Light Shining in a Dark Place

By

I like scary stories, in case you couldn’t already tell. I believe George MacDonald was correct that we are to “make righteous use of the element of horror.” I recently had the honor and privilege of fleshing out these ideas a bit in a new book called Light Shining in a Dark Place: Discovering Theology in Film. This was a fun book to contribute to, because I got to write about one of my all-time favorite films: Poltergeist. The last two years at Hutchmoot, I’ve tried to sneak a reference to the spiritual metaphors in Poltergeist into my talks, and haven’t had the time for it. (I’m talking with Andrew about “Tales of the Fall” this year, so perhaps third time’s the charm.)

Here’s just one paragraph from my essay, “The Parable of the Poltergeist:”

Here we’ve come to the real truth-telling value of the horror genre. We can do everything in our power to mask the Fall, to create an illusion of safety and tranquility. But underneath it all, the terror of our rebellion against God and its consequences remains. Nothing symbolizes this better than death, which is why the horror of Poltergeist culminates in dead bodies coming up from the ground. As the perfect, pristine house is destroyed in a supernatural explosion, the lies they formerly believed about the world come undone: The world is not predictable. It is not safe. It is not peaceful. Even those who believe in Christ are risen from the dead. “You were dead,” St. Paul reminds us. And if that weren’t enough, our sinful nature still wages war against us (Galatians 5). The destruction of the Freelings’ house by the supernatural dead tells a much truer story than the image of the tranquil neighborhood which opened the film.

It’s not October yet, which is when this subject is perhaps more seasonally appropriate, but I might as well take the release of this book and the subject matter of my essay to ask the question: What’s your favorite scary movie? And perhaps even more importantly: What truth does it tell?


49 Comments

  1. Jason

    I really love the Mothman Prophecies. As horror movies go, it’s not the scariest. It does have some jump scenes and freaky moments, but that’s not what gets me about this film. The whole plot is propped up on the true events of the bridge collapse in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. For months prior to the tragedy, locals reported seeing a “mothlike” figure that terrorized the town. Yes, there are questions raised in the movie about what the creature really was (if it was real at all) and what can such creatures do to humans and all the fun cryptozoology stuff. But the main truth I think the movie tells is this: there are greater things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy. Mankind is finite and God’s world is weird. We are not in control of all elements and we are certainly not omniscient. This film pumps a little cognitive modesty into the human brain that has a sure fire answer for everything in the universe.

  2. Stephen C

    M.Night Shyamalan’s ‘Signs’. The thing that really stays with me is the idea that ‘there are no coincidences’ … not in a fatalistic-we-have-no-choice type way … but just that God’s hand is upon everything, always making a way out (or in) for us … if only we have the eyes to see it.

  3. Andrew Peterson

    @andrew

    Thanks, Travis, for writing about what is for so many a touchy subject. Because I was a kid who was drawn to creepy stories, and as an adult I still have a soft spot for a good old fashioned ghost story, I’m fascinated by the true spiritual underpinnings of so much of it. Obviously, darkness for its own sake isn’t spiritually healthy, but the genre seems to have a lot to say about reality.

    I’ve had a Rabbit Room post in the works for about two years called, “The Delightful Shiver: Why I Like Ghost Stories”, but I haven’t had the guts (or the time) to finish it yet. Maybe the ensuing discussion here will motivate me. Then again, maybe it’ll scare me off.

    About Poltergeist, I watched it again last year on the SCC bus in my bunk, and it scared the tar out of me–even with the ultra-lame special effects! Spielberg once again demonstrates that he remembers what it was like to be a kid in a big, scary world. I thought about watching it (on ClearPlay, of course) with my boys, but Jamie told me I was nuts and changed the subject. One of these days. Maybe when she’s out of town. 🙂

  4. Andrew Peterson

    @andrew

    Good thoughts, Jason. I really liked that film, too. Years ago, we played in the town where that happened, and I got stuck in a bookstore reading all about it. I think part of it is that I really want there to be strangeness in the world. It’s good for mankind to be reminded from time to time that we don’t know everything—just like a good thunderstorm reminds us how small we are.

