"Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body." —1 Corinthians 6:18
"Let's just say I now believe there's a correlation between pornography and demon activity." —Pastor Chris, The Lock In
When The Lock In was released, Holy Moly Pictures sent out a press release explaining the incredibly unsubtle moral message that led to the film's production. "Movies have always been a good medium to highlight social issues," said the studio. "Pornography is a growing epidemic in the church community for men, women, and children, with most of the underage victims being exposed in a place thought to be safe. 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."
The Lock In takes place in spring 2010, in a nondescript place best described as Anytown, USA. (It could even have been your town!) The First Baptist Church has organized what will surely be a safe, innocent lock in for its teenaged members. They'll spend the night in the church, eat some pizza, hang out with their friends, learn about faith, pray to God. What could possibly go wrong?
Thanks to the evils of pornography, pretty much everything. What happened to one boy on that fateful night was so horrible and terrifying that it caused the First Baptist Church's youth pastor — identified only as "Chris"— to resign his post immediately after seeing the footage.
After a brief intro from Pastor Chris, we're invited to watch the footage for ourselves. The narrative centers on a Christian teen named Justin, whose repressed, hormone-raging friends are gearing up for the lock in. On their way to the church, one of them finds a seemingly inconspicuous bag of porn near a dumpster in their neighborhood. In a an attempt at a wacky prank, one of his knucklehead friends decides to sneak it into Justin's backpack. Ha ha, right? Not so fast. That's no ordinary bag of porn — that's a haunted bag of porn.
Unfortunately for Justin, the person who discovers the porn is Jessica, the girl he's been crushing on, and she rats him out immediately. Justin and his friends receive a stern lecture from Pastor Chris about the dangers of pornography. In the end, there's only one solution he deems appropriate: Taking the bag out to the parking lot and burning it. That's the end of that, right?
Wrong. Not only does the bag of demon-porn magically reappear in the church, but everyone else disappears, and Justin and his friends spend a terrifying night being pursued by nasty porn-demons intent on scaring the sin out of them.
The Lock In never actually shows us what these porn-demons look like. Instead, the demons' brand of haunting relies on cheap parlor tricks. Doors are mysteriously shut. Trash cans are flipped over. Lights flicker in menacing ways.
As our heroes wander around the deserted church, they finally stumble upon Jessica, and the group collectively decides to hole up in a random room and await help. But the porn-demons have other plans. As Justin and company sit around, reflecting on how terrible porn is and how sorry they are for the evils they've unleashed, a porn-demon scares them out of their hiding places — and one by one, they begin to disappear, until it's just Justin and his camera. And then he discovers the solution: Holy water. He emerges from a fountain and marches around the church, casting the porn-demons away because he's been "saved."
He enters the sanctuary, soaking wet, and everyone is there, and everything is back to normal. What's even more mysterious is that Justin was apparently gone "for, like, two minutes," and his friends have no recollection of their night of terror. It's as if it never happened! (Or did it…?)
The Lock In shares a certain amount of DNA with beloved "so bad they're good" films like The Room, Troll 2, and Birdemic: Shock and Terror — films whose deranged creators approach their art with such sincerity and earnestness that the end result is almost touchingly awful. The cheap special effects look like they were crafted on iMovie (and probably were). The already unconvincing teen actors are forced to deliver insane, mealy-mouthed dialogue that no normal person would actually use: "Porn has destroyed my family. It has ripped my family to shreds because my dad couldn't let those magazines go," complains one character. "My pop pop caught me watching pornography on my computer once," says another. "Afterwards he ran over my computer with his truck, which sucked because all my poetry was on there too."
But despite its ineptitude, you have to give The Lock In some credit for its attempt at a moral message. I can't decide if the filmmakers thought a found-footage horror movie about porn-demons would actually scare Christians away from the stuff, or if they were just trying to have fun with the constraints of the unsubtle moral they were required to deliver. For better or worse, they've made a movie that demands to be seen — if only to roast at your next bad movie night.