Saturday, April 7, 2012

God and Horror Movies

Just in time for Passover and Easter, here is a meditation on God and horror movies.

Not all horror movies explicitly involve God, but many do, such as The Exorcist. As pictured above, the deformed destructive being (DDB) in the film--the demon possessing the little girl Regan--is confronted by an adversary who is an authorized agent of God, a man of the cloth, Fr. Merrin. God stands in opposition to the DDB, and the divine agents are heroic, in contrast to the evil monstrousness of the DDB.

This opposition is widespread in the vampire subgenre. Dracula and other vampires are regularly confronted by vampire hunters wielding crosses, who are thus made de facto agents of God. The cross seems to be painful, fearful, even acidic to the vampire, showing his subordination to the power of God. Again, God is opposed to the DDB.

But the question left unanswered in all such stories is why God, who is supposed to be all-powerful, permits the existence of the DDBs at all. This is a version of the classic theological problem of evil, which has never been solved with sufficient finality to stop it from being raised again and again.

One possible answer that the horror movie offers is that God sends DDBs to punish wrongdoers. This is the apparent position of all such films, such as Frankenstein, in which a mad scientist transgresses against God's law (eg, by creating a DDB), and is punished for his transgression (eg, by having the DDB go berserk on him). But curiously, in such a film, the DDB stands in the position of agent of God--a punitive agent, but an agent nonetheless. Far from being opposed to DDBs, in such films, God seems to use them--even, perhaps, like them. And if he likes them, is it possible he is like them?

The horror movie begins to present the possibility that God is himself a DDB: that the universe itself is monstrous to its ground. This may be the ultimate scariness of horror movies. Only a few films go very far along these lines. Bride of Frankenstein suggests, with its Christ-imagery surrounding the monster, not so much that the monster is Christ-like as that Christ is monster-like. And Frailty suggests that God is ordering a serial killer to kill. Other horror movies are more content to maintain a simple surface opposition between God and DDB. But it may be that all horror movies in which God is involved have the potential to be interpreted more along the lines of a link between God and DDB.

George Ochoa
Deformed and Destructive Beings: The Purpose of Horror Films


Madison said...


Great site! I'm trying to find an email address to contact you on to ask if you would please consider adding a link to my website. I'd really appreciate if you could email me back.

Thanks and have a great day!

George Ochoa said...

Thank you, Madison. My email is I check it infrequently, particularly now that the blog is on hiatus. But I will look out for your message.