The Exorcist. The Omen. Paranormal Activity. The Ring.
Can we talk about horror films? Halloween has come and gone, but Netflix is still pushing new horror shows such as Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and The Haunting of Hill House to the top of my ‘suggested watching’ list – and perhaps yours too.
Personally, I avoid horror because I get easily scared, and my imagination goes into overdrive. I know I’m not alone in this. And, from a Christian standpoint, there is much in horror films to criticise and condemn. But whether we like them or not, they are a part of our culture, and a genre which ever-increasing numbers of people are watching.
Should Christians engage with horror films? If we feel able to do so, how should we go about it? What if there are some things about them which might even encourage Christian engagement?!
Horror is one of the few genres that assumes a world of absolute morality. There is a right and there is a wrong, and it’s almost always clear which is which. In addition, these films show us which parts of evil bother our culture – and which parts fascinate. One of the most popular forms of horror explores demonic or paranormal activity, possessions, and exorcism. These films not only suggest the possibility of a supernatural, non-physical realm, but also make it, perhaps, a little more believable.
These two areas alone raise questions of God’s existence – and his role. In a world often cut free from such ‘good’ and ‘evil’ absolutes, and frequently stuck in a ‘seeing is believing’ mindset, horror films can provide a way into discussing good and evil, and allow us to be a messenger of the gospel to those who would usually be closed off to such reflections. These films can be a catalyst for considering life – and faith – in a new way.
Horror films might not be your thing. That’s okay. But whether you watch them or not, it’s likely someone you know does… so it’s important not to dismiss them out of hand.
After all, as Christians we know that ‘our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms’ (Ephesians 6:12). How unexpectedly encouraging that the ‘secular’ horror film industry communicates this so clearly to an unsuspecting world.