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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.”

POSSIBLE AUTHOR #1: The Police
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.

POSSIBLE AUTHOR #2: The Studio
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.

POSSIBLE AUTHOR #3: The Demon
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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Say Hello to Our Scarface Quiz

Play along with movie trivia during "Scarface" tonight at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Tony Montana is all about money, power and respect. And while we can’t promise you’ll get money or power by taking our Scarface quiz below, you will get respect if you get a perfect score. One out of three ain’t bad. Click below to take the quiz, and catch Scarface this month on IFC.

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Hank Azaria’s Simpsons Advice For Grads, Questionable Shark Facts and More of This Week’s Funniest Videos

This week we're laughing at Hank's Tufts commencement speech, Jason Alexander's shark facts and more.

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Photo Credit: YouTube/Tufts University

We’ve made it! Memorial Day weekend! But before we can complain that it’s over too quickly, take a moment to bask in the pre-break lack of productivity and enjoy some lighthearted videos.

From Hank Azaria channeling Chief Wiggum and other Simpsons characters while talking to college grads to “Shark-spert” Jason Alexander sharing questionable shark facts, here are five funny things from this week you need to watch.

1. Kermit Informs Fozzie Bear That They’ve Been Canceled

It’s never easy to see someone receive bad news, much less a Muppet. But if anything, Kermit’s poise and acceptance during a time of crisis is impressive, admirable even. Fozzie Bear, on the other hand, reacts with greater similarity to how we would: with baseless anger and utter despair.


2. Jason Alexander Offers Shark “Fin Facts”

Memorial Day weekend means the start of beach season, aka Shark Feeding Season. As part of IFC’s Shark Half-A-Day Memorial Day marathon, “sharks-pert” Jason Alexander offers up some interesting “fin facts” about our sharp-toothed friends from the deep. You can also check out Jason’s beach tips, and catch the Jaws movies with more “fin facts” from Jason this Memorial Day on IFC.


3. Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke Confirms Dothraki Is a Real Language

With eyes still dewy from the climax of this past Sunday’s Game of Thrones (Hold the door!), the Mother of Dragons herself Emilia Clarke dropped by Late Night with Seth Meyers to throw the diehard fans a reason to smile: Yes, Dothraki is a real language. Watch Clarke discuss the phonetics and grammar involved with vying for Westeros rule.


4. Hank Azaria Gives Advice Through Simpsons Characters

Hank Azaria — star of The Simpsons, The Birdcage, and Brockmire, premiering in 2017 on IFC — gave the commencement speech at his alma mater Tufts University. In the hilarious speech, Azaria discusses how he got through college, recounts his early career struggles, and offers up life advice via fan favorite Simpsons characters like Chief Wiggum and Comic Book Guy.


5. X-Men: The Animated Series Gets Honest

Screen Junkies are back this week with another round of Honest Trailers. This entry focuses on the cartoon mutants that comprise X-Men: The Animated Series — an ultra-’90s Marvel property that predates the comic book adaptation boom of the 21st Century. But looking back at the decade of Rob Liefeld and Todd McFarlane, this video finds much to mock.

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Weird Al Comedy Bang Bang Season 5

Call Him Al

“Weird Al” Talks Comedy Bang! Bang!, His Upcoming Tour, Favorite Videos and More

Weird Al comes to Comedy Bang! Bang! starting June 3rd at 11P on IFC.

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With a career spanning five decades, “Weird Al” Yankovic has defined the song parody genre and become a beloved pop culture icon. Starting June 3rd, you’ll be able to catch him as the brand new Comedy Bang! Bang! bandleader Fridays at 11P on IFC.

We recently chatted with Al about joining Scott Aukerman on the new season, his upcoming tour, favorite CB!B! characters and his future dream projects. (Hint: it might involve actors spontaneously breaking into song.)

The Comedy Bang! Bang! bandleader gig seems like a natural fit for you. Did it take any time to get acclimated?

Weird Al: Yeah. It’s a slightly different skill set. The accordion is my main act, but I don’t use it on the show at all. It’s a keyboard setup. The actual setup is a little bit of a combination of what Reggie [Watts] had and [Kid] Cudi had. And a few extra things thrown in. So I’m trying to do my own version of what they brought to the show.

You’ve been on the Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast and the show many times. Do you have a favorite CB!B! character?

Weird Al: I’d probably have to say Doctor Time. Every time Scott wants me to do an evil character, he’s always got a bad English accent. [Laughs] Any time my character goes evil, he becomes sort of British.

Any favorite guests you’ve worked with?

