“Margot, a young woman who was abandoned by her mother as a baby, travels to a secluded Amish community with a documentary film crew seeking answers about her mother and extended family.”

Director: William Eubank
Writers: Christopher Landon, Oren Peli
Staring: Emily Bader, Roland Buck III, Dan Lippert, Henry Ayres-Brown
Release Date: October 29, 2021

In a shocking development, Paranormal Activity: Next Of Kin (2021) is not terrible. Yes, this eighth installment in the Paranormal Activity franchise relies on the now overwrought shaky camera method and spontaneous jump scares, but somehow it works. Paranormal Activity: Next Of Kin is not going to break any viewerships records on Paramount+ and it is not going to get overwhelmingly positive views. What Paranormal Activity: Next Of Kin does is be just entertaining and fast-paced enough to plow through the flaws and make a suitable at-home horror escape.

Paranormal Activity: Next Of Kin follows a young woman by the name of Margot (Emily Bader) on a quest to find her biological mother. Her journey for family bonding takes her, and her documentary crew, to an amish community where her mom was said to have hailed from. The trio of Margot, Chris (Roland Buck III), and Dale (Dan Lippert) get trapped on the settlement and begin realizing that the seemingly homey hosts are into some shady, ghostly activities. A church built randomly in the woods, demonic symbols aplenty, animal sacrifices and long-con espionage are all clues that the ending of this attempt at a family reunion is not going to end well for Margot and company.

In all transparency, by all metrics, Paranormal Activity: Next Of Kin is not well made movie. The story is random, convenient and a bit muddled in the end. The acting is nothing to write home about, with maybe the lone story being Dan Lippert (though his character is helped with the funniest lines of dialogue). The shaky camera is present as in all Paranormal movies and its effectiveness is limited.

Let’s stick with the filming style for a second. Shaky cam has a very low floor when it is done poorly, and this is not Jason Bourne fight-sequence hand-held skill. There is a larger gripe to be made about the camera style because there are two random moments in Next Of Kin where decided to not use it.

Spoiler alert for Next Of Kin: in an unexplainable alternation of style, the camera goes slo-mo when Dale gets attacked by the women possessed by Asmodeus. Sure, they gave hints during the movie that Chris’s camera could do this, but are we supposed to by that when Chris/Margot saw their friend getting pummeled, they decided to change the camera setting to film in slo-mo? That is what we call, highly unlikely.

Fast-forwarding a bit deeper into the film’s climax, the audience is unexpectedly shoved into some over-the-shoulders shots in the face-off between Margot and Asmodeus. Excuse me? A traditional staged camera shot when the only two conscious characters are not holding a camera and the last thing we saw was the main camera-man getting swatted like a fly on the wall? That doesn’t make much sense.

Typing this out now, maybe my grade on Paranormal Activity: Next Of Kin is kinder than the film deserved. However, there is a nagging snag in the back of my brain that keeps tapping me and noting that I had a good time watching the movie. For some reason, a cheaply made horror movie with a bit of lore and a multitude of jump scares is in my bag of tricks. Jump scares get me good; it is not fear necessarily, but I get startled and jump in my seat easily. It is like my horror algorithm.

Other minimal things from Paranormal Activity: Next Of Kin that were better than expected include that look of the creepy women possessed by Asmodeus. We don’t get a close up on her often, but her look and and her movements are creepy. This is strictly a personal thing, but I am a sucker for a stranded church in the woods. I grew up surrounded by woods with abandoned shacks. I would fantasize horror tales about these vacated premises, so Paranormal Activity: Next Of Kin ticked that nostalgia file.

Come of the end of this latest demonic story, there are some questions I need answered. Why is it that the character of Sam (Henry Ayres-Brown) gets brain control power at the end of the movie? He gets possessed by Asmodeus, but there was no hinting that this demon can control minds and tell people to hurt themselves. That was a bit disarming. Then there is the end of the movie where Margot and Chris are diving away in the van that always wound’t start smoothly. Margot screams while looking backwards at the horror that will be chasing her forever…metaphorically that is. I think that director William Eubank and writer Christopher Landon were doing a bit of homage to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) with the surviving female hero whaling in desperate fear.

Since I mentioned Eubank, I should note that I have seen the three major motion pictures her has directed. The Signal (2014), Underwater (2020) and Paranormal Activity: Next Of Kin are all of the mystifying genre, and all I enjoyed in some way shape and form. The Stanko Rating on all three of these movies is the exact same, they are all perfectly middle of the road.

I have seen five of the eight Paranormal Activity movies. The ones I need to see The Marked Ones (2014), The Ghost Dimension (2015), and the side-sequel made in Japan, Paranormal Activity: Tokyo Night (2010). There are going to be more Paranormal Activity movies made, so get your eyes ready for more cheap (slightly effective) shaky jump scares.

STANKO RATING: C (2.5/5 Stars)

P.S. I now get the movie poster. It is the abandoned church surrounded by the woods in the shape of a demons face.

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