The Christian Version of ‘Paranormal Activity’ Is Worse Than the ‘Saw’ One

The Big Picture

  • Christian horror films like
    The Lock In
    lack stakes, suspense, and actual scares, resulting in predictability and missed opportunities.
  • The overt anti-porn message in the film fails to provide consequences outside of church, leaving a confused moral standing for viewers.
  • Director Richard Praytor’s repetitive narrative tropes in Christian horror films overlook subtlety and quality, opting for heavy-handed messaging.

In 2023, many people were introduced to Christian horror films when The Reconciler started being covered by a few big-name YouTubers. The Saw rip-off is poorly written, acted, and directed and wouldn’t even qualify as a horror movie by normal standards with its lack of stakes and actual scares. This sort of thing always seems to fascinate people, especially people who didn’t grow up in Christian circles, because the idea that instead of consuming existing media, you have to repurpose that media to strictly align with your values, is kind of absurd. Or maybe it’s just that Christian horror movies are often so terrible they’re kind of entertaining.

For example, The Reconciler is far from poetic cinema, but it looks almost Oscar-worthy when compared to another Christian horror film that came out just a year before. Yes, we’re looking at 2014’s The Lock In, a found footage horror movie à la Paranormal Activity from Holy Moly Pictures that has a whopping 1.9 out of 10 stars on IMDb. Why the low rating, you ask? Let’s find out.

The Lock In Film Poster

The Lock In

In the spring of 2010, a church lock in at First Baptist Church was organized by Pastor Chris. In the first hour of the lock in, one of the students, Justin, had an unusual “incident” and was “inconsolable.” Two days after the lock in, Justin reportedly broke down to his parents that he experienced something “evil” at the lock in. He also claimed he captured everything on tape.

Release Date
January 9, 2014

Rich Praytor

Beverly Banks , Carson Cooper , Chris Ennis , Angela Jeffries

Rich Praytor

‘The Lock In’s Plot Is Positively Baffling

The Lock In follows a trio of friends — Blake (Carson Cooper), Nick (Ben Paulson), and Justin (Trever Shirin) — as they participate in a church youth group lock-in during their senior year. The film starts with former youth pastor, Chris, speaking about what happened that night, and saying that the footage we’re about to see was only meant to be viewed by church officials. He also said these events made him believe porn was linked to demonic activity. More on that later.

Blake and Justin pick up Nick from his house while teasing him about his crush on Jessica, a girl who will also be attending that night’s lock-in. Nick’s parents give him a very awkward talk after finding out about his crush, praying over him so he’ll “keep the barn door closed” before letting him go. Blake drives them to the church, but on the way, he stops to throw out some trash bags he had in his car. After he and Nick make fun of Justin for dumpster diving, Blake pulls a porn magazine wrapped in a tattered paper bag out of the trash and hides it in Nick’s backpack. Jessica discovers the magazine while looking in Nick’s bag for snacks and alerts Pastor Chris, who talks to the boys before taking them outside to burn the magazine and pray. That’s that!

Except it’s not, because the magazine shows up again in Nick’s sleeping bag. After going upstairs to throw away the magazine, the boys find that everyone but Jessica has gone missing. They begin searching the church for a way out, but strange occurrences — a trash can being thrown, a disembodied growling voice — scare them into hiding in the kitchen. There, they talk about how porn has done bad things to each of them. One by one, they are picked off until only Justin remains. After casting the demon out with the power of Jesus’ salvation, Justin goes back to the sanctuary to find everyone alive and well. Blake and Nick don’t remember a thing. Justin goes home and throws out all his porn magazines. A much happier ending than what Paranormal‘s Micah got.

The Mixed-Up Messages of ‘The Lock In’

You might have noticed that this movie has a particular message from that short summary. It’s extremely anti-porn and anti-premarital sex, as shown by the way Nick’s parents had a crisis over him having a crush and jumped directly to him having sex with her. At a church lock-in. With security cameras in every single possible place. This isn’t a surprising message for this kind of film to have, and using the Paranormal Activity style (Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones came out the same year) is meant to capitalize on a franchise that youth group teens would be interested in while making it about an issue that youth pastors feel teens struggle with and scaring them into not participating in “bad” behaviors.

