While the term “Christian horror” is still up for debate, the congruence of Christianity and the horrific is not.
Perhaps this connection is best illustrated in this line from The Exorcism of Emily Rose, in which the demon-possessed girl writes:
“People say that God is dead. But how can they think that if I show them the devil?”
Indeed, stories about the devil, or other forms of supernatural and existential terrors, instinctively harken us back to something even more “primal” than those terror themselves.
God preceded the devil, as Good preceded Evil. Or to put it another way, Original Sin came AFTER Original Righteousness.
In this sense, “showing the devil” (or associated Evils) subconsciously invokes God / Good. You can’t have one without the other. Or as Michael, a skeptical American seminary student in the film The Rite finally proclaims,
“I believe in the devil, and so I believe in God!”
And you thought horror movies were just about blood and guts.
Because of this, it should come as no surprise to learn that perhaps the greatest horror film of all time is about… God.
To celebrate the 40-year anniversary of his novel The Exorcist, author William Peter Blatty, now 83 years old, has returned to his original work and made changes for a new special edition. In a recent interview with the Huffington Post, The Exorcist” Author William Peter Blatty on Revisiting His Most Famous Work, Blatty responds thus to the following question:
Why do you think the story of “The Exorcist,” in its many forms, has resonated so much for so many people?
BLATTY: I can only guess based on what has been written by others.
Obviously, of course, a popular novel has to be a page-turning read. Second, everyone likes a good scare, so long as we know we’re not really threatened.
And third – and most importantly, I think – because this novel is an affirmation that there is a final justice in the universe; that man is something more than a neuron net; that there is a high degree of probability – let’s not beat around the bush – that there is an intelligence, a creator whom C.S. Lewis famously alluded to as “the love that made the worlds.”
So the author of The Exorcist unloads the ultimate spoiler. All that snarling, churning, head-spinning, projectile-vomiting, was about… “an intelligence, a creator”… “the love that made the worlds.”
It goes back to, shall we say, the apologetics of horror. “People say that God is dead. But how can they think that if [we] show them the devil?” Or as Peter Kreeft puts it in The Handbook of Christian Apologetics,
…the very fact of our outrage at evil is a clue that we are in touch with a standard of goodness by which we judge this world as defective, as falling drastically short of the mark. The fact that we judge something evil might be developed into an argument for the existence of the standard of Perfect Goodness implied in our judgment, and thus for the existence of the God of perfect goodness…
As a writer of “Christian horror,” I am doing my share to illuminate Evil, and thus, Perfect Goodness. But it makes me wonder: Perhaps the most devilish of all stories is the one without a devil.