Horror and Religion Essay

The article, The Sanctification of Fear: Images of the Religious in Horror Films, by Bryan Stone explains that horror films act as “[…] a threat and a catharsis by confronting us with our fear of death, the supernatural, the unknown and irrational, ‘the other’ in general, a loss of identity, and forces beyond our control”(Stone). Over the past century, religious themes have played a prominent role in addressing these ideas. That role is, at the same time, ambiguous insofar as religious iconography has become unhinged from a compelling moral vision and reduced to mere conventions that produce a quasi-religious quality to horror that lacks the symbolic power required to engage us at the deepest level of our being. Although religious symbols in horror films are conventional in their frequent use, they may have lost all connection to deeper human questions” (Stone). There are many articles and books that discuss the use of religion in horror films, but Stone sheds light on this subject an interesting way.

Instead of asking the question of “why religion is used so often in a scary story” (Cowan), or why “Religion and horror are inextricably tied to one another” (Broaddus), he asks is it “weakening the connection to deeper human questions? ”(Stone). It is no surprise that religion and horror fight each other. Horror films repulse us, undermine us, and demoralize us, but we are still drawn to it. Religion is the polar opposite of this idea, which is why there will always be conflicts between the two.

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Stone touches on moral issues like the methods of science in horror films and a new openness to the spiritual realm instead of focusing on how the films depict gender, race, and nature. When I watch a horror film I am usually bothered by them. Recently I have gotten into films and shows about zombies, but before that I was a romantic comedy, action, or thriller kind of a person. I am bothered by horror films when they bring in elements of the spiritual realm. Films like The Exorcist, Paranormal Activity, and The Omen bring in themes of the anti-Christ and demons.

These are things that I believe are real so it blurs the line of fact and fiction which makes me frightened. I agree with what Stone is presenting in his article and appreciate that he is discussing these topics. Stone covers concepts like vampires, the method of science in horror films, Satan, horror from nature, and psychological horror. The opposite point of view to what Stone brings up would state that horror films are essential to religious iconography and strengthens moral issues.

It would state that bringing religion into the horror genre penetrates us to the core and incorporating the symbols that strengthen deeper human questions. Stating that horror films are demoralizing would be considered wrong, and going to them for truths would be right. It would be a world of fear, spiritual turmoil, and discomfort. Stone addresses the myth of the horror genre by stating that the “fear of death, the supernatural, the unknown and irrational, ‘the other’ in general, a loss of identity, and forces beyond our control” (Stone) are the underlining stories in all horror films.

When touching on the convention of the genre and the iconography, Stone states that, “religious iconography has become unhinged from a compelling moral vision and reduced to mere conventions that produce a quasi-religious quality to horror that lacks the symbolic power required to engage us at the deepest level of our being” (Stone). Stone interprets the genre as an “ambiguous relationship between religion and film [and this] is nowhere more evident than in the case of horror films” (Stone). The very nature of horror films, since their beginning, brings in elements of life after death, the depiction of God, and the end of time.

It is a genre that draws up deeper questions and forces you to look at what you believe, especially when it comes to death. These are not films that you watch to unwind from a stressful day. These are films that you watch to challenge your beliefs. Stone states that, “horror is the film genre least amenable to religious sensibilities”(Stone). This genre uses religious themes to disgust, show case profane acts, and offend it’s viewers in gruesome detail. This could be anything from an exorcism to demoralizing human life. As the genre has progressed over the years, it moves into new territory.

In the past, the horror genre focused more on monsters like Frankenstein. These were stories of mad scientists trying to play God (Stone). These early movies shared a common theme. The general theme was a misunderstood, social outcast who works on the biggest project of his life for revenge or acceptance into society. They were a hit at the box office and many released sequels. In present times, the genre focuses on apocalyptic nightmares, redefining the afterlife, high school vampires, and disease ridden zombies (Stone). Stone’s article will help me in writing my final paper because it is one of the only papers on my topic.

