“There is a correlation between pornography and demon activity.”
That is a direct line from one of the characters in The Lock In, a The Blair Witch Project-like Christian horror film made for the web by Holy Moly Pictures, a Christian startup company. In the movie, high school seniors attend a church lock-in. One student brings a pornographic magazine to the lock-in, and the magazine is possessed by a demon. According to the Holy Moly Pictures' synopsis, from there “...the boys must come to terms with the pornographic images themselves in order to be truly freed from the demon.” (At one point, they throw the porn rag into the garbage, and the magazine's demon causes the trash can to shake.)
These unironic scenes will probably seem hillarious to secular, porn-loving audiences, who will probably see the movie more as the new The Room than as 2014's A Nightmare on Elm Street. Since last month, the film’s trailer has generated a fair amount of negative criticism. One YouTube user joked, “Wow. If one porno mag can start a hell invasion, I wonder how I survived going on Pornhub for so many years.”
But to Christians, the horror movie is a much more serious film. Producers Rich Praytor and Beverly Banks (she also wrote the film) anticipated commenters’ skeptical remarks and said they don’t believe that masturbating to a Pornhub video is actually going to summon a demon. Their goal for the low-budget project is to present a compelling family-friendly film that reflects their belief that pornography has the potential to disrupt families' lives.
This week, the film became available for streaming on the production company’s website for $7.99, and I spoke to Rich and Beverly about their motives for making the movie, experiences with pornography, and expectations for The Lock In.
VICE: What is the message that you’d like the film to convey?
Beverly Banks: The question was “What topics will actually tear families apart that most families don’t wish to talk about?” We actually set out to create a movie that was really fun that families could watch together and that would inspire conversations about real world issues. Pornography tends to objectify women; it tends to do more harm than good in terms of a family unit. The first topic that really came to mind was pornography.
Did personal experiences with pornography inform the film's ideas?
Rich Praytor: Beverly had been wanting to do a film like this for years—I guess she had gone through some stuff with some of her family members. We wanted to do a movie, and we didn’t have the money to do a full-length feature film. So we thought, What is the film genre that is the cheapest to make? We said a horror film. Anytime you do a film that is faith-based, you want the theme to be something powerful, so we thought, What's a better theme and what's a more controversial theme—as far as for a horror movie—than pornography?
Do you think pornography is against the message of Christianity?
Beverly: I’m not going to say that it necessarily goes against Christianity. I believe that you can watch pornography and still make it to heaven. It’s not one of those big issues that would cause someone to lose their faith necessarily. But it had come to my attention that women in a family can tend to feel very unnerved—almost censored—in their role as a wife and a mother when the males in the family watch and participate in pornography.
Was it easy to get people on board to fund the project?
Beverly: Yes. The idea of there being a Christian horror film is a relatively new one, and I think that things that are new to the market excite people. I think on that merit—and the fact that the purpose of the film is really to bring families together—[people wanted to fund the project].
What are your expectations for the film now that it’s available to stream?
Rich: It's kind of doing what it’s expected to do—raise a little bit of controversy. We’ve gotten a lot of both negative and positive feedback. Anytime you’re dealing with porn or horror or Christianity, people are always going to have an opinion.
What has been the most surprising feedback you’ve gotten?
Rich: I think we’re just surprised at how—and I think it’s always surprised me—anytime someone sees something they disagree with on YouTube or online, they take the time to make the most ridiculous comments about stuff. (It’s kind of funny that people are saying they’re going to watch the film and masturbate to it.) I think the Christian community doesn’t know what to think about it yet, because there aren’t very many Christian horror films, and there aren’t any [horror films] that deal with pornography.
What do you hope people will get out of the movie?
Rich: That there’s another choice, but also to build a conversation around the issue and to discuss why porn is bad and how it can lead to certain behaviors that are not super healthy. It’s geared towards teenagers as well, and that’s why we centered it around a lock-in. Sometimes not everything we see on the internet is a great choice to be involved with.
Watch The Lock In now at the film's official website.