Since I watched those old episodes of Doctor Who featuring the Autons when I was quite young (6 or 7), I literally could not look at a shadow the same way again. I'd have my parents go upstairs and turn the lights on for me, or stand still for 30 minutes before rushing to turn every single light on to get rid of the darknes. Since then, apart from the odd ultra-realitic nightmare, nothing, I repeat, NOTHING has come close to bringing back that childlike fear of the dark, apart from Paranormal Activity.
I thought I would be desensitized to this film after seeing The Blair Witch Project. And in a way I was, atleast at the beginning. If you've seen that film, you'll sort of know where this is heading. But god does this thing shine. There aren't many of the usual cheap tricks horror films like to pull (and this is probably the reason why certain people dislike it), by which I mean buckets of gore, an 'atmospheric' soundtrack (*minor key! be scared!*) or, what usually pisses me off, stupidly obvious short, sharp shocks that exist purely to make you jump rather than actually scare you. They're in almost every film these days... Woman talking to man, turns around (leaving a huge empty camera shot, huh? I wonder what will appear, derp?), thing jumps out screaming with a loud CLANG of music. PA is NOT like that. There is no soundtrack, no cheap shocks or gore. It forces you to listen closely, LOOK closely and hold your breath. I squirmed uncomfortably at the anti-climaxes which are so well placed (the attic part, without going in to any more detail, is great in that what you WANT/EXPECT to happen, just doesn't, and the film is free to move on). My ears strained to pick everything up, incase I missed another creepy sound. My heart was left pounding hard. You hope for an exit, a way out from it all, but does one exist? Watch the film for the answer to that.
Also, unlike most horror films, I can't actually remember specific times when things happened (I can't remember what to expect, or when to expect it), meaning I'll no doubt be just as frightened the second, third, maybe even fourth time around. The energy of most horror films die after the first viewing, and on second viewing you feel like you can skip that scene where nothing happens, or you kinda just laugh at how bad the effects look. Something is constantly happening in this film, and there are no Hollywood effects (besides a very small section towards the end). Everything is shot just as it would happen in real life, granted with one or two elaborations (would the guy seriously buy such a great camera? Do they not have neighbors?).
Unidentified things moving around and making sounds in my house is literally a real life fear for me, 10 times more frightening to me than my everyday fear of spiders, moths and wasps. Having someone else in my house has been a theme in nightmares for me, one I can't shake from my mind no matter what. The funny thing is even though just the thought of it has me seize up, I tend to meet the fear head on... the few times I've genuinely thought someone is in the house, I've chased the shadows down with a trusty baseball bat... it must be all the adrenaline. That's what keeps me watching PA. That very same thrill.
Had I not read real reviews of this film, I most likely would not have bought it, considering the weak score it gets here. Unfortunately, I have learned not to trust public reviews on Amazon anymore. The site gives a voice to just plain fools who either review things poorly out of spite (reviews posted before something has even been released for example) or plain just don't know what they are talking about (countless 1 star reviews for classic and well respected albums/films). I understand there's a need for balanced criticism, but 1 star is a stupidly extreme rating for anything, and these reviews are rarely taken seriously. Same with fanatical 5* reviews. The film isn't boring or slow, infact, whereas I believed the brilliant The Blair Witch Project was a VERY slow film, PA was as fast as any of the silly big budget horror films, and in my opinion crammed way more, way better material into a smaller running time than anything I have seen in a long time.