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"
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
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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