Saturday, October 17, 2009

"Christian Horror" - Is that even possible?

Well, obviously, I think it is. I mean, look around this place :)

Over the years of writing/promoting "The Coming Evil", I've often used the term "Christian Horror". Mainly as a means of getting people's attention. You can't hardly walk up to someone with a straight face and say "Hey, I write Christian Horror" without them looking at you all bug-eyed and immediately asking "What's that?" Which gives me a perfect opportunity to tell them about my book :) But I've had to do my fair share of defending. I have been told on numerous occasions that the term is an oxymoron, that it's impossible (to which I say "bah!"), or that it's just plain wrong. I think the reasoning behind that response is that some people just don't understand "horror" (well, Christians, anyway. The horror fans have problems understanding or recognizing what Biblical Christianity is meant to be, but that's a blog for another day :p).

Recently over at the Cloud Ten Pictures Blog, there's been just a bit of controversy surrounding their upcoming release Dangerous Calling. It's a pretty good little movie that's been getting a lot of buzz. Kind of an exaggerated "Psycho" version of what happens when legalism and church politics get way out of hand. "Dangerous Calling" is more of a thriller (no supernatural elements, ya know), but some Christians are fearful that it's too close to the realm of "horror", which has led some to speculate -- "Is Christian Horror a good thing?"

Normally I'm not one for debate. Everybody's got an opinion and when we all jump to say ours (especially here on the internets) we get so caught up in hearing ourselves talk that we just start shouting over one another and things get heated and dramatic when they really shouldn't--especially among brother and sister believers. But, for awhile now, I've wanted to write a blog about what "Christian Horror" means to me. Because, it's not just a marketing label, but something that I live and breathe and am very passionate about. I figured now was as good excuse as any to give some of my many thoughts on the topic. In light of that, here's a version of the response that I posted on the Cloud Ten Pictures blog:

One of the biggest complaints I've heard against horror movies is that they are populated by “sex, nudity, drugs, profanity, etc.” But I would say that is hardly exclusive to the “horror” genre. In fact, I’ve nearly sworn off of comedies, because, as far as I’ve seen, modern comedies are nothing but sex jokes and profanity and bong-smoking and it’s all portrayed as being “good clean fun”. But, I wouldn’t say that the entire comedy genre is hopeless or Satan’s playground. I’d just say that it’s worldly and in need of some godly influence. Horror is not defined by its sex and violence. I run into many people who, when I tell them I write horror, they think I mean Friday the 13th. But Friday the 13th does not define the genre. I look back to Frederic March’s portrayal in the 1932 film adaptation of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”. What a wonderful, complex study on the struggle between the sin nature and the divine nature! I think to the Universal Monster movies. What great treasures that don’t rely on sex and violence and nudity and drugs and profanity at all. Just good stories with good messages—maybe not intended to be “Christian”, but there is definitely Christian influence in them.

I wholeheartedly understand and recommend using caution and wisdom in the kinds of horror moves one watches. As a happily married man who’d like to stay that way, the last thing I need is to see an hour and a half of some underpaid, surgically enhanced B-movie actress flaunting her naked body in my face. Discretion is absolutely needed, but, I’m not willing to rule out the genre as a whole because of those examples.

Before I had ever seen one single horror movie, I was captivated by ghost stories told around flashlight at sleepovers. I was terrified, but I wanted to hear more. I’ve always been a pretty introspective guy, and I really did a lot of soul searching into why I felt that way. I believe horror—at least for me—is about putting a face to faceless fears in life and confronting them. Fear of the unknown, of things beyond our control. Horror has always been here. “Horror” might be a bad term, because it evokes a lot of “slasher movie” images for people (which is unfortunate, because there’s so much more out there that is offered) but the essence of telling those scary stories is timeless. Even in the Bible, in 1 Peter, it says the Devil is like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Is the Devil literally a lion? Does he literally eat human flesh? I don’t think so. I think the intent in that passage is to convey a spiritual truth using fairly graphic and visceral imagery. When “horror” is at its best, isn’t it the same way? We’re using exaggerated pictures, perhaps, but what we’re saying is something of substance. What does horror say about us? Is it just rampant debauchery, as some would believe? I don’t think so. I think there are deeper questions there—people are afraid of death, afraid of that unknown. As Christians, we believe the Bible addresses those concerns with the light of truth! What more wonderful of an opportunity to go to those people who have those questions and are already looking for answers, and give them that hope in Christ? I’m not saying that “Christian Horror” as a budding genre has or always will live up to that potential, but that is certainly something I’ve spent my entire adult life trying to do. To face that fear head-on with faith and to give people looking for a way to deal with life’s difficulties some measure of hope.

That’s what writing “Christian Horror” means to me. I realize that it’s not for everyone. I’ve met Christians who have had problems breaking away from the occult in the past, and they won’t go near my work, and I encourage them not to. I wouldn’t want to cause a brother or sister to stumble. Some Christians who are recovered alcoholics are called to deal with other alcoholics, but others would find that only a greater temptation to slip back into their old habits. But, I still believe that the work is important and I’m not ready to hand over the genre to Satan or just plain worldliness. There will always be people drawn to the horror genre, and I hope that there can be mature believers waiting for them with something more than just fright-filled fun.

That’s my take on it.

Click here to read Part Two of my thoughts on "Christian Horror", entitled "The Coming Evil: Just an excuse to preach?"

If you've got an opinion you'd like to share, I'd invite you to head over to the Cloud Ten Pictures Blog (not here :p) and sound off. I'm not encouraging a flame war, here, but I think we can learn a lot from each other in civil discussion.

1 comment:

The Gill-Man said...

Very nicely put, and you sum up many of my feelings regarding horror quite well! The very best horror stories are those that have a moral element to them: the horror is usually unleashed by someone's sinful acts...or plain apathy regading evil. In my opinion, there is not only room for more Christian voices in horror...there is a true NEED for it!