4 minute read

Horror Movies

By Rev. Scott Stiegemeyer
“Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24)

Your biggest problem is not your zitty face.

It’s not your love life or lack thereof. It’s not even Osama bin Laden and his band of merry terrorists. Your biggest problem is that you are going to die. Yes, the latest scientific findings have confirmed it. One out of every one person dies. You are dust and to dust you shall return.

As people have pondered the grave through the eons, they have imagined all sorts of specters, ghouls, and goblins. As they have considered what lies beyond, they have dreamt of worlds and powers that chill the bone. Those with more active imaginations have conjured spooky campfire stories which have been handed down and modified through generations. And these eerie visions can now be projected on screens large and small.

The horror movie usually deals with one or two basic primeval themes—evil and death. And, of course, these two go together like Barnes & Noble or macaroni and cheese. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:20). Good horror movies grapple with that reality and express something true, even if unpleasant.

A lot of modern people tend to be too optimistic about human nature. Is man basically good or basically evil? Is a checkerboard a white field with black squares or a black field with white squares? Let’s answer those questions with another question: What would you do if you believed you couldn’t be caught? This is the theme considered in H.G. Wells’ novel, The Invisible Man. We read about a decent fellow who turns into a barbarian and steals, lies, and murders to achieve his personal aims. Or maybe he was always the barbarian. Maybe he was always a thief, liar, and murderer in his heart, but it was only when he became invisible and so could not be caught that he acted out on his deepest urges. Kevin Bacon’s movie, The Hollow Man, is a modern-day telling of that same story. In neither case is the ending very happy. It actually is a good thing that we don’t act out our fantasies. The Law is a curb. God’s commandments and our fear of being punished for breaking them keep us from going too far off course.

The freaky black-and-white vampire flick, The Addiction, is explicitly Christian (and unbelievably gross). One vampire says, “We’re not evil because of the evil we do, but we do evil because we are evil.” And the film makes it veeeerrryyy clear that Christ’s body broken and blood shed are the only answer.

Some of the most terrifying films are not those that have ghosts, demons, or weird Stephen King plot twists, but rather those that deal with the evil that men do. Hannibal Lecter from Silence of the Lambs and John Doe, the killer in Seven with Brad Pitt and Gwyneth Paltrow, are in some ways scarier than vampires and haunted houses because the villains are mere men, not monsters. Every day, American soccer moms will slit their babies’ throats and social misfits will rape strangers in parking garages. Hollywood doesn’t have to make this stuff up. “There is no one who does good, not even one” (Romans 3:12).

Sometimes horror movies can serve a wholesome purpose by pointing out something that should be obvious. There is evil in the world. This has to be pointed out because our world is so perverted that it calls good evil and evil good. We’re at the point where many can’t even tell the difference between the two.

In addition to treating sin and evil as being real, good horror movies question the meaning of death and eternal life. Ghosts. Zombies. Vampires. Laboratory monsters created from stolen corpses. There must be a way to overcome the grave. And there is. But science won’t do it. Neither will witchcraft or magic. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25).

Of course, the typical guy or gal in the theater is not looking for religion. A lot of moviegoers go to horror flicks for the same reason some people like roller coasters—the exhilarating adrenaline rush induced by fear. It’s a charge.

Many, maybe most, horror movies at your local Cineplex are a waste of time. A lot of them do glorify sex and violence…or violent sex. And anything that glamorizes Satanism or the occult is dangerous. But when you are alone and the room is quiet, remember that Jesus Christ is the antidote to death. He is the unstoppable force bashing into that heretofore immovable wall; before Him, death has no choice but to crumble and fall.

Rev. Scott Stiegemeyer is pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and a contributing editor for Higher Things. His email address is stiegemeyer@att.net.