The October 29 premiere of “Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin” on streaming service Paramount+ will not only be the latest episode in the remarkably profitable found-footage horror series, it will show the northern city of Allen in Allegany County in all its creepy splendor.
Early trailers for the film — which producers have called “an unexpected reinvention of the much-loved horror franchise” — features ominous shots high above an isolated snow-lined rural road, an Amish ranch and horse-drawn Amish buggy, the sun setting behind a distant foothills and a desolate, moonlit landscape.
Horror fans, get ready to meet Allegany County, New York.
Town of Allen is central
“I’m excited about the region and especially the city of Allen because this is their moment on the silver screen,” said Tim Clark, Commissioner of the Buffalo Niagara Film Office.
“This will be seen worldwide. It’s not just something that will be on display here in the United States. This will be streamed around the world. This makes Allen really central.”
Western New York is increasingly appearing on the country’s movie screens as filmmakers take advantage of the state’s 25% tax credit on qualifying expenses incurred while filming in the state.
The city of Buffalo has been featured in several Hollywood productions over the years, but according to Clark, filmmakers have broadened their horizons, seeking new and different state settings for their projects. Not to mention there’s an additional 10% tax break for shooting in upstate communities like Allegany County.
“If you go a little further away from the city center of Buffalo or New York or some of these other cities, there is so much real estate and land available that these filmmakers can use as a backdrop for their film, and that’s what they found in Allegany County,” Clark said.
The second movie trailer shows several characters finding a church. The scene elements were built on site, built on a plot of land not far from the Amish ranch, which is a focal point of the film.
“They put some stage artists on this particular project that could absolutely create this church tower on the edge of the woods,” Clark said. “They did a lot of stuff there. They also did some driving scenes and the New York State Police Department was very helpful in assisting as they drove at slow speeds and recited dialogue in the car.”
The movie franchise is heading in a new direction
According to industry estimates, the six previous “Paranormal Activity” films have grossed nearly $900 million at the worldwide box office, posing a high barrier to success.
“Next of Kin” is the first film in the series in six years, the last being “Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension” in 2015.
Directed by William Eubank, written by Christopher Landon and produced by Jason Blum, Oren Peli, Landon, Steven Schneider and Jenny Hinkey, the cinematic canvas for “Next of Kin” is larger than most of the previous films in the series. The franchise started with Peli’s breakthrough in 2009 which was made for about $15,000 and grossed about $193 million.
Those earlier films were mainly based on a claustrophobic, often single-house setting. “Next of Kin” starts from that formula.
The decision to change course was a wise one, according to a documentary maker.
“They absolutely had to get out of the house, the home environment,” said Joe Bandelli, the director of “Unknown Dimension: The Story of Paranormal Activity,” which will also be released on Paramount+ on October 29.
Bandelli is intrigued by the decision to take the franchise in a new direction.
“I think this film really embraces (a new approach),” he said. “I think the Amish world is definitely an interesting world to take where there’s no technology and bring technology into it. I’m really curious to see what they do with it.”
Community Efforts Went To Host Movie Shooting
Allegany County had exactly what the producers were looking for in a filming location.
“This ranch was chosen for its uniqueness and its real authentic Amish charm,” Clark said. “In addition, it was quite remote. They didn’t want any other houses around, so it had to be a little ‘out there’. That was a real attraction to that property.”
The economic impact of “Next of Kin” extended far beyond the Amish-built two-story farmhouse and nearby land. Production needed housing, transportation, fuel, food and talent.
Clark commented: “It really takes us months to figure out what the local expenses are, and I’m not sure we’re done with this film, but the expenses could be anywhere from hundreds of thousands to millions. Most of that happens in the neighbourhood.”
“Next of Kin” will showcase the talent of New York State, both on camera and behind the scenes.
Actors from all over Western New York reacted Pouring buffalo’s call for “Amish-type folk,” including an elderly grandmother, young adults, children who can sing, and those experienced in working with horses and buggies or in carpentry and blacksmithing.
“(The) majority of the crew was hired from Western New York (and) many of the background characters would have been hired from Western New York,” Clark said. “What they think is that the work ethic in our New York state area is really, really good.
“I would put most stage artists, and the wardrobe people, the hair and makeup people at the top of the game in the industry. I would match them any day of the week with Los Angeles or New York.”
The producers rented hall of the Short Tract Voluntary Fire Brigade and the surrounding land to park a tractor-sized generator, trailer, food truck, and a fleet of school buses and vans to bring cast and crew to the set.
“The fuel for those big trucks, for example, they have to be refueled all the time, the generators and things like that,” Clark said of the economic benefits to the area of the film. “They should shop in local stores and buy local things. It has consequences for society.”
The motels in Wellsville and Hornell housed actors and crew members.
Clark summed it up: “There’s a lot of money left in the communities.”
The city of Allen could be a tourist destination
Clark said the city of Allen is ready to take advantage of movie tourism. He noted that horror movie fans in particular are known for tracking down the locations of their favorite scary movies to see where they were made.
“The film will become its own marketing tool for Western New York,” he said. “What I see in these things is people look at it and say, ‘Where did they shoot that? That’s cool.’ And before you know it, we’ll be getting calls to see that farm or that road.’
Fans aside, Clark expects filmmakers to keep Western New York and the Southern Tier high on their list of possible locations to consider.
“I’m almost convinced they’ll be back soon. It could be in Allegany County, Cattaraugus County, Steuben. It could be any of these places, but they definitely pay attention to Western New York,” Clark said.
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