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Why Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin Feels Like The Blair Witch Project

The seventh installment in the franchise, Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin, feels more like the cult classic The Blair Witch Project than a Paranormal Activity film. The Blair Witch Project, which premiered in 1999, follows a documentary crew (led by its director Heather) seeking proof of the fabled “Blair Witch” said to haunt a Maryland forest. The film arguably popularized the "found footage" genre of horror films roughly a decade before Paranormal Activity's first movie. However, Next of Kin, which also follows a documentary film crew, actually takes direct inspiration from Blair Witch, the film that first introduced its central conceit.

Effectively a reboot of the franchise, Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin followed the story of a young documentarian named Margot (Emily Bader). Abandoned by her biological mother as a child, Margot recruited a cameraman and sound engineer to document her experience reuniting with her biological relatives, an Amish family that she discovered through DNA testing. However, as Margot began to acquaint herself with her pastoral relatives, she unraveled a terrifying truth about her family and her mother’s past.

Related: How Scary Is Paranormal Activity 7?

While set the furthest in the Paranormal Activity timeline, Next of Kin is a soft reboot that change's the IP's format and premise. The main similarity to The Blair Witch Project is its documentary shooting style. While the other Paranormal Activity films are labeled as purely "found footage" films, comprised of home movies and security camera tape, Next of Kin's documentary style is eerily reminiscent of Blair Witch's. Both films are not finished documentaries, but rather a series of unedited, unfinished clips filmed during the crews' experiences investigating their respective subjects. Both movies feature a small crew of one young female and two male peers. Additionally, the fact that both films' documentaries were directed by and starred each film's protagonist, whose insatiable curiosities placed their film crews in harm's way, makes Next of Kin feel like a direct homage to many of Blair Witch's most iconic moments.

There are thematic and narrative parallels between The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin. Both Heather and Margot continued to film their documentaries despite omens and warnings of the occult that crossed their paths — signs of witchcraft in the woods in The Blair Witch and the reveal of the Amish community's history with the demon Asmodeus in Next of Kin. Margot and Chris' (Roland Buck III) discovery of a series of macabre murals and a cavern shaft adorned with wooden crucifixes in Next of Kin felt similar to when Heather and her crew discovered man-made cairns and wicker figurines in Blair Witch. In both movies, the documentarians continued to pursue answers, despite the ominous discoveries, and the Paranormal Activity movie and the original The Blair Witch Project both have similar climaxes in which the documentary crews each filmed haunting encounters with occult beings.

In addition to being similar to The Blair Witch ProjectNext of Kin is also distinct from the other Paranormal Activity movies. The other movies in the Paranormal Activity franchise all feature the same demon, Toby, and all essentially center on a character or characters who are possessed by it. Although there are thematic parallels between Margot's stories and those involving Toby, she is much more of a victim than a perpetrator of violence — particularly compared to Katie Featherston. This makes Margot's overall arc much more like Heather's in The Blair Witch Project than any of the female leads in the other Paranormal Activity films.

The Blair Witch Project had a profound impact on the horror genre as it is known today, and it was likely an inspiration for the first Paranormal Activity film back in 2009. While Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin also takes inspiration from other horror films like Midsommar and M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village, it’s clear the film’s tone and documentary format pays direct homage to The Blair Witch Projectthe film that first inspired the “found footage” genre over two decades ago.

Next: How Paranormal Activity 7 Will Change The Franchise For The Better

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