The Thing I Like About …

… the Paranormal Activity franchise: the way it approaches culturally specific supernatural remedies.

Obviously, in a story-line about paranormal activity and, as it’s developed, witchcraft, these movies presuppose a reality that many of us reject in the real world. But there’s an undercurrent of Hispanic, native, and folkloric traditions from the beginning, and the people who espouse those traditions are not rejected, ridiculed, or doubted. Even the father in the second film, when he dismisses the housekeeper, is not doing it because of any condescending on his part, but rather a simple non- denominational rejection of paranormal notions. By the most recent incarnation (Five: The Marked Ones), the entire story-line is couched in the Hispanic community, and the folklore-remedies and religious derivations are accepted as perfectly ordinary, intelligent, and true.

I am not part of the Hispanic culture. But I have always been irritated by the notion of “your belief in things you can’t see is very different from my belief in things I can’t see, so I will assume you are inferior, and, more illogically, that there is only one truth, and nothing ever happens that I don’t already understand.” All horror films challenge that notion – perhaps that’s one of the reasons I’ve always liked them so much – but in Paranormal Activity the tone is more that people-have-always-known-how-to-fight-evil-but-many-of-us-forgot. The tone is that we should turn to those who do remember (the mainstream often refers to that memory as superstition, hokum, nonsense, irrationality, etc.) to fight evil, and we should do EXACTLY what they tell us to do, and their remedies will work. And that’s an important thing to be prepared to do … because weird things happen all the time, things that people can’t explain or understand or predict or control, and the thought that they actually can be explained and understood and predicted and controlled is very comforting.

We just need to be willing to listen, to stop making assumptions, to look dispassionately at the solutions instead of viewing them through filters of routine, “normality”, and comfort-zone. We need to be willing to learn how someone else would do it – without pre-judgment – instead of seeing our own knowledge as the only option.

Because if our own knowledge were the only option, why would there be so many things that we can’t understand or explain or control?

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones continues a pleasant Paranormal tradition of acknowledging the wisdom of all kinds of people, so that in a world where demonic possession movies usually involve priests, wizards, great ancient tomes, scientific wonders, magical relics, despair, fear, and failure, the evil in Marked Ones takes a significant – almost crippling – blow from a little abuela with a chicken egg.

And that’s pretty cool.

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