LOS ANGELES—Joshua Haddow of VICE magazine has conducted an interview with the director of a low budget Christian horror film titled Harmless, which features a box of porn that is anything but. When opened by the family of the grandfather who owned the porn following his passing, demonic forces are unleashed and before you know it, the family is living in hell.
"Do you get it yet?" asks Haddow, who clearly is a fan of the erotic arts. "Christians think porn is evil, and now one of them has made a film where they cast the porn literally as a demon to remind everyone that they should be keeping their hands away from their genitals."
Yes, Harmless is an allegory, but it is also based on a true story, and it is that part of the interview with director/comedian Rich Praytor, during which he explains the origins of the film, that literally made our skin crawl with unspeakable terror. In the real-life version of the story, it would appear that it is the young boy, and not the porn, who is, figuratively, "demonically possessed."
In the interview, Haddow asks Praytor if he has had any personal experience with porn addiction.
"Yeah, well, my dad… the movie was kind of based on my dad," Praytor answers. "I found his dirty magazines and videos when I was a kid, about ten or 11; that was kinda my first experience. It distorted my reality of what sex should be and what sex was. I’m married now and my sex life is fine, but it’s nothing like you see on a porn tape."
Later in the interview, Haddow asks, "Did finding your dad’s porn affect you or your family growing up?"
"Yeah, sure," replies Praytor. "I hated my dad because of that. Because I was nine or ten when I first saw it, but I knew it was wrong. I remember my first thought was that my dad was cheating on my mom. I knew he was hiding it from my mom, so I knew it was kind of a secretive and shameful thing. And he had it in the house up till I left for college! He never knew that I knew, but it did ruin our relationship because it was a real dirty thing."
"Did you ever confront him later in life?"
"I didn’t. He passed away in 2003," said Praytor. "I think that was probably the one thing that stood in the way of our relationship. When I was a high school kid, I didn’t like him being around or touching me, because I knew he was doing things behind my mom’s back."
Remember, this all took place long before the advent of the internet. The porn his father was looking at was probably pretty vanilla. But that did not stop the 11-year-old boy from withdrawing from his father for the rest of his life, not even having the sense when he was older to have the compassion to level with his old man.
Wow, just wow.
In most horror movies, there is a culmination in which either good or evil wins, and usually it is the good, even if a sliver of evil survives to wreak havoc another day.
But in real life, the horror—which can be perpetuated as powerfully by a boy as it can by an adult—often exists at a slow boil forever, and it is people, and not porn, that decide not to forgive... ever.
That is the real message of the movie, and the real allegory, that it is the film that is the manifestation of the real horror visited on an unsuspecting father by an intolerant and unforgiving 11-year-old who carried his hatred all the way into adulthood, right to his father's grave.
Image: Harmless poster and director Rich Praytor