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Paranormal Activity

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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Charles de Foucauld: Born into an aristocratic family in Strasbourg, France, Charles was orphaned at the age of six, raised by his devout grandfather, rejected the Catholic faith as a teenager and joined the French army. Inheriting a great deal of money from his grandfather, Charles went to Algeria with his regiment, but not without his mistress, Mimi. <br /><br />When he declined to give her up, he was dismissed from the army. Still in Algeria when he left Mimi, Charles reenlisted in the army. Refused permission to make a scientific exploration of nearby Morocco, he resigned from the service. With the help of a Jewish rabbi, Charles disguised himself as a Jew and in 1883 began a one-year exploration that he recorded in a book that was well received. <br /><br />Inspired by the Jews and Muslims whom he met, Charles resumed the practice of his Catholic faith when he returned to France in 1886. He joined a Trappist monastery in Ardeche, France, and later transferred to one in Akbes, Syria. Leaving the monastery in 1897, Charles worked as gardener and sacristan for the Poor Clare nuns in Nazareth and later in Jerusalem. In 1901 he returned to France and was ordained a priest. <br /><br />Later that year Charles journeyed to Beni-Abbes, Morocco, intending to found a monastic religious community in North Africa that offered hospitality to Christians, Muslims, Jews, or people with no religion. He lived a peaceful, hidden life but attracted no companions. <br /><br />A former army comrade invited him to live among the Tuareg people in Algeria. Charles learned their language enough to write a Tuareg-French and French-Tuareg dictionary, and to translate the Gospels into Tuareg. In 1905 he came to Tamanrasset, where he lived the rest of his life. A two-volume collection of Charles' Tuareg poetry was published after his death. <br /><br />In early 1909 he visited France and established an association of laypeople who pledged to live by the Gospels. His return to Tamanrasset was welcomed by the Tuareg. In 1915 Charles wrote to Louis Massignon: “The love of God, the love for one’s neighbor…All religion is found there…How to get to that point? Not in a day since it is perfection itself: it is the goal we must always aim for, which we must unceasingly try to reach and that we will only attain in heaven.”   <br /><br />The outbreak of World War I led to attacks on the French in Algeria. Seized in a raid by another tribe, Charles and two French soldiers coming to visit him were shot to death on December 1, 1916. <br />Five religious congregations, associations, and spiritual institutes (Little Brothers of Jesus, Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Little Sisters of Jesus, Little Brothers of the Gospel and Little Sisters of the Gospel) draw inspiration from the peaceful, largely hidden, yet hospitable life that characterized Charles. He was beatified on November 13, 2005. American Catholic Blog You know, O my God, I have never desired anything but to love you, and I am ambitious for no other glory.

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