead of night as snow rains down upon a trio of young characters looking for trouble, the camera’s flashlight illuminating the cold, windswept weather. It’s beautiful to look at, and a single scene set in an attic and attic-adjacent bedroom is frightening stuff typically undermined by that ever-present, frequent genre flaw: mind-numbingly stupid individuals front-and-center. About a young woman (Emily Bader), abandoned at birth, who visits a presumably Amish community with crew in tow to learn about her deceased biological mother’s heritage, they hope to cobble together a film of her humanist exploits and, naturally, aren’t prepared for what they discover lurking underneath such a sleepy village. Next of Kin is nearly entertaining enough to recommend, primarily due to two directors of photography: the film’s own, a magician of found footage, and funny, relatable character Dale (Dan Lippert), the crew’s DP for this wayward trip. As far as the new demonic mythology introduced herein, it’s nothing folks haven’t seen before. It’s simply unfortunate this film was relegated to the fringes of streaming (Paramount Plus) in lieu of a theatrical release, which may or may not have done it more justice.

Grade: C+

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