What place if any does the horror genre have in Christian fiction?

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  • Profile photo of Matt Garner
    Matt Garner
    Hutchmate
    @mattgarner

    I’m a horror junky. Not the psycho-in-training gore circus that is most of horror film these days, but supernatural thrillers and the like are definitely my jam. I’ve consumed oodles of Stephen King and I’m in the middle of Ghost Story by Peter Straub (How did I wait this long?!). Since I sort of buy into the principle of “that which we consume forms us” I’m curious what place horror or the macabre has in Christian fiction/art/film. I can’t tell if I’m asking this from a storyteller’s perspective, as in what place does the creation of horror fiction have… or from a desire to justify my insatiable appetite for stuff that gives me the willies. Please don’t take my precious scary stories!

    www.matthewgarner.com

    I suppose I like sorta creepy more than straight up horror (though one of these days I intend to at least read some Stephen King), but the genre fascinates me. Handled rightly and well made, it can teach us a lot about good, evil, fear, and humanity.

    Have you read any interviews with Scott Derrickson? He always has such interesting perspectives on making horror films as a Christian. From an interview with Decent Films:

    For me, [horror] is the perfect genre for a person of faith to work in. You can think about good and evil pretty openly. I always talk about it being the genre of non-denial. I like the fact that it’s a genre about confronting evil, confronting what’s frightening in the world.

    I like the mystery of the genre. It’s a genre that takes the mystery in the world very seriously. There are a lot of voices that are broadcasting that the world is explainable. Corporate America limits the world to consumerism. Science can limit it to the material world. Even religion limits it to a lot of theories that can explain everything. I think we need cinema to break that apart and remind us that we’re not in control, and we don’t understand as much as we think do.

    I know there are some great essays hiding out in The Rabbit Room archives too!

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    Profile photo of Pete Peterson
    Pete Peterson
    Hutchmaster Prime
    @pete

    I love horror. (Though I hate modern horror movies.) I don’t have time to unpack its place, but you definitely don’t need to feel guilty about it.

    ---Hutchmaster Prime, wielder of great and terrible cheeses

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    Profile photo of Matt Garner
    Matt Garner
    Hutchmate
    @mattgarner

    @jroseyokel that interview is great. I guess I’m of the same mind and wonder if I’m attracted to the genre for some of the same reasons – being frightened as a young child. I used to think the house I grew up in, a rather innocuous looking 70’s split level, was haunted. But only periodically. There were times as a young teenager when I was alone in the house in the middle of a sunny afternoon when I had a strong urge to get out because I sensed an overwhelming malevolence, something that really did not like me. Sometimes in the middle of an activity, making a PB&J for my lunch, I would put the bread and knife down and walk outside and stare at the windows from the front yard, see nothing, but feel the pulse of some angry “thing” pushing against the walls, unable to reach me in the sunlight. After a short while, the feeling would pass and I could go back in. Other times it was the most inviting place of warmth and security I could imagine. I have wonderful, loving memories of that house.

    For most of my first eighteen years there, I experienced what is best described as shadow people, something I kept to myself for years because of the general absurdity but was astonished to hear after confiding in them years after moving away that my parents saw them too – never mentioning them before because they didn’t want to frighten us for no reason.

    I would wake up in the dead of night after hearing my name whispered or sometimes shouted from some other part of the house. I preferred the whisper. The shouting made my heart race.

    I only experienced those things in that house. Nowhere else. For the most part.

    The only thing that has lingered from then to now in my mid-30s is the occasional sense that something is not right, never in proximity to a scary novel or film. I mean, I do read/watch other genres. But that feeling will come out of nowhere as the last lights in the house are turned off and everyone is asleep but me. And I find myself, a grown man, clamping my eyes shut and praying, speaking the name of Jesus as confidently as my will allows, reminding whatever is disturbing me of the cross hanging in my dining room, the baptisms of myself, my wife and children, reminding whatever has come to visit our otherwise peaceful home that they are not welcome. Then I sing hymns to myself to muffle out what sounds like footfalls on the carpet.

    www.matthewgarner.com

    Profile photo of Matt Garner
    Matt Garner
    Hutchmate
    @mattgarner

    I told the story of my childhood home to my father-in-law last night over dinner and weirded him out so thoroughly he mentioned “prayer before bedtime” twice before he left.

    www.matthewgarner.com

    Profile photo of Matt Garner
    Matt Garner
    Hutchmate
    @mattgarner

    (crickets)

    www.matthewgarner.com

    Profile photo of Laure Hittle
    Laure Hittle
    Hutchmate
    @mrs-hittle

    This is a really interesting topic to me but i’m not sure how to contribute. i love the idea of horror, partially for artistic reasons and partially for the thematic ones mentioned above, but i’m really sensitive to most visual portrayals so i don’t watch much of it. i’ve read some horror and really enjoyed that (Lovecraft, Poe, Peretti, Dekker, Crichton, Charles Williams, and i don’t know what all. Pete has some good horror short stories, too. Not all of it is here anymore but this one is). Somewhere around the Rabbit Room i read an endorsement of Ancestral Shadows by Russell Kirk and i picked that up, but haven’t read any of it yet.

    None of that really contributes to the conversation, though, i don’t think, unless the Russell Kirk article helps (i should reread that myself). i’m going to try to draw some traffic over here.

    @mattgarner Your story sounds so frightening. i have had some creepy experiences and i think most of the time it’s my overactive imagination rather than spiritual warfare, although it’s probably sometimes both. i didn’t realize that shadow people were a common enough experience to have a name and a Wikipedia article. But the idea that it was only in that house, and that your parents experienced that also, independently from you… eeek.

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