It’s been a while since we last had a Paranormal Activity released to help usher in the Halloween season (six years to be exact), but William Eubanks’ Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin officially arrives on Paramount Plus this weekend, and the script from Christopher Landon does an admirable job of finding new narrative terrain to traverse for this latest entry in the series that genuinely made me excited as a long-time Paranormal Activity fan. Next of Kin doesn’t necessarily follow the tried and true formula that established Paranormal Activity as this huge moment in modern pop culture, but I think breaking out of that mold here is what helps make this latest PA film stand out a bit, as this new direction breathes some much needed new life into the franchise as a whole, and makes me eager for another film in the future if Next of Kin does well enough.

Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin is centered around Margot (Emily Bader), a college student who was adopted when she was a baby and she’s been in search of members of her birth family for years now. Out of the blue, Margot ends up matching with a young man named Samuel (Henry Ayres-Brown) on 23 & Me and he invites her to come with him back home to his family compound in the middle of Amish country so that she can get to know her blood family more. Margot decides to document the experience with the help of Chris (Roland Buck III) and Dale (Dan Lippert), but as expected (this is a horror movie after all), things aren’t exactly what they seem in the tight-knit community, and the outsiders quickly discover that their hosts have sinister motives that put them all squarely in harm’s way.

One of the really fun aspects of the early Paranormal Activity films was spending most of the film’s running time watching for the appearance of supernatural forces looming all around and waiting for key scares that undoubtedly make you want to jump out of your skin. With Next of Kin, that’s not really the game being played by Eubanks or Landon, as the focus is more on the looming dread when they arrive at the farm and the uncertainty that fuels Margot during her quest for answers about her mom, making the scares here a bit more traditional in that sense. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though, as we’ve already had six films that have done that, so I appreciated that Next of Kin breaks the mold a bit and isn’t looking to tread the same waters as its predecessors in that regard. And while I don’t want to reveal too many more specifics in regard to the plot or events in Next of Kin, what I will say for now is that the sequel does definitely utilize a slow build approach to its story, culminating in a bat-shit finale where Eubanks really gets to let loose, making the journey totally worth it in the end.    

In terms of the performances, Bader is fantastic and makes for an empathetic emotional anchor to this story, as I think all of us, regardless of whether or not we’ve been adopted, have a yearning for some type of familial connection in this world, making her journey here believable and enthralling as all the puzzle pieces fall into place surrounding the circumstances of her mother’s decision to give her up in the first place. I also enjoyed Roland Buck III in this as Margot’s confidant who helps her work through her feelings and uncertainties throughout this story. Tom Nowicki plays Jacob, the leader of the religious community in Next of Kin, and what I loved about his performance is that even when he’s being friendly, he’s still utterly terrifying, which is no easy feat. But I’d be absolutely remiss if I didn’t mention Lippert’s performance here because he’s quite the scene-stealer and I absolutely adored his character, Dale, in the film.

While it may not be exactly the movie that die-hard Paranormal Activity fans may be expecting, the fact that Next of Kin plays around with expectations in such a clever way here works in the film’s favor, ultimately delivering up a creepy and unsettling viewing experience that certainly opens up the franchise to all sorts of new possibilities, which is pretty darn awesome, especially considering this is the seventh film in the series. Eubanks does an excellent job of allowing Margot’s angst to propel the story forward, and I think Landon’s script smartly blends in familiar Paranormal Activity elements but also creates a narrative that feels very much like it is doing its own thing as well. 

Movie Score: 3.5/5

  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.