The thing that got me during the movie was the utter lack of anything religious in the movie. No one prays even in extreme situations, and the nonchalance the couple have when they narrow their night visitor’s identity to a ghost or a demon is unthinkable in a religious context. Even the slightest acquaintance with the Gospels accounts of the demonized shows people being used in very cruel ways:
Mar 1:26 NET. After throwing him into convulsions, the unclean spirit cried out with a loud voice and came out of him.
Mar 5:2-5 NET. Just as Jesus was getting out of the boat, a man with an unclean spirit came from the tombs and met him. (3) He lived among the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. (4) For his hands and feet had often been bound with chains and shackles, but he had torn the chains apart and broken the shackles in pieces. No one was strong enough to subdue him. (5) Each night and every day among the tombs and in the mountains, he would cry out and cut himself with stones.
Mar 9:17-18 NET. A member of the crowd said to him, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that makes him mute. (18) Whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they were not able to do so.”…Mar 9:21-22 NET. Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. (22) It has often thrown him into fire or water to destroy him. But if you are able to do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
Yet no one suggests praying, calling a minister of any denomination, visiting any church, etc. I suppose I should take into account the story is set in California, but still….
The film’s protagonists show a cultural ignorance as well. The progression of events is highly like that in The Exorcist, where troubles start small and grow until huge.
Of course, part of the reason for this is the plot, which is doubtless based on the movie’s tiny budget, quoted between $11,000 and $15,000 in reviews I’ve read. That’s pocket change for almost any studio film, and a small budget even for very independent films. The film has four actors, one location, and an desire to make a virtue of it’s cheapness, ala Blair Witch Project. I thought it succeeded quite well. The acting isn’t great but it isn’t horrible, either, and the film’s most effective sequences are exactly what has been advertised, the nighttime static videocam footage of the bedroom with the open hallway in the background.
As I watched the film I was curious just how many people in the audiences viewing the film would be as similarly secular when faced with paranormal activity. I’ve often heard we are a post-Christian nation; this movie put that in perspective for me.