Directed by N/A
When I was in my early teens, I attended a youth group for several years at the church where my friend’s dad was pastor. At first it was because I truly believed in what the preacher was spouting every Wednesday night, but over time it became little more than an excuse to hang out with my friends and maybe, just maybe, cop a feel on my first “girlfriend” (N.B. I didn’t). Despite my belief in God, I bore false witness constantly. By my third religious retreat to a megachurch in Lakeland, Florida, I was going merely to spend time with people I cared about and hit on girls. It was a very disappointing experience for me, though technically I’ve been “saved” three times, so I got that going for me.
Since then, my religious involvement has erred on the side of blasphemy; while I respect those with differing beliefs, I can’t help but poke fun at religion, especially when it involves the marriage of polar opposites. Enter The Lock In. A found footage horror film by Holy Moly Productions, The Lock In seeks to warn its viewers of the inextricable link between pornography and demonic activity. As a fan of found footage, I couldn’t help but be intrigued. How ironic would it be if a found footage horror film, produced by a Christian production company to be a warning against the evils of pornography, was better than its secular contemporaries? I mean, it’s not, but it would be really funny if it was, huh?
The Lock In opens with Chris, former pastor of First Baptist Church turned insurance salesman, being interviewed about the footage we’re about to see. To sum it up, the film we’re about to watch is definitive proof of the connection between pornography and demonic activity. We then quickly cut to Blake and Justin, two friends picking up their buddy Nick for a lock in at their local church. They arrive at his home, and we’re quickly thrust into the world of the dangers of sex as Nick’s parents pick up on the fact that Blake intends to set him up with a girl named Jessica. As devout Christians and firm in their belief that you shouldn’t touch a woman before the age of 25, his parents compel him to pray with them while Justin films and Blake laughs. It’s one of the best moments in the film, if only because of how exaggerated the parents’ acting is.
On their way to the lock in, we learn a few things about our three major players. Nick is shy, and not readily willing to admit that he thinks Jessica is cute; Justin lives with his grandparents and has a penchant for dumpster diving, which draws endless criticism from his so-called friends; and Blake, ostensibly the main character who inadvertently unleashes upon his friend a porn demon. After pulling over to throw away the trash that clutters Blake’s car, they discover a “dirty magazine” wrapped in a brown paper bag. As a prank, Blake slips it into Nick’s backpack and they head off to a night of games, pizza, and G-rated fun.
Upon arriving we meet Jessica and her friend Genesis, followed by Pastor Chris. He’s the sort of lovable pastor who tries way too hard to be cool, but in the end you really wouldn’t be surprised when a gay sex dungeon is discovered in his basement. After an introduction to the lock in, Jessica goes searching for Oreos in Nick’s backpack and stumbles across the magazine. She freaks out, Pastor Chris has a talk with them about the dangers of pornography and makes fun of Justin for dumpster diving (seriously, they’re kind of dicks about it), then compels them to burn the magazine. Later, the magazine magically reappears, and after attempting to dispose of it in a trash can, the three boys quickly discover that they’re alone in the church with a demon summoned with the AWESOME POWER OF PORNOGRAPHY!
Genuinely reviewing this film from a cinematic standpoint is difficult, as I admittedly went into this film to marvel at how awful it is. If you distance yourself from the message and compare it purely to its contemporaries, it’s easily one of the worst found footage films ever made. Every cliche is utilized in the most basic and dumbed down ways, as if the filmmakers watched just enough trailers to get an idea of what they felt they needed to include to establish a semblance of authenticity. In the press release for the film, it was stated that “the producers of the film hope that not only will it be entertaining, it will also be used as a tool for conversations about the dangers of pornography and the importance of being aware.” It’s entertaining, but definitely not in the way they intended. It’s anything but scary, and at times is so laughably boring that the humor that comes with reveling in its very existence takes a back seat to ennui.
I’ll admit, however, that The Lock In is admirable in its attempts at passing itself off as a real “found footage” horror film. According to the film’s website, the footage was not so much “found” as it was “shown” to the authorities (Spoiler Alert: people dying isn’t very Christian), but they play up the angle as much as they can. There is no director is listed, and the aftermath of the release of the footage, including resignations and an undisclosed monetary settlement, is given in detail on the website. They really went the extra mile to be included among their brethren, and for that, they deserve at least a golf clap, or maybe a half-sincere pat on the back.
As was stated earlier, there’s an inherent bias involved with this review, so I think for the sake of fairness, we should ask the question: Are we its intended audience? And if not, should it still be held to the same standards we hold all other found footage horror movies? Well, yes and no. It’s foolish to assume that The Lock In would appeal to the most hardened of horror fans, but it’s also foolish for the filmmakers to assume that, given its medium, we wouldn’t seek it out. This, of course, says nothing about assholes such as myself who think the idea of a Christian found footage horror film with a message is just…just delightful. But I digress.
As an objective observer who can see the forest through the trees, yeah, I suppose for younger Christian children and their devout parents, The Lock In might serve as a suitable cautionary tale on the intrinsic dangers of pornography to a good Christian child. It’s pretty heavy-handed in its metaphor, but it’s not exactly trying to be subtle. As such, I don’t think the filmmakers can be blamed for making a horrible film, if only because, for them, the message was more important than the quality. But for us horror fans, The Lock In is a stunning failure. The filmmakers are so intent with making their film acceptable to their desired audience that they refused to push the limits of what they could do while still remaining true to their beliefs. It’s so mired in its message that it forgets to actually try and be scary and thus appealing to more than just a small subset of people. As a result, it comes off as nothing more than a lazy and cheap attempt at aping what’s popular. It’s not quite a parody, but it certainly feels like one.
In the end, as a horror film, The Lock In is like most things church related: Boring, entirely too long, and best experienced when drunk or high.
1 out of 5