  5. whipple

    In keeping with the Shyamalan theme, I love The Village. SPOILER ALERT: The terror involved is, in the end, manmade, but it is also elemental for Ivy, who has her father’s tale of the creatures ringing in her head. Her innocence and guile are pitted against evil both internal and external.

    Also, though it’s not a great movie, I can’t help but think of Event Horizon and Sam Neill’s line, “Hell is only a word,” meaning that we cannot even begin to comprehend the horror involved.

  6. Chris

    I agree with Whipple, my favorite scary movie is The Village, which I think provides an interesting tie in to Lewis’ quote in The Weight of Glory, “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you say it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.” Those-We-Don’t-Speak of in the film are the monster-manifestations of the evil that the elders of the village are trying to spare their children from but ultimately can’t. I think we get a particularly interesting picture of this “dullest person can be a thing of horror” in the character of the village idiot, Noah, at the end of the film.

  7. Dave Kuhns

    I don’t usually “do well” with horror movies, and so avoid them mostly, but I have seen Signs and The Village and would agree that they are both profound for the reasons mentioned above.

  8. Loren Warnemuende

    And once again with the Shyamalan theme, while my favorite has been ‘Signs’, I really did love ‘The Sixth Sense.’ It was so amazingly mind-bending, and even though sad, it had that redemptive element.

    In terms of ones I hated, ‘Dark Water’ was one. It was just such a horrible, sad ending that has clung to me since seeing it years ago. I don’t like that about a lot of horror movies.

  9. John Barber

    As usual, Pete is right. There’s something downright truthful about swapping your hand for a chainsaw.

    Also, man, I love zombie movies. Dawn of the Dead (the original) is a brilliant social and moral allegory about consumerism, etc.

    Also, I used to have a website called “Where’s My Hockey Mask?” if that tells you anything.

  10. Pete

    Long-time fantasy and horror fan (much to my wife’s chagrin).

    I think it was Chesterton who said ““Fairy Tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” You could say a similar think about the horror genre.

    I’d echo my namesake and go with the Evil Dead movies – something to be said for the Everyman triumphing. I still chuckle whenever I hear someone allude to a “boom stick”. And I’ll watch pretty much anything with Bruce Campbell in it (but Bubba Ho-Tep is his best, IMO).

  11. yankeegospelgirl

    Andrew said, “Obviously, darkness for its own sake isn’t spiritually healthy, but the genre seems to have a lot to say about reality.” More often than not though, isn’t the “reality” merely the reality of darkness? As Loren pointed out, most horror films end horribly and sadly. Referring to the Chesterton quote, they seem to delight in letting the dragon triumph.

    We live under a curse, but we long for paradise. Blackness without light can stifle the spark. It seems there are better ways to search for truth.

  12. jacob

    I will second Signs, The Sixth Sense, although I refuse to watch the latter because it freaks me out too much.

    I wonder how many scary movie fans saw The Cabin in the Woods. It’s hard to discuss the movie without giving too much away but that was an amazing commentary on this whole subject and its cultural implications.

  13. yankeegospelgirl

    Another one that might be closer in genre is Take Shelter. But that’s more subtle than your average horror movie, though it contains some elements of horror. Highly recommend.

  14. Travis Prinzi

    Great comments, everyone, and fantastic films mentioned. I’d love to discuss Cabin in the Woods, which was one of my favorite recent movies, but I think I need another viewing before I can comment half-intelligently about it. It’s been too long since the one time I watched it.

