Occasionally, very occasionally, bad movies are better than good movies. Not cheaply made movies (although, sometimes), or movies that nobody’s heart was in. A really good bad movie is something somebody loved. I’m talking about a movie that somebody, whether director, producer, or writer (or the perfect storm where all those people are the same person–especially when that person is Tommy Wiseau) believes beyond a shadow of a doubt that what they are doing is important despite the fact that they should be doing anything but making movies with their lives. That is when you get gold.
Well, add a new name to that pantheon of shit-gold movies, because 2014’s The Lock-In is goddamned amazing.
Let me preface with this however: The Lock-In is a religious movie and produced by religious institutions– that is where it gets that spark from. That is not why it is bad.
The Lock-In is bad because it is ridiculous, and that is why its great. This is a horror movie about the evils of porn. Yes you read that right; this is a horror movie about the evils of porn. Now I can hear those willing to play devil’s advocate here and claim you could make a decent movie like that using porn addiction to show the dark side of the culture and the steady decline of ones life through gradually more and more hyperbolic scenarios until we have a pretty good slasher thriller on our hands a la lust from Se7ven. The Lock-In doesn’t take the gritty realism approach. According to them, watching porn summons demons.
Not even just a lot of porn; like, any porn.
The main conflict of the movie comes from three churchgoing youths who bring a single dirty magazine to the titular youth lock-in. What sounds like the setup to a PSA in which the boys are taught about appropriate and inappropriate behavior and then sent out to the back yard to go back to playing stick-ball is stretched out into an 80-minute found-footage style movie depicting the boys and the main love interest sprinting back and forth from one end of the church to the other screaming while pursued by every horror trope in the book (i.e. creepy children, loud banging, plot inconsistency).
Now, the ridiculousness isn’t solely the fault of the premise (although, if glimpsing porn for a full 30 seconds will do that, why isn’t that a more widely known phenomenon in that movie world???), it’s helped along by bad acting, poor production value, and the main characters’ constant habit of reiterating what just happened in the previous scene.
Here’s some of the highlights as I recall them:
- One character supposedly tries to break a window with a chair with comically little effort.
- The actors at one point get their own characters’ names wrong.
- The main character’s color changing shirt.
- This scene where they go crazy midway through the movie and play with puppets for some reason.
- One actor’s barely concealed laughter on set.
- And this glorious scene (watch to the left at 1:20:00).
What helps all of this come together to be the movie that Gotham deserves, is the prevailing attitude of the movie that porn is literally this bad for you. At one pivotal moment, love-interest Jessica gives the boys who inadvertently showed her the porn (and immediately damned her soul, apparently) a piece of her mind. She tells them the sad story of how porn tore her family apart, challenging them to still think their prank was funny afterwards. She turns her ‘how-could-you-glare’ on the main instigator of the movie, Blake, the class-clown, who retorts with the sob story of how his family was tragically torn apart by porn! What are the odds?! Shortly after, we are treated to the discovery of a videotape of some other random dude and his sob story about how porn ruined his life (along with some of those Paranormal Activity tropes I mentioned above).
I’ve mentioned how porn addiction is a real thing that people do suffer from, but come on! This portrayal of viewing porn as having no grey area (or white, for that matter) is cartoonishly severe (and also a bit rich coming from a movie that shows adults shaming teenagers for not repressing their urges enough to the point where one of the main characters parents literally scream at him on finding out he likes a girl).