Finding God in Paranormal Activity 3


As a straight up fright machine, paranormal activity 3 does the job. yes it’s not to everyones tastes; yes when viewed as part of an ever-expanding story, it fails miserably; yes its another ‘found footage’ film; but as a standalone film who’s sole purpose is to make you jump; it works.

I saw the film a couple of months ago at a midnight screening in Dunfermline. I was there for a Baptist conference of all things. The main evening session finished at 9.30pm and I began the walk back to the hotel I was staying in. Upon returning to my room, I turned on the TV and faced with the prospect of several hours of mindnumbing reality/game shows, I decided to walk over to the local cinema to see what was on.

I bought my ticket for ‘paranormal activity 3′, took my seat in the empty cinema and for the next hour and a half, jumped, laughed and shifted uncomfortably in my seat. It helped that the rest of the cinema was filled with teenagers who would jump at the mere thought of the word ‘boo’.

Now, I am an avid horror film watcher and I’ll be honest, it takes a lot to make me jump, but let me tell you, this did it. many times.

But I’m not here to tell you about that. I’m here to tell you that many of the young people who work with and interact with will have seen it and so it’s good to have an idea of what it’s about and discussions you can have around it with them.

What’s it about?

Paranormal Activity 3 is (you guessed it) the 3rd film in the increasingly popular ‘found footage’ series that follows Katie and Kristi and the evil that has possessed their family. This film is a prequel to the 2nd film which was in turn a prequel to the first. For a full plot breakdown, click here.

Whenever I want to explore the issues in a film, I start with 3 basic questions:

1)  What the key themes that this film is trying to engage with?

2)   Can you see yourself in any roles / do you identify yourself with any characters?

3)  Are there any background influences from writers/directors that shape the view?

For me, there are a number of themes that the film is trying to engage with but I want to explore a couple briefly.

The home

Where do we feel safe? That’s a big question of PA3. The family get to the stage that they do not feel safe in their own home anymore and (spoiler) go to Kristis’ mums home, which turns out to be the worst decision they could have made. What do you do when your home is no longer a place you feel safe? For many young people this is an experience they face.

As an aside, horror films in general seem to reflect the culture at the time, In the 50s and 60s there was a plethora of films about bodysnatchers etc which were a thinly veiled analogy of communism and the cold war (they look like us but they’re not, they’re evil). Skip forward to the late 90′s and early 00s and we get the ‘torture porn’ or ‘gorno’ films which some argue is all about the abuse of the West in Guantanamo. Now during the recession, where people know longer feel secure in their homes because they might get reposessed because of late payments, we get a whole raft of films about entities coming in and taking away their safety and security. Makes you think eh?

Do your young people feel safe in their home? Do they feel safe with God? Is he the strong tower and refuge of the psalms? What would help them feel like that?

The Supernatural

During the 90s, horror films had moved away from the supernatural. Villains were explained away by science. Zombies were created because of viruses; monsters were created in labs. Horror films reflected the strong hold that modernity still had on culture. What’s interesting is that since the start of the new millennium the West has seen an increase in supernatural films again and the success of The Paranormal Activity series demonstrates that people are believing in this idea again.

What do the young people you work with think of ghosts?

Last week I was speaking in school to a group of 3rd year students who were all happy to admit they believed in ghosts but the idea of a god seemed ridiculous. What do your young people think of the spirit realm and are there ways to bring god in to this type of discussion.

The Characters

The general split between the cast are those who don’t believe it and need physical proof, those who do believe it and want to run away, and those who are far too nosy for their own good. Who do your young people relate to? Is it the same when it comes to thinking about God?

In Conclusion

I’ll leave it at that just now as I could go on and on but I urge you chat to young people about this movie (especially if they’ve seen it) as it is guaranteed to bring up some great discussions.


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