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Paranormal Activity 2

John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

A scene from the movie "Paranormal Activity 2."
Fans of genuinely scary films—skin-crawlers that earn their chills by subtlety and suspense—will welcome "Paranormal Activity 2" (Paramount), director Tod Williams' follow-up to a refreshingly unbloody original.

And the news gets even better, since his efficiently unnerving extension of the franchise that began with 2009's "Paranormal Activity" not only avoids gratuitous gore, as did its predecessor, but also tones down the original's excess of sexual themes and vulgar language.

In part that's because the focus here is on a more-or-less traditional family, as opposed to the cohabiting yuppies at the center of the first story.

Said clan includes widower Daniel (Brian Boland) and his second wife, Kristi (Sprague Grayden) -- sister, as it turns out, to Katie (Katie Featherston), the female half of the shacked-up couple in the last outing. The others are Daniel's teen daughter by his previous marriage, Ali (Molly Ephraim), and the latest addition, 1-year-old son Hunter. Together they share a large home and a prosperous lifestyle in Carlsbad, Calif.

After a destructive incident Daniel and Kristi take for a break-in by vandals, they summon a home security team who installs the half-dozen cameras through which—along with Dad's handheld device—we witness the untoward events that follow. Tension builds as the silent, empty rooms on which these lenses are fixed suddenly come alive with things that go bump in the night.

Skeptical Daniel insists there's a natural explanation for everything. But Ali trolls the Internet for occult explanations, and gradually becomes convinced that—because of the sins of a previous generation of Kristi's lineage—a demon has malignant designs on poor little Hunter.

Their Hispanic housekeeper, Martina (the singly monikered Vivis)—bless her ethnic, presumably Catholic soul—is way ahead of her secular-minded employers on the evil spirits front. She resorts to a mix of ostensibly Christian and blatantly pagan means in her efforts to expel them. But the use of Christian symbols—a wooden cross coated in olive oil, for instance—is strictly of the "Take that, Dracula!" variety.

More troubling is the climactic bargain Daniel enters into that eventually buys the household a little peace, but only at the cost of knowingly victimizing someone else. But, since this ill-advised deal serves both to reconnect the plot to the related travails of Katie and her boyfriend, Micah (Micah Sloat), and to set up a third installment, to say more would be a spoiler.

The film contains occasional intense but stylized violence, a few uses of profanity, some rough and crude language and a handful of mild sexual references. The Catholic News Service Classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

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Francis of Assisi: Francis of Assisi was a poor little man who astounded and inspired the Church by taking the gospel literally—not in a narrow fundamentalist sense, but by actually following all that Jesus said and did, joyfully, without limit and without a sense of self-importance. 
<p>Serious illness brought the young Francis to see the emptiness of his frolicking life as leader of Assisi's youth. Prayer—lengthy and difficult—led him to a self-emptying like that of Christ, climaxed by embracing a leper he met on the road. It symbolized his complete obedience to what he had heard in prayer: "Francis! Everything you have loved and desired in the flesh it is your duty to despise and hate, if you wish to know my will. And when you have begun this, all that now seems sweet and lovely to you will become intolerable and bitter, but all that you used to avoid will turn itself to great sweetness and exceeding joy." </p><p>From the cross in the neglected field-chapel of San Damiano, Christ told him, "Francis, go out and build up my house, for it is nearly falling down." Francis became the totally poor and humble workman. </p><p>He must have suspected a deeper meaning to "build up my house." But he would have been content to be for the rest of his life the poor "nothing" man actually putting brick on brick in abandoned chapels. He gave up all his possessions, piling even his clothes before his earthly father (who was demanding restitution for Francis' "gifts" to the poor) so that he would be totally free to say, "Our Father in heaven." He was, for a time, considered to be a religious fanatic, begging from door to door when he could not get money for his work, evokng sadness or disgust to the hearts of his former friends, ridicule from the unthinking. </p><p>But genuineness will tell. A few people began to realize that this man was actually trying to be Christian. He really believed what Jesus said: "Announce the kingdom! Possess no gold or silver or copper in your purses, no traveling bag, no sandals, no staff" (Luke 9:1-3). </p><p>Francis' first rule for his followers was a collection of texts from the Gospels. He had no idea of founding an order, but once it began he protected it and accepted all the legal structures needed to support it. His devotion and loyalty to the Church were absolute and highly exemplary at a time when various movements of reform tended to break the Church's unity. </p><p>He was torn between a life devoted entirely to prayer and a life of active preaching of the Good News. He decided in favor of the latter, but always returned to solitude when he could. He wanted to be a missionary in Syria or in Africa, but was prevented by shipwreck and illness in both cases. He did try to convert the sultan of Egypt during the Fifth Crusade. </p><p>During the last years of his relatively short life (he died at 44), he was half blind and seriously ill. Two years before his death, he received the stigmata, the real and painful wounds of Christ in his hands, feet and side. </p><p>On his deathbed, he said over and over again the last addition to his Canticle of the Sun, "Be praised, O Lord, for our Sister Death." He sang Psalm 141, and at the end asked his superior to have his clothes removed when the last hour came and for permission to expire lying naked on the earth, in imitation of his Lord.</p> American Catholic Blog The joy of the Gospel is not just any joy. It consists in knowing one is welcomed and loved by God…. And so we are able to open our eyes again, to overcome sadness and mourning to strike up a new song. And this true joy remains even amid trial, even amid suffering, for it is not a superficial joy: it permeates the depths of the person who entrusts himself to the Lord and confides in him.


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