Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin (2021)
Updated: Jun 1
The next installment in the Paranormal Activity series released October 29, 2021, Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin. Directed by William Eubank, who also directed Underwater (2020) and written by Christopher Landon who also wrote several other of the Paranormal Activity movies is something of a ride. Coming in at one hour and thirty-eight minutes there is quite a lot to break down regarding horror elements, the departure from found footage, and the plot of the movie itself. Before I address some of the things that had me yelling at my TV I would like to state that all in all it is a good installment of the Paranormal Activity series, a spin-off that diverges from the original storyline but still a good installment.
The basics of the story are a woman, Margot, played by Emily Bader, who was left at birth by her mother, finds out who her birth family is through a DNA test, 23andme. She rallies together a film maker, Chris, played by Roland Buck III, and a sound guy, Dale, played by Dan Lippert, to create a documentary about her meeting her Amish family. That’s right, Margot has discovered that her birth family is Amish and has been granted permission to film them on their farm and interview them about her mother and themselves.
Right off the bat I did not like the main character. Though Margot is understandably excited about finding out about her origins and this way of life she hasn’t encountered but is her heritage, she comes across extremely entitled and downright disrespectful. When we go into this movie as far as the characters are concerned there is not a single reason to assume these people are ill-intentioned or that they are doing anything bad, just living Amish and following that way of life. Knowing this, they still act like they are shocked about their way of life and almost mocking at times, Margot in particular not respecting boundaries and always directing the conversation to her mother even when speaking to teenagers and literal children who have never met her mother.
Margot proceeds to break every single rule that they have laid out for her visit. As a guest in these people’s homes she goes into a locked attic and investigates, finding things from her mother and even being shaken by a jump scare of what is seemingly the ghost of her mother or some other family member in the reflection of a window. As a viewer I know that they are probably up to no good or have bad intentions but from Margot’s perspective she’s continually crossing boundaries towards people she claims to want to get to know and continually judges not only her mother but them for things she didn’t even take the time to research before showing up. The crew even goes as far to attempt to break into a church that is not only locked but barred shut. Once caught, the head of the house, Jacob, played by Tom Nowicki, explains that the church is sacred ground and that entering or filming is not allowed. You would think that would be enough to deter this crew but alas they seem determined to get into some bullshit.
Fast forward and they start to see some spooky shit that is granted scary but if they minded their own business wouldn’t have been exposed to. The one character to rally behind, Dale, has been the most respectful and even had an Amish makeover, ending up looking like the Little Lad. Black but not-black Chris (there’s no way a black man would’ve been down with half the stuff Chris was not even bothered by) and dumbass Margot decide to break into the church anyways and come across cult-like drawings, blood from apparent sacrifice and an altar. Not only do they move the altar to reveal a hole into hell but they decide to caribbean down said hole to investigate. In the hole to hell there’s crosses and what look like protection wards which Margot stupidly touches. Down at the bottom there is what appears to be a room of some sort where terrifying noises are traveling from which of course scares Margot.
Margot and Chris show Dale the footage back at their room in the house and examine whether it’s evidence of some sinister shit going on here. This leads to more investigation which reveals that Jacob has a locked closet where there is a laptop, a router, and other electronics that Amish typically do not own or use at their homes. Margot finds out that they had been searching for her and upon finding her had begun stalking her...over a year prior. It had always been a plan of theirs for Sam, the cousin who she found with 23andme at the beginning of the film, to lure her back to the farm.
So of course now this woman finally wants to go home. Black but not-black Chris decides that they should stay for another night, which is obviously a terrible idea. In the night something comes and attacks Margot in the room leaving her with what Amish doctors claim is an unusual and intense period. Chris and Little Lad don’t buy it and finally take some action. They decide to walk into town to try to get a battery for their broken down van so they can get the fuck out of there. They run into a mailman who kindly gives them a ride. On this ride we learn that Margot’s family, the Bailers, aren’t even Amish. At the store while the worker is getting the right battery they use his computer to look up “Asmodeus”, a word that they’d come across while breaking into the Bailer’s shit. Lo and behold Asmodeus is the demonic prince of lust, suffering, and wrath, so that’s not good.
Asmodeus infected, or attacked, some Norwegian village and they turned against one another and bad shit started happening. They turned to “the White Witch” who made it so the demon would pass from daughter to daughter in a particular family line in order to contain it or it would be unleashed. Little Lad, the sensible king that he is, puts two and two together and identifies that they believe Margot is the daughter with which this demon needs to be passed to. Chris tries to point out that this stuff can’t possibly be real and in one of my favorite rationalizations in a horror movie to date Little Lad explains that regardless of it being real or not the Bailers believe it is real so Margot is obviously still in mad danger.
They both make it back to the farm to find Margot missing and a possessed acting Sam being funky in the hallway. Sam explains to them that if they stay inside until the bell stops ringing they’ll be solid. So of course what do they not do? Stay inside the damn house. Obviously after some tension, drama, and Jacob falling down the hole we end up back at the bottom of the hole to hell where a woman we can assume is the White Witch is performing a ritual on Margot that Chris interrupts. The White Witch gets really stressed that the salt has been disturbed, which any horror fan knows is not great. We then get to see the demon creature, who is horrifying.
They manage to get out of the hole and of course a battle ensues. We lose Dale as they run to the barn (RIP Little Lad) and after some tense moments Margot confronts the creature demon who she addresses as Sarah and mom. This is an interesting moment because for the first time I can remember in the Paranormal Activity series we leave found-footage and go to regular movie footage. It makes sense in this scene and I think makes it possible for the story to continue because we don’t need to worry about a camera falling and catching drama and then it not making sense for a camera to still be in use by the creature. Margot defeats the creature by throwing it down the same bale hole that she almost fell down in the beginning of the movie, coming full circle.
At this point we need a reason to stick around to see the terror unfold so Margot and Chris go to find the keys to the van on Little Lad’s dead body. Shit has gone crazy, the whole community is attacking one another, we see someone with their eyes gouged out, there’s multiple fires, amongst other things. Surprisingly Chris and Margot make it out of there in the van after some jump scares and we cut away from them presumably making it out alive. We do however cut to cop car and cam footage at the farm. The sounds of a crying baby lures the officer into the barn only to find that Sam is the one making the baby crying noises and when he turns around he makes a look at the cop that possesses him to shoot himself in the head. Sam gets in the car after possessing another officer to take his life and just drives off the farm. So clearly the demon prince has jumped into Sam and is now unleashed on the world, thanks Chris for freeing Margot.
In the end the whole state if not the country and world is fucked because Captain Save a you-know-what went down into a hole to save a really entitled and annoying woman from having a demon passed into her. I do wish that there had been a back story that made them snooping around made sense because at the end of this all I could think was that they deserved it for breaking every horror movie rule. Possibly something like the story in one of the VHS movies where they are investigating a cult to expose them or anything along the lines that made me root for the main characters.
Definitely a departure from the other Paranormal Activity movies but that is to be expected going in. All in all not a bad film if not frustrating at points because as a viewer you know this will not end well.
Recommended score: 7/10