Who is editing these “Paranormal Activity” movies?

Who is editing these “Paranormal Activity” movies? (photo)

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No, I haven’t forgotten how to use IMDb. Yes, I know Oren Peli edited “Paranormal Activity” and Gregory Plotkin edited the second and third films. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about who in the fictional world of “Paranormal Activity” is editing these movies, particularly “Paranormal Activity 2” which I just watched for this first time last weekend.

“Paranormal Activity” was about a couple using a single video camera to record nightly intrusions by a poltergeist. The scale of the haunting and the degree to which their camera was involved made it plausible that the film was the totality of all the raw footage that these people shot. But the family recording their ghost troubles in “Paranormal Activity 2” uses an elaborate system of surveillance cameras to shoot footage all over their house. There are at least five different surveillance angles — the pool, the kitchen, the living room, the stairs and front door, and a baby’s bedroom — plus additional footage from one character’s handheld camera. These are supposedly “found footage” movies, in which the characters onscreen are the ones who shot the film we’re watching. But editing implies an author. So who’s the author? In other words: it’s found footage so who the hell found it?

I’ve been stewing over this for the last 24 hours. Here are the possibilities I’ve come up with, along with the reasons they can and can’t be “PA2″‘s author. I welcome any additional ideas in the comments below. I’ve got to get this sorted out in my mind before I go see “Paranormal Activity 3.”

WHY THE POLICE: Both “PA1” and “PA2” begin with similar disclaimers thanking “the families of the deceased” and the police departments of San Diego and Carlsbad, California respectively. If we buy that these events actually happened within the world of the film, then the footage represents evidence of crimes being committed. The films could hypothetically be police-made edits of the “evidence” for use at trials.
WHY NOT THE POLICE: If this is some sort of evidentiary videotape, it’s basically the worst evidentiary videotape in history. Particularly during the early, mood-building sequences of “Paranormal Activity 2,” scenes aren’t edited to show us what happened, they’re edited to make us wonder what happened. The editor frequently chooses from the five different security cameras to give us the most obscured (and therefore most unsettling) angle on the action. One of the clever little mysteries of “PA2” is the family’s automated pool cleaner, which starts every night in the water and winds up every morning sitting on the ledge beside it. We don’t see why that’s happening until the characters finally get curious about it halfway through the movie. But a true “evidence tape” would have revealed the explanation the very first time it happened. Unless that “evidence tape” was edited by someone with a serious flair for the dramatic.

WHY THE STUDIO: Editing with a flair for the dramatic suggests that an anonymous editor at Paramount Pictures — the Paramount Pictures in the fictional universe of “Paranormal Activity,” mind you — could be responsible. The police could have given Paramount the raw footage and let them edit something together. That would certainly explain why the second film in particular messes with the audience in such an overt, horror film-y way.
WHY NOT THE STUDIO: Because why the hell would the police let a film studio chop up actual evidence of an actual crime for the sadistic pleasure of the moviegoing public? That makes no sense. I suppose some despicable person could have stolen or illegally acquired this footage and cut it together, but that makes Paramount complicit in the theft and exploitation of a legitimate snuff film, which is kind of awesome but also makes no sense.

WHY THE DEMON: When I posed this question on Twitter, the most common response, albeit one made in jest, was some variation of “a ghost.” It’s a silly answer but it may also be the only logical explanation. The demon that haunts Katie in “PA1” and Kristi in “PA2” is clearly an a-hole: both films mention that he feeds on fear, and he definitely gets a kick out of slowly and methodically torturing his victims. The demon (call him “Toby” if you want, since that’s the name he’s apparently given in “PA3”) is realistically the only entity within the narrative with access to this material, the desire to mess with people, and the legal status to get away with doing it without having to worry about negative publicity or a lawsuit. That would sort of make “Paranormal Activity 2” a demonic version of a sex tape: the proof of a conquest a ghoul makes to show their friends what hot shit they are.
WHY NOT THE DEMON: If it’s this hard for a demon to steal a baby, I have a hard time envisioning them successfully navigating the murky waters of Final Cut Pro.

Now it’s your turn: who do YOU think is editing these “Paranormal Activity” movies? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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Documentary Now! Robert Evans Mansion

The Reel Deal

Everything You Need To Know About “Mr. Runner Up” Inspiration Robert Evans

Watch the two-part finale of Documentary Now! this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

In its upcoming two-part finale, Documentary Now! spoofs the crown jewel of docs: The Kid Stays In The Picture. It’s the autobiographical documentary about Robert Evans, the unlikely Hollywood mogul whose mix of self-aggrandizing bravado, classic good looks and extremely circumstantial good luck took him from being a salesman to an actor to the head of Paramount Pictures.

If you’ve never seen the film, it’s totally worth it. Rotten Tomatoes agrees, with a staggeringly-high approval rating. Watch it before, or watch it after — doesn’t matter. You’ll appreciate it whenever.

In the meantime, here’s a bit of background that will come in handy…

Robert Loves Robert

Robert Evans desk

USA Films/Everett Collection

Robert Evans is the ultimate Robert Evans fan. The movie was narrated by Robert Evans and based on his memoir of the same name. It is totally unbiased.

He’s Kind Of A Big Deal

Robert Evans, Chinatown
Paramount Pictures

Evans produced some of Hollywood’s true classics: Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby, The Godfather, Love Story…the list goes on. Totally legit and amazing movies.

He’s Also Kind Of A Joke

Wag The Dog
New Line Cinema

Evans has been parodied in TV shows and movies like Entourage and Wag The Dog. He is the quintessential “producer” you already have in your head.

So Wrong He’s Right

Robert Evans Slap
20th Century Film Corp

Robert Evans is a notorious narcissist whose love of self is so blind and sincere that it’s actually adorable.

There’s Something Missing

via Giphy

Entire sections of Robert Evans’ life are left out of the documentary. Maybe it’s because of timing. Maybe it’s because real life isn’t a tidy narrative. Who knows.

He Blew It

Spider coke

Evans had a pretty spectacular fall from grace. He was convicted of cocaine trafficking in the early 80’s, and was connected to a contract killing during the production of The Cotton Club. Oops.

Losing Is For Losers

Everett Collection
Everett Collection

In the Robert Evans mythology, all tragedies are just triumphs in disguise, and every story has a happy ending…for Robert Evans.

Bill Hader Jerry Wallach

With these simple facts in hand you are now prepared to thoroughly enjoy the two-part finale of Documentary Now! starting this Wednesday at 10/9c on IFC.

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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