Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain…

Hereafter
Starring Matt Damon, Bryce Dallas Howard, Cécile De France, Jay Mohr
Directed by Clint Eastwood

 
127 Hours
Starring James Franco
Directed by Danny Boyle

 
Paranormal Activity 2
Starring Katie Featherston
Directed by Tod Williams

 
On their way to the multiplex, three potential moviegoers come across a tent set up by the theater along the sidewalk. A sign above the curtained entryway reads: “Filmic Fortune Teller.” A sign next to the curtained entryway reads: “Moviegoers have so many movie choices these days that it’s hard to know what to see. Let Fortune Teller Madame Lumière help you with your choice. She has special access to the filmic spirits. Please come in. $20 for the first 10 minutes.” 


As they are unsure what film to see this night, which is cool with a full moon overhead peering out through dark looming clouds, the three potential moviegoers decide to give it a try and enter, pushing aside the curtained entryway. 

The interior is dark and adorned with curtains. There are movie posters all around of horror and spiritual films with titles like Heaven Can Wait, Drag Me to Hell, The Rapture, etc. There are all sorts of movie paraphernalia on shelves and on the floor. Incense is burning. Madame Lumière is seated around a circular table that can easily seat 4-5 people. In the middle is a crystal ball on a small pedestal. 

Madame Lumière welcomes the three and encourages them to come and sit around the table. After they all pay the fee, Madame Lumière caresses the crystal ball and enters into a trance as she summons the cinematic spirits. She seems gripped by a fugue and then asks all three to join hands with her around the table. She continues to chant, and, after a minute or two, a faint voice is heard coming from all around them.
 

James Franco in 127 Hours
A scene from Paranormal Activity 2
Matt Damon in Hereafter
Photo by Ken Regan

Madame Lumière: Hello? Are you there? Please, talk to us, tell us who you are. (Some distorted moaning is heard, and all three potential moviegoers look furtively around the tent and at each other.) 

Critic Man Voice: (Groaning) Yes, I am here, Critic Man. (Ooooing) Why have you summoned me? 

Madame Lumière: Critic Man, it is I, Madame Lumière. There are three people with me who have sought your guidance about which film to choose for tonight’s distraction. Can you help us? 

Critic Man Voice: (Fading in and out) Yes, I can. But, I do not know how long I can linger… 

Madame Lumière (to the three moviegoers): He is here. I can feel his presence. It is strong, but you must hurry with your questions as he may not remain long, and (whispering) he is known to be ill-tempered. What films are you curious about? 

Prospective Moviegoer #1: (Talking loudly and at the tent around him) Uh, we are considering three films: Hereafter, 127 Hours, or Paranormal Activity 2. We know that there are a lot of other films out there, but we just thought that those other fi . . . 

Critic Man Voice: (Angrily and loudly) Silence! (all three moviegoers jump and appear anxious) I need not know what other films you considered. These are interesting choices. They all have elements of the other side — the realm that I now inhabit, a realm beyond what you mere movie going mortals understand as reality, a place beyond your rational senses. Do you understand? (The three look around at each other and say “yes”) 

Critic Man Voice: (Forcefully) Good! Because you will need to be prepared for paranormal experiences no matter which film you see. You will need to open your minds to this and be receptive to it. For this explains much of what you will see. And, you will have to brace yourselves for jolts, frights, and powerful experiences. For, you see, each of these films contain moments of intense pathos. One film depicts a woman caught in a thundering tsunami in the Indian Ocean as its wave crashes up a city street and sweeps up people, cars, buildings, everything in its path as it rushes back to the sea, and during this maelstrom, the woman believes she briefly enters another realm. Another has an intensely graphic and wincing scene of a person trapped in a slot canyon sawing his arm off with a dull pocket knife so as to free himself — all while experiencing visions from some unseen force urging him on to save himself. And another… well, let’s just say that it is full of things that go bump in the night that only dogs, small children, ethnic housekeepers and camcorders can see. And then there is… 

Madame Lumière: (Interrupting) Oh great Critic Man… these three souls have questions to pose about the choice in front of them. May they speak to you, ask you the burning questions on their minds? 

Critic Man Voice: (After a pause) Oh, all right, if they must. (Madame Lumière turns to the moviegoers and encourages them to ask away). 

Moviegoer #2: (Hesitatingly) Um, Critic Man, we were wondering, how different are these films? I mean, have we seen anything like them before? How unique are they? 

Critic Man Voice: (Groaning and moaning) What an insufferable question! Of course I have seen much of this before! For I am Critic Man, and I am all knowing, all seeing! (A loud bang is heard and the table violently and abruptly jolts up and down; the moviegoers all look at each other with wide, frightened eyes) If you must know, there are elements of Into the Wild in one film, and elements of Woody Allen in another. And the third, well, it’s a sequel, what more do you need to know… (spooky sounds are heard) 

Prospective Moviegoer #3: Tells us Critic Man, are these films religious? Do they provide some religious solace, guidance or teaching? Are they overtly denominational or part of the cinematic Christian movement?   

Critic Man Voice: (Ominous moaning) Noooooo! They do not! None of them take any position on organized religion. (More ominous groans) Nor do they even mention God, Jesus, Allah, Krishna, Buddha, The Holy Spirit, Muhammad, or Confucius. Uhhh, but one of them shows Scooby Doo appearing to one of the film’s characters as a possible spiritual guide when he is in dire straits… (voice fades away) 

Madame Lumière: But Critic Man, which one shows Scooby Doo? (looks around at all three Prospective Moviegoers) Uh, ‘cause, you know, we’re just curious. 

Critic Man Voice: (Sternly and loudly) I cannot tell you that! You will just have to see these films and find out for yourself! (His voice trails off again….) 

Madame Lumière: Critic Man? Critic Man, are you still there? There is so much more you could tell us to help these wayward souls make their choice. (Distant, faint and incomprehensible whispering sounds are heard) Critic Man? 

Critic Man Voice: (Faintly) I must leave you now, I am slated to appear in a bucket of popcorn at a theater in Cannes, France. I wish you all… (fades to static and then silence) 

Madame Lumière: Well, that’s it. This séance will run again in a couple of minutes if you would like to stick around and experience it again. Please be sure to deposit all trash in the trash receptacles on your way out. 

Doug Young is the film critic for The Colorado Statesman.