Horror taps into primal truths

Horror films serve as a reminder of the unexplainable and seemingly irrational, and provide an opportunity to tell theologically forward stories.


Jennifer Carpenter, playing Emily Rose in the movie “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”, walks through a hallway in Alpha while on location for the film. | cinefantastiqueonline.com

David Vendrell, Writer

Ahhh, Halloween time. We all know what means — an excuse for us to take one step closer to diabetes, to wear the costumes we wish we could put on every day and, of course, binge on scary movies. For as long as the cliche of “don’t look under the bed” has existed, horror films have carried around a somewhat negative stigma. They are an excuse to delve deep into the darkness of humanity or as empty entertainment through psychopathic murderers, evil curses or haunted beasts. This attitude misses the incredible opportunity to explore some of the most theologically forward stories possible.

Horror films, more than any other genre, tap into our most primal fears. The adrenaline rush we receive when something makes us jump, scream or forces the hairs on our back to freeze is exactly what keeps audiences coming back for more.

The past several years have instigated a new trend in horror filmmaking — the demonic possession or supernatural movie. These narratives are a dime a dozen as audiences flock in droves for the next “Paranormal Activity” or “Insidious.” Some people here might feel wary of this current onslaught, but I could not be more excited about the possibilities before us.

We Christians not only understand the reality of demonic possession, but can safely say that it petrifies most of us. How could we not feel this way when cognizant of the spiritual battle that occurs all around us? We may not be able to see it, but we know and can sometimes feel its existence. The inherent power and mystery of this unknown terrifies the world.

I find it exciting to see the amount of films that respect the weight of this occurrence. Biola alum Scott Derrickson has made a career in telling stories rooted in the spiritual dimension with his 2005 film “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” and the powerful “Deliver Us From Evil,” released this summer. Last year’s highly successful “The Conjuring” horrified us. These films probe audiences into asking one main question: “Can this actually happen?”

Not everyone can handle horror movies, and that is perfectly okay. But for those who can, do not run away from these stories. Embrace them. Use them as a reminder of the power of the seemingly unexplainable and irrational. Acknowledge the reality of the supernatural. Pray for God’s endless protection. This Halloween, make some popcorn, invite some friends over, watch a scary movie and spark a conversation — just remember to turn on the lights first.

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