    Yankeegospelgirl, I actually address that issue directly in my essay. I’m probably giving away more material than the publisher would prefer, but here’s how I address it:

    ‘An important question should be raised and answered here: What about horror films that do not have happy endings? What if the bad guy, the demon, the vampire “wins”? Isn’t that anti-truth? Consider the classic horror film, Night of the Living Dead. The walking dead succeed in killing the main characters. Or Hitchcock’s The Birds; the terrifying birds are not defeated in the end. How can these films be embraced by Christians? Don’t we believe that good wins in the end?
    Yes, of course we do. But I submit that a horror film which ends with evil winning is not, by default, a movie which tells a lie. At the end of all things, justice will be done and evil eradicated. In the meantime, however, in this fallen world, many stories end, in the short term, with the victory of evil over good. We should not shy away from this in our storytelling. Even Tolkien, who argued strongly for the importance of the “happy ending” for fairy tales, wrote stories like The Children of Hurin, which hardly has what you could call a “happy” ending. If we’re committed to the truth in our storytelling, we will probably, at least sometimes, create or view movies where the bad guys win. It will hopefully drive us once again to hope only in Christ for salvation, and not in ourselves.’

    And re-reading that, I wish an editor or I would have caught that awkward double-use of hope in the last sentence. Oh well.

  15. yankeegospelgirl

    Hi Travis, thanks for answering my question. I appreciate that this is a place for thoughtful dialogue where all sides are respected.

    I certainly agree that in the short term, we see many stories unfold that end sadly, even tragically. Sometimes this is handled beautifully, as you pointed out with Tolkien. I think there can also be merit in leaving things open-ended, like the end of _Gilead_ (can’t say much more because it would spoil a lovely book for y’all who haven’t read it). The truth is we don’t always know whether a story ends happily or not, and sometimes we do know that it ends sadly.

    At the same time, don’t you think there’s a line between “worth absorbing” and “not worth absorbing” when it comes to this kind of genre? I think that I understand the point that you are ultimately making where happy endings are concerned, and in fact I agree with you. But I don’t think I need to watch or “embrace” a horror movie in order to be more fully enlightened. Shoot, if we want to talk about depressing, grim stories with sad endings, all I need is the daily news.

  16. Andrew Peterson

    @andrew

    I’m so glad someone mentioned Take Shelter. Jamie and I saw that on a date without knowing a thing about it, and MAN did it haunt me for days. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. One of the fun things about indie movies is their quiet unpredictability.

    I also saw The Woman in Black recently, which was, for the most part, a good old fashioned Victorian ghost story. I jumped straight into Jamie’s lap several times, which was weird because she was trying to jump into mine. We collided mid-air and ended up on the floor, where we hid under a bowl of popcorn.

    Anyway, I think an important point to remember is that people are wired so very differently that what is horribly unsettling for some is no problem for others. I have a friend who’s a doctor, and is able to stomach some pretty gross things on a daily basis, just because she’s not as freaked out as others by cadavers and weird excretions.

    I tried to watch The Godfather with Jamie, which was a terrible, terrible idea. About halfway through what I had promised her was one of the greatest films of all time, she looked at me pleadingly and said, “You know, not one of my friends is watching this movie right now.” I realized I was trying to push my movie tastes on her, and it wasn’t fair. She shouldn’t have to deal with severed horse heads if she doesn’t want to.

    On the other hand, I’ve always enjoyed the “delightful shiver” that comes from a good spooky movie, and while I happen to think there’s no call whatsoever for “gore porn” like the Saw movies, Poltergeist seems to fall into a different category altogether. And yet—it’s still not the kind of film I heartily recommend at dinner parties.

    I understand what you’re saying—that there may be other, better ways for us to learn some of these things. It’s a good point. I think of Phillipians 4:8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, 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.” I struggle sometimes when I try and apply this verse to a film like The Woman in Black, to be honest. But I think at the very least it’s interesting that the most bankable film genre in Hollywood (87 Friday the 13th films don’t happen unless someone’s making piles of cash) sometimes unwittingly tells the truth. Whether or not we all approve of certain films, it seems apparent that Travis (and others) are more than just entertained by a spooky movie, they’re able to learn from them too.

    A few more fun ones:
    JAWS (the monologue about the U.S.S. Indianapolis is amazing)
    Aliens
    Arachnophobia (a silly movie, but super creepy)
    The Ghost and Mr. Chicken
    (Ha! Because Don Knotts was the MAN.)

