Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Emily Bader, Roland Buck III, Dan Lippert, Henry Ayers-Brown
Written by: Christopher Landon
Directed by: William Eubank
MPAA Rating: R for violence and bloody images, and language throughout
Running Time: 98
Date: 10/29/2021
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Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin (2021)

2 Stars (out of 4)

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By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Having little to do with the franchise itself, this tired, unsurprising found-footage horror movie is competently made and has its moments, but the characters are often one step behind the audience.

Margot (Emily Bader) discovers that she has a living family member and decides to make a documentary about meeting him. She enlists Chris (Roland Buck III) to be her cameraperson, and he recruits Dale (Dan Lippert) to record sound. It turns out that Margot's kin, Samuel (Henry Ayers-Brown) is Amish, so the trio heads into the country to stay at Samuel's family home, and possibly learn more about Margot's mother and her past. It's not long before creepy things begin happening, starting with noises in the room upstairs, and a small girl saying "she's still here." But things are about to get much, much more sinister.

The seventh movie in the series, Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin develops some likable characters — especially the towering goofball Dale — despite some things being frustratingly underwritten (by Christopher Landon, who wrote or co-wrote 5 of the 7 movies). Are Margot and Chris romantic partners, or friends? (They seem like both.) And no one ever explains how Samuel is related to Margot (is he her uncle?), or how the other characters might be.

As Margot pokes her nose into everyplace on the farm, trying to dig up information, it ends up taking quite a while to get to the scares. It's even possible to forget that this is a horror movie. When the spooky stuff does get going, the movie doesn't work up much energy.

For one thing, the characters seem slow to catch on to the mysterious happenings, pushing further into danger when they should be keeping their guard up and responding to alarm bells. (The whole setup is somewhat obvious, truthfully.) For another, characters are forever carrying their cameras into situations where it would have been better to leave them behind. If anyone ever gets an idea to make an eighth film, perhaps that's where the cameras ought to be left.

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