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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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Martyrdom of John the Baptist: The drunken oath of a king with a shallow sense of honor, a seductive dance and the hateful heart of a queen combined to bring about the martyrdom of John the Baptist. The greatest of prophets suffered the fate of so many Old Testament prophets before him: rejection and martyrdom. The “voice crying in the desert” did not hesitate to accuse the guilty, did not hesitate to speak the truth. But why? What possesses a man that he would give up his very life? 
<p>This great religious reformer was sent by God to prepare the people for the Messiah. His vocation was one of selfless giving. The only power that he claimed was the Spirit of Yahweh. “I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11). Scripture tells us that many people followed John looking to him for hope, perhaps in anticipation of some great messianic power. John never allowed himself the false honor of receiving these people for his own glory. He knew his calling was one of preparation. When the time came, he led his disciples to Jesus: “The next day John was there again with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God.’ The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus” (John 1:35-37). It is John the Baptist who has pointed the way to Christ. John’s life and death were a giving over of self for God and other people. His simple style of life was one of complete detachment from earthly possessions. His heart was centered on God and the call that he heard from the Spirit of God speaking to his heart. Confident of God’s grace, he had the courage to speak words of condemnation or repentance, of salvation.</p> American Catholic Blog Just as my children become members of my family when I bring them into the world, so too our baptism incorporates us into the family of the Church. This supernatural membership prevents us from being orphans who have to fend for themselves in the spiritual wilderness.

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