Paranormal fear is what makes Hollywood go around this November, it seems. Starting off with “The Fourth Kind” and finishing with “Paranormal Activity”, November 2009 also just happens to see one of the biggest movie releases ever: “2012”. The common denominator? All of these films use topics that could be described as paranormal, esoteric or new age and twist them into a fearful plot. “Fear the weird” seems to be the topic not just of this Halloween, but the month of November.
First to be released was “The Fourth Kind”. Pretending it is the true story of Alaska psychiatrist Abigail Tyler, who uncovers a series of alien abductions in her hometown, leading to the death of her husband and disappearance of her daughter, the film uses the same ploy as “The Blair Witch Project”: pretending some of the characters are real and that genuine footage is used. In truth, nothing of the movie is genuine. Though some claimed abductees have argued that the movie is representative of their trauma, fact of the matter is that none of those have emerged from a hypnotic session in near-total paralysis because of floating above their bed while reliving their abduction experience. Or kill their entire family before turning the gun on themselves. Or other things best not divulged in the interest of not spoiling the plot of this movie too much. But it is clear that the movie is quite visibly a mixture of the more traumatic abduction stories, as principally promoted by Budd Hopkins and Whitley Strieber, with a mixture of a Twin Peaks setting and a Sitchin-esk fascination with the Sumerian language. As one commentator on the movie noted: not even the landscape around Nome, Alaska as depicted in the movie resembles the real, flat setting of the small town. Nor do many – if any – claimed abductees speak entire Sumerian sentences over again.
The last fear movie to be released in November will be “Paranormal Activity”, whose trailer uses the reaction of a crowd called in for a pre-release screening to show how truly horrifying the movie seems to be. In this case, the premise seems to hinge on the notion that even your bedroom is not safe from paranormal intruders, obviously set out to turn peaceful dreams and lovemaking into a worse than worst nightmare. You are not safe anywhere from fearful intrusions, for, indeed, “The Fourth Kind” equally identifies the bedroom as the most unsafe place of the house. “Be afraid. Be very afraid.”
Caught in between both major releases is “2012”, which is riding high on the fear connected to the 2012 phenomenon. Will the world end? It’s a question that is beginning to weigh heavy on the global mind. In the run-up to the movie release, the Discovery Channel devoted an entire weekend to the question whether 2012 signalled the apocalypse. Indeed, I was told how an Italian ten year old schoolgirl two weeks ago asked her mother whether it was true that in three years’ time, everyone was going to die. The motorway billboards in Los Angeles are advertising the movie 2012 and question whether we are ready… to die. Ten years after the apocalyptic craze created around the solar eclipse of August 11, 1999 that was mentioned by the 16th century French alchemist Nostradamus, the world is going gaga over December 21, 2012, the end date of the Mayan Long Count Calendar.
Will the world end in 2012? The short answer is a simple no. The Maya have never claimed the world would end in 2012. They “merely” used a calendar – the so-called Long Count – which ticks over on December 21, 2012. It is indeed true that this period of time – rather than the exact date itself – was seen as a period of change, but there is no indication whatsoever that this change is as catastrophic as 2012 makes it out to be. For in the movie “2012”, it is clear that the end of the world is literally going to happen, including gigantic tsunamis and terrible earthquakes.
I enjoyed “Independence Day” – from the same director as “2012”. Why? Because no-one left “Independence Day” thinking this was genuine. But the entire premise upon which the promotion of 2012 is released – if not based – is that it is a “fact” that the “Mayans predicted it”. In truth, the Mayans predicted very little about 2012. They identified a calendar date and linked it with change. That is all. And when one reads the fine print of the Mayan cosmology, it is clear that the prophesized change was sociological, not geological.
Three movies, and three times fear-mongering. Geoff Stray, one of the foremost authors and followers of the 2012 phenomenon, argues that nothing in the Mayan cosmology is about the end of the world. His conclusion is diagonally against the beliefs of Belgian author Patrick Geryl, who is a veritable prophet of doom. In November 2008, Geryl literally wagged his finger in front of my nose, stating it was at my own peril not to believe him, as he has always been proven to be right about these matters.
Geryl follows in the footsteps of the Christian apocalyptic doomsayers. His prophecy of doom – like Strieber’s – is eagerly picked up by Hollywood, who use it for fear-mongering science fiction movies. That is in itself nothing too bad. The problem I personally have is that the moviemakers falsely claim it is all “true”. The truth is that nothing about the 2012 phenomenon argues what is depicted in the movie; the same applies to “The Fourth Kind”. And though some will have experienced traumatic paranormal activity in the bedroom, it is equally clear that a lot – in fact most – paranormal activity is totally benign.
Christians take to the street as soon as someone dares to imply that Mary Magdalene and Jesus Christ might have been married. And their irk is given front page news. But the alternative community seems to think it is alright as to what is happening this November. They somehow feel “proud” that Hollywood has devoted attention to these phenomena, and seem to think that the fact it is completely over the top fear-mongering, is a small price to pay for the exposure they receive. That, alas, is in my book not good enough. Furthermore, no-one of the alternative community is interviewed to discuss matters such as 2012. Indeed, the principle interviewees in the major newspapers are the sceptics: those who believe there is nothing immaterial to this universe. Who completely trash everything to do with 2012. Or alien abductions. Or paranormal activity. One thus gets the impression, from leading newspapers, that the entire alternative community embraces 2012 apocalyptic preaching. That is simply not the case.
Some might argue that all of this fear-mongering is part of a wider conspiracy, to create fear. Equally, some conspiracy writers seem to claim there is another purpose to these movies, specifically “preparation”: that somehow, the public is sensitized for a major revelation. It rides high on that decade-long ambition that somehow there is sufficient evidence that ET is real and that the American president should acknowledge their existence.
I wish such thinkers well. But in the meantime, let us see what these movies are definitely doing: they are, whether by accident, design or conspiracy, painting everything that is outside of the ordinary in the most negative and fearful daylight that could possibly be. That is sad. That should be a serious concern. And, specifically, they ride high on bogus footage and claims about alien abductions and the 2012 phenomenon, and, indeed, Mayan cosmology. That should be a serious concern.