    I second the mentions of The Village and Signs. What happened to M. Night, anyway?

  17. Loren

    Speaking of sad endings, I’m reminded of the Flannery O’Connor stories a bunch of us have been reading this summer. Not exactly horror–but I wonder how they’d come across in the film genre.

    ‘Aliens’! Good call, Andrew! For some reason those freaked me out in a deliciously scary way.

    And while I haven’t seen ‘The Woman in Black,’ the title makes me think of an old Wilkie Collins mystery, ‘The Woman in White.’ There was a movie made of that that’s definitely scary in a good way. It also has a lovely happy ending 🙂

  18. yankeegospelgirl

    Again, appreciate the very long and thoughtful answer Andrew. I think you understand what I’m trying to get at.

    Yeah, I actually loved _Take Shelter_ as haunting as it was. I think the reason I got into it was that it tried hard to give the viewer some glimpses of light, courage and hope through the bleakness, even though the ending is (again) open-ended. (That’s one ending I actually kind of wished was clearer, but it is what it is.) I ugly cried at several points because my heart was torn out by the main character’s mental anguish and love for his family. It was beautiful and sad at the same time. I loved the way the marriage was portrayed, and I loved the relationship between the parents and the little girl. These were all beautiful things. So I didn’t feel like I was just sitting through two hours of gross, pointless thrills. Even though I wasn’t sure I wanted to see it again (like you I was haunted by it for days), I thought, “Well, that wasn’t time wasted.” Although the more I think about it, the more I kinda want to go back to it.

  19. Andrew Wiley

    I’m new to the Rabbit room but I love what I’m seeing! I thought I would chime in on this discussion because I actually drawn to horror films and tend to enjoy them depending on the content. My favorite horror (maybe overall) film is The Exorcist. It’s rough and dark but the beauty of it is that the first two-thirds of the movie show how the world and all its knowledge can’t help the girl. God enters into the third act and there sacrifice and redemption. I also like goofier stuff like Evil Dead. When I say I like horror movies I tend to get weird looks from my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ but I do believe light can shine brightest in the darkness.

  20. Aaron

    Just saw ‘Take Shelter’ a couple days ago, and there’s plenty to chew on with that one. Liked it a lot. His wife was an incredible picture of fidelity and grace.

    It seems to me the horror genre, when it’s done well, is simply presenting modern day morality tales, where a character’s demise or redemption is wrapped up in his own continuously selfish or unselfish choices. Those stories are some of my favourite films to squirm through (“No! Don’t do that! That’s not the way!”).

    And since we’re talking about Sam Raimi, a great movie about a person going down the road of bad choices and suffering their results is the audaciously titled, ‘Drag Me To Hell’. It’s like Raimi saw the present state of the cheap horror genre and said, “Step aside, kids. Lemme show you how it’s done.” (And somehow he kept it PG-13.)

  21. Dave Kuhns

    Sheesh, you all are making me want to watch horror movies-a phrase I never thought I’d utter (or type).

  22. yankeegospelgirl

    It all comes to a kind of exchange: Is the redemptive content of this movie (if it has anything redemptive at all) enough to outweigh the “ick” factor to the point where it’s worth watching? Particularly if I have a full life, full plate, etc.?

    There’s a point beyond which I think Christians just shouldn’t go, even if something noble or laudable happens in the story (there are always these things called books if you’re interested in a particular theme, e.g. Charles Williams’ _Descent into Hell_). But I realize there will be differences of opinion on that front.

  23. Travis Prinzi

    Yankeegospelgirl, thanks for continuing the discussion. I want to answer your questions in this paragraph:

    At the same time, don’t you think there’s a line between “worth absorbing” and “not worth absorbing” when it comes to this kind of genre? I think that I understand the point that you are ultimately making where happy endings are concerned, and in fact I agree with you. But I don’t think I need to watch or “embrace” a horror movie in order to be more fully enlightened. Shoot, if we want to talk about depressing, grim stories with sad endings, all I need is the daily news.