However, all The Lock In really has to say about pornography is don’t bring it to church. Nothing bad happened to Blake, Nick, and Justin when they just had porn in their possession. It’s not until they take the magazine into the church and Pastor Chris burns it that their troubles begin. We never see the characters face any consequences for possessing pornography outside of the church walls. The film ends with Blake and Nick not even remembering what happened, and Blake was the one who brought the magazine with them in the first place! The movie makes it seem like the only time this stuff matters is at church, which probably isn’t the message they were going for, but damned if it isn’t the one that stood out.


‘Nefarious’ Is Unlike Any Other Christian Horror Movie

The 2023 horror film is streaming on Prime Video now.

It can be argued that Justin is punished for viewing porn before the events of the film — his grandfather ran over his laptop after catching him watching some — but he still had a pretty large box of nudie mags in his bedroom. Obviously, the shame and property destruction didn’t deter him. It can also be argued that Jessica had some consequences related to porn consumption, as she mentions that her dad’s porn addiction tore their family apart in a scene that is way too laughable for a pretty sensitive subject. However, it’s not her that is looking at porn in that scenario — is the movie trying to say that people who even just interact with porn watchers deserve punishment? At this point, the message becomes less “don’t consume porn” and more “don’t consume porn and also if you talk to anyone who has ever watched Cinemax at 3 am, we’ll set a demon upon you.”

‘The Lock In’s Demon Only Shows Up Once

Not that the demon in the movie really matters all that much. If you want to scare a bunch of teens straight, you’ll have to do better than a split-second, poorly edited demon face on some random child in a dark room. The Lock In, just like many other Christian horror films, has absolutely no stakes, no suspense, and no scares. Every thrown trash can, every rolling ball, and every random growl is entirely predictable and the characters know it as well as we do. The actors constantly break into smiles and giggles when the demon knocks things over or when they’re supposed to be cautiously sneaking around dark corners.

We only see the demon once in the film, 61 minutes into the 88-minute runtime. Normally, in a found footage film, these reveals hit harder because we can see the way the camera shakes as the person filming makes contact. That’s the strength of found footage. We’re seeing it in real-time, unfiltered and “unedited.” The Lock In flat out fails to utilize this element. The whole movie is shown through Justin’s camera and the church security cameras, but we’re shown security shots that are ultimately meaningless, and Justin’s video spends more time zooming in and out and focusing weirdly than it does showing us the fear these kids are supposed to feel.

When it comes to Christian horror movies, especially ones that attempt to copy popular horror films, they lack any understanding of the genre and the material they’re replicating. Paranormal Activity isn’t scary because it has a demon in it. It’s scary because of the way the found footage elements made the mundane tense and suspenseful. The Lock In completely overlooks all the things that made Paranormal Activity such a success. Who needs good cinematography when you just want to beat your audience over the head with the moral?

This is Not the First Anti-Porn Christian Horror Rip-Off

Everyone turns to look at Justin as he returns to the sanctuary in The Lock In
Image via Holy Moly Pictures

And speaking of morals, The Lock In was not the first anti-porn film in this genre. The Lock In’s director, Richard Praytor, wrote and directed a film called Harmless in 2012. Harmless was also a found footage horror film about a haunted porn magazine (or, well, a box of them) that a family finds in the closet of their house. It’s about as subtle and well-made as The Lock In, and it’s also very similar to Paranormal Activity; it seems Praytor felt the need to tell the same story, with the same messages, twice in two years. You have to admire the tenacity, if nothing else.

It’s interesting how blatant the messaging of these types of films is when horror films with similar messages were able to tell them without outright stating it.Friday the 13th is a great example. So many of the deaths in those films happen while characters are engaging in “immoral” acts, like taking drugs or having sex. On the surface, you don’t think anything of it, really. Those activities make a person less aware of their surroundings, of course, the killer would strike! However, we can also look at the time these films were released, the 1980s, and some of the moral panics that existed at the time, and come to a deeper conclusion of this being a warning of what happens when you do something “immoral.” However, the people behind Christian horror movies seem to only be able to make films with messaging as subtle as a dozen elephants in fur coats doing the macarena. But that’s okay because it means we’ll never be short on entries for bad horror movie marathons.

The Lock In is currently not available on streaming.

#Christian #Version #Paranormal #Activity #Worse

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