Of course, there was a time when all movies were considered "worldly" and the great exodus out of Hollywood began. So I guess it's a positive sign that Christians have, at least, conceded film is a legitimate medium. It's also heartening to see the re-emergence of God's people seasoning the earth of Tinseltown and biblical specters, however faint, haunting scripts and studio chambers.
On that note, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, opens this weekend. This is a story I've followed with some interest. In an extremely rare decision, the Catholic Church officially recognized the demonic possession of a 19 year-old college freshman. Told in flashbacks, the film chronicles the trial of the priest accused of negligence, resulting in the death of the young girl and the lawyer who takes on the task of defending him. Scott Derrickson is the writer/director behind the movie. He is an avowed believer and you can read a facinating interview with him at Infuze.
The movie is considered horror or supernatural thriller. What's interesting to me, is Derrickson's candid appreciation for Christian elements in modern horror.
Horror is a genre that is often disrespected, because it is sometimes very exploited. And yet, historically, Christians have been making scary paintings and writing scary stories, like Dante's Inferno, for centuries. There's a lot of moral and spiritual passion behind thousands of years of church art that deals with this kind of dark subject matter.
So I felt like in Hollywood cinema, the earlier horror films that were being made -- Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, the werewolf films, the vampire films -- they all carried with them an anthropology that was decidedly Christian in its outlook. The idea that we are not what we are intended to be, that even the best of us have, lurking within, an evil nature that cannot be controlled. And I love how those films historically have carried such great meaning.
I think somewhere in the late 70s or 80s, that meaning was getting overshadowed by the more exploitative elements of the genre. Especially the slasher films, the gore films, and the proliferation of endless sequels. But I believe the potential is still there, to go deeply into the spiritual arena, and to do it in a way that's genuinely scary -- that will give horror fans what they're looking for in a movie -- but at the same time, will have artistic integrity, and enrich the audience aesthetically.
Did I just hear that correctly? Enrich audiences aesthetically? With horror films?
I've always believed the line between "christian" and "non-christian" films is artificial. I believe we can find God in the most unlikely of places. Fatal Attraction was never mistaken for a Christian film. However, the end message was resoundingly biblical: If you play with fire, you get burned. Most horror films do not articulate the Gospel. But I agree with Scott Derrickson: many of them frame their struggle in a moral universe, where good and evil exist and slug it out. Of course, no one's going to get converted over this (seemingly) trivial concept. However, it is foundational to a biblical worldview.
I'm looking forward to seeing the movie, the simplest reason being, I believe in showing support for Christians in the arts. I hope it sparks discussion about spiritual matters and makes people worry about the devil (and consider ways to avoid his influence). And if I'm made aware of more fish sticker sightings in Hollywood, I'll buzz ya.