This week’s MSN DVD column takes a look at the Paranormal Activity series as the franchise’s fourth chapter — which ain’t exactly the best one — comes to disc. I also interviewed Katie Featherston, who’s appeared in all four of the movies thus far. She’s nice.
Occasionally, people ask how the Paranormal Activity movies compare to the Saw cycle, which dropped off the cultural radar around the same time Oren Peli’s minimalist horror took root; I don’t think that they do. Yes, the Saw films also play with time in constructing and maintaining their master narrative, but only in the sense that it allows them to undo previous plots for the sake of a cheap shock. And I never really enjoyed Saw‘s empty sadism — it’s no fun at all.
The first two Paranormal Activity movies, at least, invite the audience to understand what’s happening and feel the appropriate dread. Watching the first film with a crowd at the midnight premiere was a fascinating social experience. The sequels can’t help but offer diminishing returns, but they’re still offering something.