    Yes, I’m sure there is a line to be drawn somewhere, and we could talk about some of that criteria. Certainly some of it will be personal and some will be more broadly applicable. But I don’t think the line is drawn before the entire horror genre, and that’s the overall point I’m making. Wherever the line is specifically to be drawn, in includes the genre of horror broadly, but allows us to make discerning choices about which horror movies and books we should or should not take in.

    Regarding the last sentence, that is precisely why we need the horror genre! It’s the same reason we need the broader genre of imaginative/mythopoeic storytelling. Many of us turn off the news, because the steady diet of depressing stories about this fallen world is just too much. We tend to shy away from stark portrayals of the reality we live in. At the same time, we all know deep within that the world is a mess, and our avoidance of its daily stories does not change what our reality is really like. So as with all spiritual truth (as the writers of apocalyptic Scripture well knew), we are beings that learn truth through imagination and through symbol. Goblins, vampires, Horcruxes, zombies, shadows, and monsters of all kinds become symbols of our fallen world that we read in story form in order to get a spiritual picture of our fallen state and learn what not to become.

  24. JJ

    I used to have a thing for horror movies, especially zombie movies. I’m not much of a horror guy now. I stopped watching them years ago and now I can’t really take things that are too scary. Which is interesting in and of itself. Repeated viewings of scarier and scarier movies made them easier to watch. And stopping them altogether I can hardly think about some movies (like The Grudge…shiver) and not get freaked out.

    But anyway, I’m not sure why I’m going to share this, but it seems appropriate. I had a dream in my late 20s where I was basically a zombie/Frankenstein monster. Shambling around life, surrounded by my (normal, healthy human) friends. I remember being in total agony. Physically, mentally, emotionally. I woke up, thinking it was from all the horror movies I watched. Later that day while driving home from work I suddenly had a flash of a dream I had as a kid, which is still very vivid to me. It basically involved a headless monster coming out of our laundry room and, basically taking my head, placing it on its own neck, and walking back into the laundry room. No one helped me. My brother was nearby just watching it happen as I pleaded with him to help.

    After getting that quick glimpse/reminder of this dream, I felt certain that God said, ‘The monster doesn’t have you anymore. I’m putting you back together.’ I burst into tears. I don’t know if it would have effected me as much if I hadn’t been immersed in horror movies at the time. But the impact of how God used those two horrifying dreams, separated by at least 30 years, still blows my mind.

    I think even sharing the story again (which I had forgotten) is a reminder of how loving our God is. He takes the most broken, wounded, and flawed people, and makes them whole and new again. That’s probably what I like so much about Stephen King and his books. His heroes are flawed. They’re not superhuman. But they’re often fighting things bigger than themselves. It’s the same with us. But our battle has been won by our Lord fighting on our behalf.

  25. Dave Kuhns

    @JJ-wow! Thanks for sharing the amazing way that God worked in your life. That’s just so very cool. thank you.

  26. yankeegospelgirl

    Thanks for sharing JJ—I think the genius of God is that He’s constantly working in spite of. In spite of our choices, in spite of our failures, in spite of our brokenness… in spite of us! It sounds like you did wisely to wean yourself off of those films and images.

  27. Travis Prinzi

    I’ve now put “Take Shelter” and “The Woman in Black” in my Netflix queue.

    JJ, I think the use of those images to understand truth about God and yourself is exactly the kind of thing I was trying to get at in comment 27. The use of grotesque imagery to portray a fallen world is a type of truth-telling – symbolism that communicates in ways that propositional statements cannot.

