Hollywood Horror’s New Obsession: Demonizing God’s Church
By Cooper Dowd, Movieguide® Staff
Christians are often among the first to denounce the horror genre as excessively immoral, demonic, and violent. For the most part, Christians are correct in doing so. However, horror movies that are wholly positive or wholly negative might be a ghost of the past.
In a culture and entertainment business that is not shy, but proud, about their “disenchantment” with God, Christianity, religion and faith, a majority of modern horror presupposes a supernatural world.
The most recent example is THE NUN II, which opened to a $32M opening at the box office; in the range of its sequel, THE NUN, and other movies in the same universe like THE CONJURING and THE CONJURING 2.
While this acknowledgement of a world beyond our own should be an encouragement to Christians, there has been a secondary shift in the horror genre that shows a grave misconception about the supernatural, God, and faith.
Over the past several decades, countless horror movies have explored the battle between the demonic and the holy—often using Nuns, Catholic Priests, and other religious elements as a foil for their demonic antagonists.
The 1973 horror staple THE EXORCIST broke open the floodgates for supernatural horror. Despite its excessive immorality and many pitfalls for a Christian audience, it did portray religious figures, like the catholic priest, as the antithesis to the demon.
Early on in supernatural horror, the two opposing teams were clear; classic stories of good versus evil.
Whether in an effort to breathe new life into a dying genre, or by way of naivety, recent horror flicks are blurring the lines of what is considered sacred. It is no longer clear, just by the uniform they wear, who or what is good and who, or what, is evil.
In THE NUN II, a character clearly says that the demon is only posing as a nun to mock and desecrate the Catholic Church and Christianity. Regrettably, however, according to its IMDb synopsis, the movie “follows Sister Irene as she once again comes face-to-face with Valak, the demon nun.” By saying this, the synopsis falsely says that the movie is portraying a nun as demonic.
Another recent example is BIRD BOX BARCELONA, which is a spinoff to the Netflix original movie, BIRD BOX. The new movie portrays an evil priest as a demonic killer. If the movie’s depressing, dystopian hopeless world isn’t enough to deter Christian audiences, its blatant mockery of the Christian faith will be.
BIRD BOX BARCELONA willfully perverts the idea of salvation, souls, the essential value of human life, and the work of clergy who devote their lives to doing God’s work. The movie is wholly unpleasant as it features multiple graphic ways that people kill themselves. BIRD BOX BARCELONA also has a debased view of humanity and God’s gift of salvation.
Recently A. A. Milnes’ famous children’s series about Christopher Robin and his beloved bear, Winnie the Pooh became public domain; meaning moviemakers aren’t required to ask for permission to use the characters in stories of their own.
This resulted in the making of an R-rated horror movie, WINNIE THE POOH: BLOOD AND HONEY. The CHUCKY franchise turned a toy doll into a serial killer. IT turned a clown into nightmare fuel for young viewers. POLTERGEIST turned childhood fears into “real” supernatural horrors.
A previous Movieguide® article aptly observes: “Hollywood loves turning safe into scary.”
And in recent years, one could amend that phrase to say that entertainment loves to turn good into evil, purity into perversity, and the holy into demonic.
Movieguide® is the first to recognize that horror movies often show that the blood of Christ, faith in God, and power of His word overcome demonic evil. This is especially on display in THE CONJURING series.
While moral and encouraging in its own right, it does not portray a complete view of what it means to have faith in God. Nor does it present a hope against evil that comes from the gospel.
Firstly, demonic possession of believers in Christ is impossible due to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16, Rom. 8:11, 2 Tim. 1:14)!
Secondly, Jesus’ power over demonic forces is final, complete and absolute (Luke 4:41). God does not struggle to overcome demonic power.
Whether blatant biblical mistruths are present in a horror movie or not, the modern-day horror genre is no longer black and white. As Christians, we can have confidence knowing that Christ’s work on the cross already conquered death.
Moreover, the acknowledgement of a supernatural world in horror movies should act as a call to Christians: people are searching and intrigued by the reality of the world beyond themselves.
Even when culture denies God, it subconsciously cannot deny the reality of the gospel; even if it is only a muddy reflection of the complete truth we have in Christ.
At its best, the horror genre reminds Christians of the fullness of God’s word, his authority over Satan and his demons, and the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome evil. Unfortunately, at its worst, the horror genre is a reminder that without saving faith in God and a relationship with Christ, our stories of good conquering evil are often flawed, incomplete, and a mockery of the truth.
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