Peli deserves the lion's share of credit for the effectiveness of the end product. This is the sort of movie that relies on believability, something that other similar pics haven't been able to capture through either the camera movements, the dialogue or the performances. Sloat and Featherston do the heavy lifting of maintaining the film's realism with their natural performances, which only occasionally break into "actor-y" territory.
So, is Paranormal Activity worth the hype? Mostly. (Especially considering it was made for $15,000.) It's basically a good movie with a great marketing strategy that has sown fertile ground for buzz by opening only in select cities and with only midnight showings, ensuring packed crowds eager for a shared spooky experience; it's essentially a video Halloween haunted house attraction. The tagline says, "Don't see it alone," but with packed theaters, that's unlikely. The true terror would be watching it alone at home. At night. In the dark. Would you dare?
- Acting: B (Sloat and Featherston are natural and believable.)
- Direction: B (Immersive; you rarely feel like you're watching a movie -- until the ending.)
- Script: B- (Fast-moving and appropriately lacking in excessive exposition; however, some questions remain unanswered.)
- Gore/Effects: B- (Solid effects, given the budget, but few are needed.)
- Overall: B (A heart-pounding, visceral thrill ride.)
Paranormal Activity is directed by Oren Peli and is rated R by the MPAA for language.