  28. JJ

    It’s funny though about horror and my current tastes in books. I can’t stand horror movies anymore. But I fell in love with Stephen King’s books 2 years ago after reading The Gunslinger. I originally planned to avoid his “horror” books, until I realized his idea of horror isn’t really what most people think of as horror. I tried to read Richard Matheson’s Hell House a few years ago and had to stop. Now THAT’S horror, and I couldn’t take it. But King books like It, The Shining, The Stand, Salem’s Lot, Desperation, etc., are much deeper than the scary stories on the surface (even though they can be scary and sometimes gross). I think AP talked about it in another RR post, so I won’t go into it again. But I can handle that kind of stuff any day. When it’s scary just for the sake of being scary, no thanks. But when there’s something deeper going on, and it’s telling a more meaningful story (which is pretty much 99% of King’s books), then it hooks me.

    The scariest stuff I watch now is Doctor Who. But that’s not horror. It’s just great fun. The Weeping Angels anyone? 🙂

  29. Travis Prinzi

    JJ, Oh, but Doctor Who is horror! Or at least horror is one piece of that masterful genre blend, when you factor in the Weeping Angels and The Silence. Really, it’s Moffatt who has introduced a Lovecraftian/horror element to the sci-fi show.

    Lovecraft was the master of horror, but Lovecraft’s horror was actually frightening sci-fi. It’s why Ridley Scott’s Alien is both sci-fi and horror. Jeffrey Overstreet’s book, Through a Screen Darkly actually analyzes Alien in the same chapter as The Exorcism of Emily Rose. And these sci-fi/horror elements have made their way rather brilliantly (at times … that follow-up two-parter at the beginning of season 5 with the Angels was not so good. “Blink,” however, was fantastic.)

  30. Danielle

    Travis, I never would have said that Doctor Who was horror, but after reading your comment, my brain went, “Of course that’s true.”
    I was watching the episode with the werewolf the other day, clinging to the edge of my seat and trying to peek around corners. I think that what makes that show so poignant is the way you look at the deepest, darkest, most terrifying places you can imagine, (particularly in a few of the Moffatt episodes) and just when you think there is no way out, light shines in the darkness.
    Looking through other posts, it seems to me that that is a pretty common theme we’re having (even as we embrace the stories that end before they’re finished), maybe because it feels so personally true. Maybe we love these moves and stories so well because we look at them and think, “I know what that is; I remember that.” And that leads us to the moment where light shone in our darkness.

  31. Travis Prinzi

    Danielle, precisely! And think of the “The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances.” Same thing. Creepy, gothic elements (“Are you my mummy?”), and light shining in the darkness.

  32. Ashley

    1st, let me just say that I’m really enjoying this post.

    2nd, I’ve always had conflicting feelings when it comes to horror. My first encounter with a slasher movie in high school, Urban Legends, left me a bit cold to the genre. I couldn’t get the “gore porn” images out of my mind and had a hard time sleeping for weeks. The Ring had a similar effect on me as well a few years later, if not worse, despite being less gory, the idea of a child villain was something I couldn’t tolerate. I wouldn’t have seen it if I had known what I was getting into (got invited to the movie with a friend without really knowing anything about it). Last Halloween my husband and I watched The Exorcist, from which I am still reeling. I’d love to hear a fellow Rabbit’s opinion on that film. I don’t think I can ever watch it again. I think the majority of the horror I’ve seen, I’ve really hated, if only because I don’t find any resolution, only darkness and despair. I have a very vivid imagination and imagining the grotesque isn’t my favorite, especially when trying to get a good night’s rest.

    The kinds of horror movies I can really appreciate are those that aren’t there simply for a blood bath. I’m so glad everyone keeps mentioning M. Night. Signs is my favorite of his films and I really enjoyed The Village and The Lady in the Water despite what many others thought. His signature twists at the end get me every time.

    One I’m surprised no one has mentioned yet is Pan’s Labyrinth. If I’ve got to gear up to make myself watch a horror movie, I’d take that one any time. Yes, it creeped the heck out of me and it is extremely violent, but the symbolism present points to Christ. I won’t say more than that so as to keep from spoiling such a great film. It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen it, but I think I’ll have to add it to my Halloween watch list this year.

    Does anyone else out there have any love for Pan’s Labyrinth?

