Faith and Terror: How Religion Impacts Horror Films

Faith and Terror: How Religion Impacts Horror Films

Horrorific content by Brian B. on May 29th, 2020 | Culture |

Faith is uplifting and reassuring, right? With God (or Gods), there’s often an afterlife. And if you’re a decent person, even if you meet your grizzly end on Earth, you can enjoy a wonderful afterlife. Page through the Bible and other religious texts, however, and you may come across some hair-raising terrors, like plagues, the apocalypse, torture, massacres, and more. Terrible tales have been with us for thousands of years.

Many religions also feature an evil antagonist. Like a fantastic story, religions may involve a conflict between good and evil. In Christianity (and to a lesser extent Judaism and Islam), Satan stands in opposition to God and constantly attempts to inflict harm upon humanity or lead people astray.

In horror movies, the Devil (AKA Satan or Lucifer), is often the one pulling the strings and Lucifer is second only to God itself. While God is all that is righteous in the world, Satan is pure evil. This simple black and white portrayal of good versus evil lays the groundwork for many horror movies (and books and other literature).

You can negotiate with the devil and its minions unless what you’re peddling is more evil. And if Satan offers you a deal or allows you to serve him you’re getting a bad deal.

Religion also has a lot of history going for it. Many ancient texts are thousands of years old. Preachers and other religious figures have been expounding upon sin, purity, evil, and more for hundreds of years. Looking at ancient texts and religious sermons, you can’t help but feel that at least some faith leaders are intentionally trying to instill fear in their followers.

If you’re overtaken by sin or give in to the devil (or otherwise just plain possessed), you could turn into a demon yourself. The classic film “The Exorcist” stands as one of the most terrifying movies of all time. And yet, the primary antagonist is a small child. You wouldn’t think a kid could scare the bejesus out of you, but the grotesque ways in which the child’s body is twisted, and the strange acts are downright terrifying.

Religion often concerns the unknown. Before we developed astrophysics and other fields of science, religions explained how the weather worked and the Earth was created and many other things. And the unknown can be terrifying, especially if unknown forces are harming you.

A demon may be so powerful that the protagonist simply can’t fight against it. In this case, the monster becomes a force of nature, seemingly unstoppable. Some demons might be weak towards crosses, holy water, and other relics. Yet are you pure enough to wield such weapons in the face of evil?

Religion also provides a horror common ground for many people. A large chunk of the global population is actively religious, or at least familiar with the basic concepts of demons, devils, and the like. This helps filmmakers connect with audiences and allows them to rely on common concepts without needing to expound on them.

Horror movies may also serve as a critique of religions. In the recent Castlevania (animation) series on Netflix, hell’s army invades earth. And yet, after some horrid acts by the Church and its members, there’s little difference between the demons and the “angels.”

In many movies and horror stories, actions by the clergy set demons and devils in motion. And even if Faith isn’t at fault, religious zealots may make things worse, not better.

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