To call Paranormal Activity the most frightening movie in recent years is more an attack on the modern horror genre than a compliment to the film. Though it has been hyped to be one of the scariest films of the decade, as a theatrical experience it sadly lacks anything approaching thrills.
With the recent shift of the modern horror genre to torture-porn, like the interminable Saw series, Paranormal Activity is a breath of fresh air. Built in the same vein as the ultra-low budget The Blair Witch Project-- the film only cost about $15,000 to make-- it suffers from many of the same problems as Blair Witch.
The camera work is purposefully shaky, though surprisingly still-handed as the actors perform most camera duties. It also relies on a building sense of creeping horror, which some audiences find frustrating considering the modern horror-era is all about immediate gratification and exponential levels of gore-iffic grotesqueness.
Though it does suffer in its filmmaking, Paranormal Activity is not without merit. The dialogue is mostly improvised by unknown actors, earning its chills through implied horror, as opposed to shocking the audience. It's also surprisingly tame, only earning its 14A rating through the sheer amount of cursing. While buckets of blood are par for the course when it comes to making audiences scream, the film barely has any of the red stuff at all. There's only a little bit-- and even then it's not spurting from the vein.
Credit has to go to main actors Micah Sloat and Katie Featherston for their admirable performances. Most of the dialogue between the two is improvised and comes across very real and natural. When bad things happen to the couple, it's easy to care about their well-being because they do come across as utterly likeable at first blush.
All in all, Paranormal Activity isn't worth it in theatres. Despite its major success, it feels more like a direct-to-DVD scarefest then something worth paying $13 for.