    Other horror films I’ve enjoyed: 28 Days Later, House on Haunted Hill (1959), Nosferatu, Night of the Living Dead, The Invisible Man (1933), and all the classic Universal Monster movies…those are always fun.

  33. Ashley

    Also, THANK YOU, for mentioning Doctor Who. Blink and The Empty Child are 2 of my most favorite episodes of the series. Blink was actually my first encounter with the Doctor and it hooked me. Horror with resolution, that’s what I like to see.

  34. JJ

    Danielle and Travis,

    You are correct about Doctor Who and horror. I’ve been rewatching the series again and just finished Season/Series 2. It definitely has horror elements, but not the kind of horror I used to watch in my teens. So I have a hard time labeling it that. But having just finished The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit episodes…holy cow those were scary. Not so scary that I couldn’t go to sleep afterwards, but definitely horror.

    I actually really liked the Season 5 Angels episodes (The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone). I enjoyed the first part more, and it was no Blink, but I liked the episodes.

    But I’m hooked all over again with this show. It’s just so brilliant.

  35. Ashley

    JJ,

    The Satan Pit was definitely one of the scariest episodes. My husband and I stumbled upon The Impossible Planet episode, which was supposed to be the “last one” we’d watch before going to bed. Nope! Had to finish the 2 parter and then watch something funny afterwards so as though not to have bad dreams! Gosh, I can’t believe I didn’t think about that one before. *shudders* I don’t think I can watch that one again.

  36. Elizabeth of the Kirk in the Woods

    I would definitely say DW is horror… (And brilliant. Love the show, and chewing on all the ideas. I’ll stop gushing before I get started.)

    Some things don’t bother some people as much as others. But I think there’s another kind of horror. A friend of mine puts it this way…

    ” Friend: Do you not like scary stuff?
    Me: No. Hate it.

    What I realized, upon reflection, is that this is a complete untruth. I love scary stuff.

    I write horror, of the most chilling kind. You won’t find the unbelievable hair raising elements commonly associated with the genre, but what you will find won’t be so easily forgotten. What you’ll find is not the dark ravings of a lunatic but the cold calculations of a perfectly sane mind.” –Katie Daniels, http://katielynndaniels.com/wordpress/2012/02/my-kind-of-horror/

    I think horror gives us a glimpse. It sticks in our heads, and shapes what we do. And ultimately, hopefully…It gives us light. 🙂

    My 2 bits, anwho..

  37. Joel Pike

    This has been disappointing. The only real light I’ve seen in this post thus far is AP’s quotation of Philippians 4:8 and the statement, “there may be other, better ways for us to learn some of these things.” There is enough horror in this world for us to understand evil and God’s ensuing redemption without entertaining ourselves with fiction horror. If you need darkness to lead you to light open your eyes to the extreme poverty and injustice and hatred under which people are dying by the thousands as we write, then go and be a part of the redemption for which God has saved you to be a part of.
    I don’t need any more horror than the memory of watching the pool of blood grow on my nine day-old daughter’s chest as the nurses desperately tried to get her heart to work again while my wife and I sat silently by screaming on the inside. And I also know deeply the redemption God has brought through her life and death. My story is only one among so many.
    Instead of wasting time on movies let’s get involved in real people’s lives – the people for whom God’s heart breaks, our brothers and sisters living under oppression, persecution, extreme poverty, extreme loss. Do something real. “Lift up the least of these. Lean into something lasting: Planting trees” – AP.

  38. Andrew Peterson

    @andrew

    Joel,

    Thank you for your comment. It was painful to read about your daughter, and I can only imagine that a discussion like this must be hard for you to read. I don’t think Travis or anyone here is suggesting that we forsake getting involved in peoples’ lives, or fighting against oppression, persecution, poverty, and loss. In fact, I believe Travis and the others who have commented are deeply involved in peoples’ lives and in the work of the Kingdom. They just happen to like movies.