Weird Al: Gosh, I love them all. Paul F. Tompkins is always fun. His Andrew Lloyd Webber character, Cake Boss, everything he does. And Andy Daly as well. They’re so versatile and so amazing at improv. That’s the one thing I was a little nervous about because I’ve never been super confident with my improv skills. But Comedy Bang! Bang!, particularly the TV version, is good for that because it’s all heavily edited. So it kind of gives me permission to try out whatever comes to my mind, so if it really sucks, they’re not gonna use it. [Laughs]

Scott Aukerman Weird Al

Your upcoming tour is a continuation of your Mandatory Fun tour from last year. Any new elements to the show?

Weird Al: Well, it is the same tour, so it’s not that much different. I might freshen some video a little bit. I’m hoping to use a bit or two from the current season of Comedy Bang! Bang! and slip that into the show somewhere.

The tour starts June 3rd in St. Petersburg, Florida and ends September 24th at Radio City Music Hall. How do you keep up the pace? 

Weird Al: It’s just a mindset. I’m really only working for two hours a day, so I basically just save up my energy for the show. I relax, surf online, watch satellite TV, read a book, rest my voice, and then give it all I got when I’m onstage.

Looking back at your vast song catalog, was there ever a parody that came to you immediately upon hearing the song?

Weird Al: Yeah, that’s happened a few times. More often than not, I have to think about it and analytically work out all the variations on a theme that I can and pick out the one with the most potential. But there’s been a few times where the idea came to me spontaneously. I think the first time I saw Michael Jackson’s “Bad” video, before it was even over, I thought, “Oh! I gotta do ‘Fat’! Super-plus-sized actors trying to get through a turnstile on a subway! I gotta do that!”

Do you have a favorite of your many hilarious videos?

Weird Al: Oh boy, it’s hard to say. “White and Nerdy” has been my biggest hit and that was a really fun video to do. But in terms of making a video, “Tacky” was really fun to do because it was so easy and I got to work with amazing people like Jack Black, Margaret Cho, Kristen Schaal, Eric Stonestreet, and Aisha Tyler. And we knocked it out in a couple of hours. We were having so much fun while making it, I kinda wish we weren’t so efficient and professional. [Laughs] I could’ve done that all night.

Was it filmed all in one take or was it stitched together?

Weird Al: That was all one take. Some people say, “Oh, I see where the edit is,” but it was all one shot. We did a total of six takes, and I think four of those takes were usable, but the last one was the best.

And you were directing while performing?

Weird Al: I directed that one, yeah. We location scouted and found a building in downtown LA that I thought was good for the shoot. I’ve since seen that building in a lot of other movies and TV shows — I think it was used in The Big Lebowski and a few others. It was difficult because I start the video in one set of clothes and I also end the video in a completely different set of clothes. So while the cameras were off me, because there’s only one elevator in the building, I had to run down five flights of stairs, quickly change my clothes, and hit my mark for the end. And after the take, we’d all just watch what we did, and say, “OK, let’s do it again.”

Is there a director you’d love to work with in the future?

Weird Al: Oh gosh, yeah, but I mean, music videos are notoriously low-budget so that’s why I end up directing them myself. [Laughs] But I’d love to be in a movie codirected by Steven Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino.

Do you have a particular genre of music that you love parodying the most? Or is it more of the moment and different for each song?

Weird Al: It doesn’t necessarily revolve around personal taste so much. It really depends more on the song than the genre. But I found rap songs tend to lend themselves to parody, mostly because there’s a lot of words to play with. A lot of pop songs are repetitive, and that’s sometimes been an issue. With rap, there’s no shortage of syllables to mess around with.

Given that you’ve been so prolific and done so much, is there any type of art left that you’d like to dip your toe in? Dramatic acting, perhaps?

Weird Al: Well, if Spielberg and Tarantino want me for their film, I wouldn’t want to turn them down. But there’s no burning desire to do drama. I love doing comedy and feel comfortable doing that. Writing a musical might be something I do down the line. I don’t know when but I might take a shot at something in that area. Other than that, I’ve done pretty much all I wanted to do in my life so far. A lot of it not successfully. [Laughs] But I took a stab at it and feel gratified by that.

You’ve had such a eclectic career in music and comedy. What do you attribute your longevity to?

Weird Al: [Laughs] I don’t know what I’d attribute the longevity to. There’s a modicum of talent, but it’s mostly because I surround myself with very talented people. I’ve got a great support group, I’ve got the same band since the early ’80s, and I’ve worked with the same people for decades. And I got a very loyal fan base and I love what I do. And somehow I’ve been very lucky and it’s worked out so far.

Watch “Weird Al” in an episode from the new season of Comedy Bang! Bang! right now, before the season premiere on Friday June 3rd at 11P.

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