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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Paranormal Activity

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

As it did in both 1999's "The Blair Witch Project" and last year's "Cloverfield," the use of a video camera to tell an ostensibly fact-based horror tale makes for an unsettling sense of immediacy—and jangled audience nerves—in "Paranormal Activity" (Paramount).

Writer-director Oren Peli's feature debut, made for a tiny fraction of the normal Hollywood budget, is mostly gore-free, playing instead—subtly and quite effectively— on viewers' primal fears of the unseen. But his script fails to show the same restraint with regard to language and sexual topics.

Our amateur cameraman is ordinary San Diego yuppie Micah (Micah Sloat), who has purchased the gadget to document some disturbing phenomena that have been taking place recently in the house he shares with girlfriend Katie (Katie Featherston). (As Micah later puts it, to Katie's visible annoyance, the couple is "engaged to be engaged.")

Katie, who tells of being pursued by an evil spirit off and on since childhood, is wary of the supernatural and enlists the aid of a psychic (Mark Fredrichs), though he eventually proves ineffectual. Micah, by contrast, begins by treating the situation as a lark, but becomes increasingly confrontational with the invisible presence, bullheadedly regarding its unidentified designs on Katie as a challenge to his machismo.

The fact that most of the taping is done in their bedroom, since the entity is particularly active while they're asleep, offers Micah the opportunity for several off-color suggestions, and we witness the immediate aftermath of a coupling about which he boasts. Additionally, as he and Katie become more and more panicked, their fear leads to a stream of obscenity, including at least 35 uses of the F-word.

The film contains some sexual content, including a premarital situation, an off-screen encounter and a few jokes and references, a half-dozen uses of profanity, pervasive rough and crude terms, and at least two obscene gestures. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted; under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

******
Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.


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Junipero Serra: In 1776, when the American Revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. 
<p>Born on Spain’s island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom—first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero’s desire was to convert native peoples in the New World. </p><p>Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero’s left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross—sometimes life-threatening—for the rest of his life. For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there. </p><p>Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two <i>conquistadors</i>—one military, one spiritual—began their quest. José de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived. </p><p>Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra’s death. </p><p>Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans. </p><p>Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts—a move that has brought cries of “injustice” from some moderns. </p><p>Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn. He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988.</p> American Catholic Blog God is great. God is good. And God, in his fatherly love, has a plan for our lives that will work out for our benefit and salvation. All we have to do is trust and obey.

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