    Much of the discussion in the Rabbit Room is about the way the truth ambushes us in the most unlikely places, and in this case the subject matter (scary films) is understandably troubling. I think, however, that’s all the more reason to engage it in discussion. You raise some good questions, for sure. Please know this: if it seemed like we were making light of a tragedy like yours, I truly apologize. I’m certain that was no one’s intent. Thanks for speaking up.

  39. Travis Prinzi

    Joel, I also thank you for your comment and your willingness to share such a tragic and awful thing. I hardly even want to make any counterpoints to what you’ve said after having read that. But I do think there are some important distinctions to make here.

    I echo Andrew’s comment, most importantly in an apology if this conversation has turned in ways that make tragedy seem like something to be entertained by. No one is advocating watching movies (or going to museums or reading books or blogging or commenting on blogs, for that matter) instead of getting involved in people’s lives. What I’m exploring here is whether or not art can, as George MacDonald and most of the earliest Gothic writers believed, symbolically portray spiritual truth about the Fall and our fallen state. My point is that Gothic literature, architecture, art, and, yes, film (as art, not as “entertainment”) does indeed do that.

    We can go down this road in all kinds of ways:
    “Why read fantasy fiction (symbolist literature) when we could be out serving the poor? There’s enough truth in the world for us to avoid wasting time on those kinds of books.”
    “Why read science fiction when we could be out working for a better future? There’s enough truth in the Bible about our world that we don’t need to waste our time on fictional portrayals of the future.”
    “Why read historical novels when we could be learning from real biblical history and becoming better Christians?”

    And all of that is a line of thinking that takes us away from the pursuit of truth-telling and beauty in art. Maybe I have not been clear enough in my definition of “horror;” I’ve tried to clarify in later comments. I wonder about a few things in response to your final paragraph: Do movies fit into the category of art (whether good or bad)? If not, why not? If so, is all art-making and art-enjoying a waste of time that we should be spending doing something else?

    Because I’m seeing “horror films” as a genre of art, not as celebration of or entertainment by gruesome things. And when it becomes the latter (and it certainly does at times), I’m in full agreement that none of us need it.

  40. Joel Pike

    Travis and Andrew, thank-you for taking the time to respond. Please do not feel the need to apologize; I’m not seeing this discussion as trivializing real pain and suffering. I do trust that you guys are in people’s lives for the work of the Kingdom and am humbled to think that I would bring judgment on people I do not know.
    My hope is that we would hold up our art, and our entertainment, to the light of Col 3:17 “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
    It is into the horror of sin and it’s repercussions that Christ came to bring light. Our artistic representations of the gospel do have to depict evil to be truth-telling and to really glorify what Jesus has done. I honor that and see your intention in the music and books you create.
    Let us just be careful that the art we take in actually leads us to Jesus. I think that is what you are saying.

  41. Jason Wheeler

    My vote is for The Shining. The technical side of the film is amazing. The things that he did with the camera…I’m still learning from him. But I always find the simple “don’t go in there if you’re told not too” idea to be one of my favorites. There are just some things that we shouldn’t play with and we should listen when we are told no.

  42. Will Meyers

    An excellent film that many people dismiss as cliched horror is Shyamalan’s “The Village.” I’ve realized that its genre is easily mislabeled because of the plot containing elements of terror such as the unknown and the threat of “an evil in the woods”, but it’s not just that. If you peel back the surface layers, positive lessons abound beneath. While “The Village” is by no means a Christian film, it does lack the junk that’s so prevalent in Hollywood today. There is no sex, no language, no drug use. The only scene of violence is mild on purpose, because violence is not the focus of the movie. But it’s included to help the audience understand the bigger picture: perfect love casts out all fear. And when you consider it, that’s just what the protagonist (a terrific performance by Bryce Dallas Howard, by the way) does. Her perfect love for the main guy in the story eventually conquers the evil that antagonizes her community. And in a way, that’s what Christ did for us. His perfect love for the human race – His death on Calvary’s cross – provided us a way to escape the insidious evil of our nature. We could chose to get saved from it and follow Him. I view Shyamalan’s thriller as a great reminder of that. And story-wise, it’s well-written, too. 🙂

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