When many people think of horror films, movies like the grisly Saw series, Friday the 13th and Halloween come to mind. These films are memorable—even if you haven’t seen them—because they involve extreme violence, gruesome deaths and an almost enticing allure to evil. Also, after so many years of gore, some filmmakers anticipate the audiences’ increasing desensitization and ratchet up the violence to stomach-churning levels.
Given the overwhelming darkness in these films, why would Christians have anything to do with them?
Well, while it’s not your typical 4th of July weekend fare, one horror film in theaters now reveals that sometimes there’s more going on underneath the violence, suspense, and terror.
Deliver Us from Evil is a supernatural thriller based on the true-life experiences of New York Police Detective Ralph Sarchie, which are also detailed in his book by the same name. In the movie, Sarchie encounters evil daily as he fights crime on the tough streets of the Bronx. But then he begins to encounter things that he cannot explain, a different level of evil that goes beyond the merely human.
This is exactly where Christian director and screenwriter Scott Derrickson wants his audience to pay attention.
In a recent interview in Christianity Today, Derrickson shared his desire “to tell stories about the larger mysteries of life” and move people to look beyond “a material world that we can see and measure.”
Certainly that’s something Christians can understand and support. But why choose horror films to tell his stories?
While not all will agree, Derrickson believes that horror films are the perfect genre for Christians. As he puts it, these types of films deal more explicitly and overtly with the essence of good and evil than others. In fact, he wonders “why everyone isn't obsessed with discovering and unmooring a deeper understanding of it. If we're not compelled to gain a deeper understanding of good and evil, how can we make the world a better place?”
He adds, “My feeling is that a lot of Christians are wary of this genre simply because it’s unpleasant.” The genre “is not about making you feel good. It is about making you face your fears. And in my experience, that's something that a lot of Christians don't want to do.”
In many ways, Derrickson operates like his creative hero, novelist Flannery O’Connor. O’Connor also grappled with the difficulty of communicating a faith-filled vision to a “hostile audience.”
For them, she wrote, “you have to make your vision apparent by shock—to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost blind you draw large and startling figures.”
Perhaps horror films afford Derrickson the opportunity to at least try to penetrate the dullness of mind described by the prophet Isaiah when he wrote: “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
The truth is, Deliver Us from Evil is an uncomfortable film to watch and it is not appropriate for all, and certainly not children. But in a culture that has reached the point where evil is called good and good is called evil, this may be the only kind of film that will help some people to understand the nature of the cosmic spiritual battle waging all around us.
I invite you to visit BreakPoint.org to learn more about Derrickson’s creative vision and other thoughts he shared in an interview with my friend and Chuck Colson colleague Anne Morse.
Whether you choose to see his films or not, it’s encouraging to know that someone in Hollywood is working to bring a little light to the darkness of the theater.
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
Publication date: July 14, 2014