It emphasizes on religion in horror film and the way God is portrayed. It is a scholarly piece and is reputable to write about. It will help form my argument about how religion is misused in the horror genre and how it has changed over time. It will give me material to debate and guide me to my specific argument. The two movies that I have chosen to watch and write about in my final paper are Dracula (1931) and The Rite (2011). Much of Dracula’s iconography is derived from the stage play of 1920. It differs from the novel and the silent film of 1922. Dracula is handsome and somewhat of a ladies man.

He had three wives. The story of Dracula is full of hypnotism, murder, and lies. There is one thing Dracula fears most, the crucifix. When shown it, Dracula is forced to run away. Though there is no pastor figure in the film, the movie touches on eternal life and the value of human life. I want to look closely at how the movie portrays the afterlife and God. The big question is whether there can be a God in the world of Dracula. If so, what would this look like? This movie is based partly on the book from 1897. It is surprising that vampires are not just a fad of today.

They have been around much longer. Dracula was the first vampire of many to come. Together, the authors of the play, novel, and film, created something that we still see today. It has evolved into different forms, but the myth stays the same. The Rite is based off allegedly true events by Father Gary Thomas and the novel The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist (Baglio. ) It is about a young mortician who decides he wants to become a priest. After four years of going to school, Michael Kovak is ordained and then writs a letter of resignation to his superior on the same day.

After witnessing someone get hit by a bus, Kovak decides he will go to the Vatican for a class on exorcism. Much transpires there that make Kovak question his already weak faith. The Rite looks at the church, priests, exorcism, and demonic possession. I chose this film to observe how God is portrayed in all of these scenarios. Is God portrayed as a minion under the devil? Who will win, good or evil? How do they define these two? The Portrayal of Religion in Horror Films Proposal Statement Movies can be a powerful thing. They can make us excited, sad, terrified, happy, or full of grief.

They are a way for us to unplug, plug in, and learn about events. Horror movies have been around almost as long as film itself. As the genre has progressed, it has taken many forms and sub genres. But, the purpose has stayed the same. Horror films focus on the supernatural, death, afterlife, and demonic elements. Religious views have been in movies for a long time, but recently there has been a surge in depicting God, the devil and, the supernatural in horror films. These films portray the spiritual world in a negative light and portray God as being mortal, not eternal. Does this blur the line between real and fiction or right and wrong?

The use of religious symbols within horror films may have lost all connection to deeper human questioning (Stone). The movies The Rite (2011) and Dracula (1931) are close to a century apart, but are drawn from the same horror myth. Over time there have been many changes and sub genres that form to the culture that is around it, but the myth stays the same. It lures out the fear of the viewers and blurs the line of the supernatural realm. Genres change over time for many reasons. It could be that new research has been found, advanced technology has been discovered, or the culture changed its views on different subjects.

The horror genre is no different. It is always changing. Instead of focusing on man-made monsters or sci-fi disasters, it is now focusing on death, God, and the supernatural. It has focused on many things over time, but the myth will live forever. Horror films distortion the supernatural realm and have lost all connection to the deeper real issues of God, the supernatural, and death.

Works Cited

Stone, Bryan P. “Journal of Religion & Film: The Sanctification of Fear: Images of the Religious in Horror Films by Bryan Stone. Journal of Religion & Film: The Sanctification of Fear: Images of the Religious in Horro Films by Bryan Stone. N. p. , Oct. 2001. Web. 12 Oct. 2012. <http://www. unomaha. edu/jrf/sanctifi. htm>. Cowan, Douglas E. Sacred Terror: Religion and Horror on the Silver Screen. Waco, TX: Baylor UP, 2008. Print. Broaddus, Maurice. “Religion and Horror. ” Flames Rising, 8 Jan. 2009. Web. 12 Oct. 2012. <http://www. flamesrising. com/broaddus-religion-horror/>. Baglio, Matt. The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist. New York: Doubleday, 2010. Print.