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Chronicling the journey of Paramount Activity franchise

By David Michael Brown for SCARE

As Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin and documentary Unknown Dimension: The Story of Paranormal Activity prepare to scare up Aussie audiences, we set cameras to record on one of the horror genre’s most popular franchises…

In 2007, Paranormal Activity changed the face of the horror genre. Almost a decade before in 1999, The Blair Witch Project had terrified cinema audiences with a found footage take on folk horror. Director Oren Peli’s supernatural taped terror followed suit, taking a homemade video camera aesthetic, creating box office gold.

The film, and the subsequent six sequels and one international spin-off, Paranormal Activity 2: Toyko Night, saw Paranormal Activity become one of the biggest horror film franchises of all time, alongside The Conjuring, Alien, Saw and It. And now with the Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin, the series is going to get even bigger. And scarier.

The latest Paranormal Activity incarnation is a terrifying diversion from the previous films. The first camcorder chiller took a simple haunted house premise that saw a spooked couple setting up video cameras to try and capture things that were going bump in the night. It was inspired by the director’s own experiences living in the suburbs and the creaks and sounds he and his girlfriend heard at night. As the director explained in the exhaustive documentary Unknown Dimension: The Story of Paranormal Activity, “I thought to myself how scary it would be to watch footage of yourself while you’re asleep, unaware of it, and something is happening.”

As sequels and prequels often tend to do, the subsequent films have gone bigger, twisting and transforming far beyond the confines of the original linear concept. The ghost story has now expanded into a time-traveling, portal jumping, inter-dimensional adventure which was brought full full circle with 2015’s Paranormal Activity: Ghost Dimension.

This leads nicely to Next of Kin. The challenge of the found footage horror film is always giving a reason why the camera is there and why it is recording. The earlier films had that covered with the sleeping sleuths and now, it’s documentary footage that we are watching thanks to cameraman Chris (Roland Buck III) and sound guy Dale (Dan Lippert). The pair are filming Margot (Emily Bader), a young woman who was abandoned by her mother as a baby and is now trying to discover the truth about her past. She is hoping to find that truth in a secluded Amish community after she is contacted by a distant relative, Samuel Beiler (Henry Ayres-Brown), who discovered they were related on a genetics website. But these are not the same kindly Amish folk that Harrison Ford fell for in Peter Weir’s Witness. As she uncovers the truth, all hell breaks loose. Quite literally.

Now seen through the lens of the camera crew, the Amish family’s simple way of life helps paint the picture that slowly descends into chaos. The wooden house they call home is lit with candles ensuring there are plenty of dark shadowy corners for evil to lurk.

Looking back, it’s astonishing that a movie made with a tripod, a few video cameras and a budget of US$15,000 has had such a huge impact on the horror genre. Earning over half a billion dollars at the box office, the Paranormal Activity films succeed because they have a simple ethos. The filmmakers want to scare you. And one look at the audience screaming in terror during the original shocker’s revolutionary trailer campaign shows they did just that.

Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin and documentary Unknown Dimension: The Story of Paranormal Activity – are NEW TO BUY OR RENT ON DIGITAL

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