Something strange is going on down at the farm
In 2007, a low-budget horror movie became a massive word-of-mouth hit and delighted (and terrified) movie audiences everywhere. That movie was Paranormal Activity, a tense and unnerving exercise in terror that made many of us rush out to the store to buy a night light, just in case there was something menacing and malevolent creeping around in the midnight darkness of our homes.
Inevitably, several sequels followed, although ‘sequels’ might be the wrong word to use as one movie was a prequel and some of the other movies were seemingly unrelated.
This latest entry in the franchise has little in common with the terror tale that started it all but it’s not a bad effort. Gone are the household security cameras that were the focus of the early series entries and in is a GoPro camera that captures every striking detail of the horrors faced by our protagonists.
The story focuses on Margot (Emily Bader), a young woman who is looking for answers about her mother, Sarah, who abandoned her when she was a young child. Her mother was allegedly part of an Amish community so naturally, this gives Margot the incentive to visit Amish country to connect with her relatives and to learn more about her identity.
Margot is joined by cameraman Chris (Roland Buck III) and soundman Dale (Dan Lippert) as she needs their help in documenting her journey. It’s a good job that she has their company as the people of the farmland community, led by stern patriarch Jacob (Tom Nowicki), don’t exactly welcome her with open arms.
This is partly because of her insistence to film everything – technology is a big no-no for the Amish – and partly because these people are naturally distrusting of outsiders.
Still, the hostile reception Margot receives is nothing compared to what comes later when she discovers something sinister is going on at the farm. There are supernatural forces at work and worryingly, these are somehow tied to her mother. If you ever wanted to trace your family history, you might have second thoughts after seeing this movie! Late-night rituals involving a two-headed goat and a mineshaft that contains the presence of unspeakable evil, are just two of the terrors that Margot and her crew are faced with during their stay.
How these are connected to Margot’s mother is for you to find out but you won’t be overly surprised at the movie’s twists and turns. After a very creepy setup, the movie falls into the usual tropes that the genre is known for, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
There are still jump scares to be had as the filmmaking crew wanders around in the dark looking for clues about Margot’s past and the monstrosity that lurks in the shadows is suitably horrifying to behold. If you’re a fan of horror movies that feature demonic entities (with a few nods to The Blair Witch Project thrown in), you might like this one.
Director William Eubank (Underwater) certainly knows how to instil fear. One scene involving Margot being slowly lowered down a dark hole is particularly scary, as is the moment when the crew stumble upon the farmyard community doing something nasty in the barn. A palpable sense of foreboding drapes over the movie like a dark shadow, even before the true horrors are revealed, as the rural setting is chilling enough with its dark forests and ominous-looking buildings.
As creepy as the movie often is, there is still room for humour within the narrative, especially during the opening scenes when Margot and her crew try and fail to ingratiate themselves with the local community. A moment involving Dale trying to ride a horse is genuinely funny and there are other moments scattered throughout that offer a little bit of levity to break up the tension.
Sadly, the movie isn’t perfect. There are a few lapses in logic, especially during the scenes when multiple angles are miraculously captured by the one camera that the crew have in their possession. The climactic scenes are fairly predictable when all hell breaks loose and Margot and her friends are forced to flee for their lives. And the ending is a little unsatisfying as the fate of two of the main characters is left hidden.
But despite these flaws, this is still better than I expected, even if it doesn’t really feel like a Paranormal Activity movie. I get the feeling Blumhouse included the franchise name in the title to attract fans of the series which is a little ironic, as true fans of the earlier movies are likely to be frustrated by this movie because of the ways in which it is different to what came before.
If you’re not yet jaded by found footage movies, you might enjoy this one for its creepy setting and the many unsettling moments it provides. It’s certainly not the greatest horror movie you will ever see due to its reliance on genre staples and the stretches in credibility. But time on this farm isn’t time wasted, even if a stay here would lead to a 1-star review from visitors when they chronicle their experiences on TripAdvisor.
Verdict - 6.5/10