1… 2… Freddy’s Coming for You…

nightmare-elm-st-poster-1With the new Nightmare on Elm Street haunting cineplexes tomorrow, it seemed like a good idea to resurrect a controversial topic. While pagan philosophy on the circle of life in kids’ movies, and the fact that a couple is having premarital sex in the latest romantic comedy, are often glossed over/justified by many religious types and still considered viewable, the moment the subject matter strays from distorted truth or a roll in the hay and the supernatural gets involved, the Christian is forbidden to touch it. If there’s some gore, it’s unacceptable. After all, Jesus wouldn’t mind if the truth of God is twisted, but if someone gets decapitated he’d storm out of the theater… right? Hmmm.

One of my top 10 films is The Thing. Another is Jaws. I also think the scariest horror movie is still The Exorcist. If you’re thinking about seeing the new version of Freddy – played by Jackie Earle “Rorschach” Haley – or if you plan on judging people who do, check out these threads to get your brain juices stewing:

Horror, Gore, Fear & the Christian
A sharp look at scary movies and reasons and/or excuses for avoiding them. This is my favorite quote from writer/director Scott Derrickson:
“In my opinion, the horror genre is a perfect genre for Christians to be involved with. I think the more compelling question is, Why do so many Christians find it odd that a Christian would be working in this genre? To me, this genre deals more overtly with the supernatural than any other genre, it tackles issues of good and evil more than any other genre, it distinguishes and articulates the essence of good and evil better than any other genre, and my feeling is that a lot of Christians are wary of this genre simply because it’s unpleasant. The genre is not about making you feel good, it is about making you face your fears. And in my experience, that’s something that a lot of Christians don’t want to do.” (click here for full article)

Final Destination 3 – Out of Control
The central issue in Final Destination 3 is not death, but control. Wendy states – and reiterates several times – that she doesn’t like to feel out of control. Like Wendy, I think we all want life and death to be in our hands, on our terms; we like to believe that we have control over our own life. We wrestle not only with the idea that we are mortal and ultimately powerless to change this, but that there may be a fate, design (or Designer) that we can’t escape. (full review)

The Exorcist
Moreover, I would contend that the film also strikes a subliminal chord (that non-Christians will deny), in that it presents a fictional account of a force that is real rather than fairy tale, chronicling a modern-day version of possession that has occurred in the past, and may still occur today. (full review)

  1. Dave Roper

    Yes, yes, yes! I completely agree. Jaws is awesome, so is The Thing and The Exorcist is indeed the single most terrifying film in the history of cinema, all the more so because of what we know about the reality of demonic influence and Satan’s mission to kill, steal and destroy. I really like The Shining as well and the recent remake of Dawn of the Dead – scary but engaging and thought-provoking.

  2. Nicholas Cotto

    I could not disagree more. The horror genre is not frowned upon because it deals with the supernatural but rather because the entire mission of the genre is to scare its viewers; to incite fear. God has not given us a spirit of fear.Revelations says that those who are timid will be resurrected unto eternal judgement. Why give your flesh, your old nature, an outlet in this genre? There are plenty of other ways to depict the battle between good and evil (and if you honestly believe that is the intent of horror movies, you’re in need of a good waking up). There is no need to subject your conscience to murder and terror. You sear your conscience in doing so, potentially numbing yourself to it. I will agree that the horror genre forces people to face their fears, but that is in no way a good thing without any direction to the understanding that we’ve no need for fear of anything but the Lord. Grace.

  3. James

    One of the most cogent arguments I’ve heard Nicholas, even if I don’t fully agree. I appreciate the reasoning, and you’re not wrong that there are other ways to depict this.

    I think there is a big difference between a film technique of “startling” you and the unnerving ideological narratives. I’m not certain either are wholly inappropriate. Reading the classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, for instance, isn’t anything like the horror you’d see today. Also, seeing characters experiencing fear doesn’t mean you have to live there with them. A movie-goer is an observer who may empathize or try to put himself in the place of the protagonist or antagonist, but he doesn’t have to experience the same fear – or same kind of fear – as the characters.

    I don’t fear RE my eternal salvation is different than a unnerving feeling that my friend who works at the boat docks might have been crushed by a palate instead of just breaking his thumb. The shock of seeing a real life shark attack and having your heart race in concern and uncertainty isn’t necessarily sin, so neither would watching “Jaws” necessarily be either. I’m not sure when my cat jumps up onto my stomach in the middle of the night and I wake up with a gasp that I have to repent.

    Also, a film like “Signs” – which is, actually, a horror film – deals with fear and faith, but ultimately finds the main character realizing his fears were groundless and that God had sovereignly provided.

  4. David Sanders

    You know, there was a time when there were only two performance genera. In old school Greece there was only comedy and tragedy. They were the chocolate and vanilla, if you will, to today’s 31 Flavors. To put it simply, comedy and tragedy each referred to the ending of the story. Comedies ended with resolution and tragedies ended in the futile death of the hero.

    If today’s Blockbuster Video stores were organized according to these categories then 99% of what we call Horror movies would be placed in the comedy section. Not only do they present the conflict of good versus evil but the vast majority of the films in question end with good on top. Evil is destroyed, or escaped, at least until the sequel.

    So are people drawn to these stories to simply to face their fears or is more precisely to see their fears conquered. Shouldn’t the appeal of these movies drive home the point that the world craves HOPE?

    Should Christians be die hard Horror fans? No. Although, I do enjoy a good werewolf or zombie movie from time to time. However, these are not the stories that we should allow to occupy our minds. Paul points this out in Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

    On the other hand should we shun those who regularly partake? Only if you desire your faith to become irrelevant to today’s culture. In the world but not of it…isn’t that right?

    Story is one of the greatest tool God ever gave to his children. Use it.

  5. James

    “die hard” about something does seem dangerously close to being “mastered” by it, so I don’t disagree David and love most of your points. Curious about comedy/tragedy too… I’ve usually categorized them as hope/hopeless so it’s an intriguing historical note I’ll add to my mix.

    One thought, however: I think Philippians is referring to our thoughts, not our stimuli. The goal is that we are following Philippians 4:8 no matter what is before us, comedy or tragedy, Rom-Com or Horror flick… or real life equivalents. If I can’t think about what is true/noble/right/pure/lovely/admirable/excellent/praiseworthy when confronted with fictional horrors, what hope have I when bombarded with a season of life wherein there are true horrors?

    A lot of people use that verse in regard to our stimuli, when it’s talking about how and what we think regardless of life’s stimuli. It’s talking about our mental output, in light of or in spite of, the input.

  6. James

    and – a final thought – Phillipians 4:8 is beautiful in light of its surrounding verses…

    7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

    9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

    Paul, in all his fearless culturally-engaging glory… facing everything from pagan pop-poetry to very real shipwrecks. I pray I can face life’s real shipwrecks as well as I can face the fictionals.

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