In 2007, a low budget film was created by using handheld cameras and actors creating their own dialogue (ala Blair Witch Project). The project was called Paranormal Activity.
The movie languished on a back shelf for two years.
Finally, a clever internet campaign is started, encouraging movie goers to request the film be brought to their local theater. Video showing the reaction of people as they watch the film creates a buzz of interest. Critics who screen the movie declare it "the scariest movie of the year".
As a result, 1 MILLION people respond to the campaign.
Every October since Paranormal Activity first shocked audiences in 2009 a new installment has been added to the wildly popular franchise. The latest installment still debuted in the top spot, despite poor reviews and making substantially less money during it's opening weekend than its predecessors----and the fifth installment has already been announced for Halloween 2013.
One really must ask the question "WHY"? What is it about these films which has people spending their money to see the same visual style of film and a story which remains unchanged from the original through it's multiple sequels?
My person opinion is this. The popularity of quasi-reality programs such as Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures, Paranormal Witness (et al), is what fuels the interest in the Paranormal Activity movie franchise. All of these popular reality programs are based on real people claiming haunting activity which is investigated by ghost hunters.
Paranormal Activity presents itself as "real".
The video technique is reminiscent of what viewers see each week on any of the paranormal reality shows available every day. The actors portrayals suggest realism as opposed to a scripted (or even ad libbed) fictional production. The movies are promoted in a realistic manner (as if these events really took place). So not unlike what happened with The Blair Witch Project, there are people who can't help wonder if what they are witnessing in the films is real.
I've viewed the first three films in the Paranormal Activity franchise. In fact, I wrote a chapter about the first movie in my book, Escaping the Cauldron, offering a personal analysis and what it portrays.
Why did I do this?
Since 2009, I have been addressing the questions being raised as people watch these films (and the growing interest which drives them back every year). Is Paranormal Activity authentic? Is there any possibility what's portrayed in these films could happen in real life? Should Christians watch Paranormal Activity or any of its sequels?
Honestly, I think the more important question is why do Christians want to see the films in the first place? Here are some other things to consider:
What's the purpose or motivation for following the Paranormal Activity movies? Do these movies feed into an interest in the paranormal already being entertained by watching paranormal television programs? Is there any real entertainment value or benefit to watching the Paranormal Activity franchise?
More importantly, what does the Bible say about opening our lives to fear (which these movies can certainly inspire)? What spiritual doors are we opening into our lives (or children's) by watching these films? Do we go to the Bible for answers regarding the spiritual world or are these movies (and the many programs like them) informing our beliefs?
I will say this about the Paranormal Activity franchise. The movies never mince words about what is causing the "activity" being experienced by its characters or that its absolutely evil. But there are better ways for a Christian to grasp the reality of the spiritual world which surrounds us (hint---the BIBLE tells all we need to know). There are definitely better ways to spend time and money than on these movies.
Escaping the Cauldron is a helpful resource Christians can use to better understand movies such as Paranormal Activity, Harry Potter, and Twilight. Part Bible Study, Part Memoir, this book will give readers valuable perspective on the issues facing our society as the occult becomes more popular. Now available on Amazon,Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million, Family Christian, and in stores everywhere.