“Paranormal Activity” and Religious Ignorance

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.


UPDATE: Eric at O God Come to My Assistance has a more indepth blogpost about the movie here that is well worth reading.


6 thoughts on ““Paranormal Activity” and Religious Ignorance

  1. You are completely right. The one thing I complained about to my husband is how the stupid boyfriend in the movie burned the cross that the girlfriend was holding. Why in the world would you do that?

  2. seriously… are you people really going to whine over them not praying? get over it. this is america and anyone can make a movie where they dont pray or call a priest to shun the demon out. you use your freedom of religion to put god in everything but yet someone does not put god in a movie and you whine. seriously bible thumpers like you are what are turning this country into a hell hole. hypocrites.. lol that was the worst thing to be in jesus’s eyes.

  3. I see you’ve also shared your thoughts on the movie (and referred to my own reflection).

    A part of me wondered if the introduction of the cross in Katie’s hand was a sign of desperation, a gesture of finally turning to a “higher power” (perhaps God, but no belief is uttered ever), or if it was just to provoke the audience.

  4. A.S.: The boyfriend made very little sense to me at all. But that was his necessary role for the script. Plainly our protagonists were not to be viewed as the most in-synch or mature relationship ever on screen.

    Thomas A: My chief beef is with the cavalier attitude toward something the boyfriend willing calls a “demon”. Anything you so describe would not seem to be something to trifle with. And traditionally, one goes to a religious setting to seek relief from something so called. Even if the religious is a witch doctor. In other words, I felt the couple acted stupidly, like the people who always go into the dark part of the house alone in these films.

    Eric: Hi again. Appreciated your reflection on the movie. Let me have my cake and eat it by saying the cross was a bit of all three alternatives. Desperation and turning to the “nice one”, in character logic.

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