Cashing in on Paranoia

For almost two months now, every night when I go to sleep, my eyes keep fluttering open to check the walls of my bedroom, till sleep finally takes over. These wall I am talking about, get filled with myriad patterns from the play of light and shadows from outside. The light of a street lamp, or a car passing on the road, light from a neighbor’s bedroom, they all play hide and seek with the shades of my windows to create amazing cris-crosses of lines. They have been appearing on my walls for as long as we have lived here, but never did I give them much attention. That though, was till I watched the Conjuring.

It was, I think, just after Diwali that I saw the movie. While the whole movie was scary to the hilt, the one thing that has followed me ever since is the sign of ‘Anti-Christ’, i.e. an inverted cross. This sign appears in the body of a possessed person whom Vera Farmiga, the lead lady, exorcises. It appears for just a few seconds in the movie, but the sign has got imprinted in my mind. The reason?

The night I saw the movie, I was in my bed, with the kiddo and hubby gently snoring beside me, I myself slowly drifting in and out of sleep, when I saw this sign appear on the wall of my bedroom. At first, I did not think much of it. In fact, I remember going to sleep thinking, “Isn’t that the sign I saw in the movie? How funny!” It was when I got up the next morning, that realization struck me. What was that sign doing in my bedroom? Although logic and reasoning tell me beyond doubt that it was nothing but an innocent play of light, my heart has been ill at ease ever since. I didn’t see the sign again after that, till about two weeks back. Once again, my mind was (and still is) convinced that by some coincidence the source of light and the blinds of my window got aligned the same way they did the first time, creating the same pattern. My heart, however, started racing in panic. The first thing I did on the morning after the second sighting was to hang a calendar having a big picture of Lord Balaji and Goddess Lakshmi on the bedroom wall. And every night, my lips automatically go, “Sairam, Sairam, Sairam…,” lest I end up seeing that sign again.

It is crazy how these horror movies play with human mind isn’t it? They take advantage of the fact that the human mind believes earnestly that it does not know all that is to be known, and that there are things that are beyond its comprehension, vision and wisdom. We as a species are always open to possibilities, and this leads us to imagine what all might go on when we are not looking, and even when we look but are not able to see. That is why the theories of the Unnatural thrive, be it in the form of the paranormal, the extra-terrestrial, or even God.

Take another horror movie that sent chills down my spine, the Paranormal Activity series, for instance. In its 4th installment, there is a scene where a small kid is bathing in his bathtub. The mother is with him, but suddenly the phone starts ringing and she has to go out to attend it. You see the child playing in the tub all alone and all of a sudden, he vanishes. Just whoosh. After about half a minute, he appears again in the bathtub, all dazzled and shocked. The mother returns after talking on the phone, unaware of what has just happened, and assumes that the child is just unhappy at being left alone. Seriously, after watching that, there have been many instances when I have run back to the room where Sid is sleeping to check on him. Just to make sure that he is still there. In the same movie, the same child keeps talking to someone no one else is able to see. Initially everyone just takes him to be play-acting, until things start getting serious. I wonder if my mind will be at ease if Sid starts talking by himself in the future.

These movies do a great job of inception, the kind Di Caprio performs in the movie of the same name. As Caprio says, an idea is like a seed. You just have to plant it in your brain and watch it grow into a full blooming tree. These thrillers act on a single premise – the idea that there is something out there that you don’t know of. The way these movies are shot tend to make us believe that they are really, real. Paranormal Activity, for example, is shot with handheld cameras to give you a feeling of reality. With that, they make a lasting impact on their viewers’ minds and therein lies their success.

Just yesterday, I was watching this movie called The Fourth Kind. It is based on a spate of mysterious disappearances in the city of Nome in Alaska. The movie, shot like a documentary using ‘archived footage’, attributes the disappearances to ‘alien abductions’. It says that aliens visit the people of Nome (those visited remember seeing something that looks like an owl, but is not an owl), take them somewhere, do things to them and bring them back to their homes. Only, after these abductions the victims are not their own self ever after. They go paranoid, and end up committing suicide. Those disappeared are the ones whom the aliens did not return back.

In one of the scenes in the movie, the alien force resists the attempts of few doctors trying to find out what really happened by hypnotizing the patients. The alien suddenly starts speaking through the patient’s mouth, and it says, in an ancient Earthen language called Sumeran, that “I will enforce my will” and “I am God!”

Now I was watching this movie with a kind of suspended belief. The movie to me, after having watched PA and Conjuring, did seem a bit like a joke. I was amused and thinking, “Oh gosh! How far will these people go to sell their movies!” When I heard the alien proclaiming “I am God”, I did laugh out loud, for it sounded more like Devil than God. However, the tiny idea that statement was meant to plant in my mind, that it could be possible that God is nothing but an advanced species who planted us on Earth for whatever reasons, got planted all right. I heard myself thinking aloud, why could it not be true. I think the same theme is explored in the movie Prometheus too, though I have not seen it completely. However, a bit more research on the movie and it affirmed my mind’s claim that it was all a farce. Even the archived footage was fake as were the news columns spun around the movie. It was all, it seems, nothing but a marketing gimmick to draw people to the movie. You can read more about it here.

Movies like these affect some people more than others perhaps. I know I lie in the former category. Still that is not a deterrent for me from watching them, for at the end of the day, logic wins inside my mind too. That, or my mind is ever craving to find out all kinds of possibilities that could possibly be there. That is the reason perhaps I tend to gravitate towards the fantastic – whether it be making Lord Shiva a mere mortal, God an alien, a small kid a devil. And that is perhaps exactly the reason why such stories find success, and a steady stream of followers willing to believe in them.

P.S – I thought of searching images to go with this post, but just looking at them, for all the movies I have discussed here, was so disturbing that I thought better of it. What if it serves as an invitation to those ‘unnatural forces’ and make them think that I am receptive to them? Well, I am better off the way I am, and I guess it is just better to live and let live (err… or whatever it is that they do).

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