//should Christians write horror?

“I WANT TO WRITE A BLOG POST ABOUT SOMETHING TO DO WITH STORIES.” I was sitting with my feet propped up on the windowsill, staring at a blank page. Arielle, always eerily at the ready with an answer (seriously, it’s basically a superpower) said, “WRITE ABOUT WHETHER YOU THINK CHRISTIANS SHOULD WRITE HORROR.” Well, I thought. Yes. Good.

I have limited knowledge of the horror genre. It’s never particularly appealed to me – or I should say, it’s never appealed to me in and of itself. 90% of my horror-movie knowledge is from sitting in theaters, watching the previews. I could skip watching these, but they help me write suspense – watching camera angles, cinematography, suspenseful lines, etc.

But when it comes to actual horror movies, there is one genre I really like: creature movies. I adore creature movies. From old black-and-whites like Them or The Creature from the Black Lagoon to The Blob (the Steve McQueen version, obviously) to The Thing (both versions) to The Cave and every Predator movie – they’re my jam. Also, ever since the time my brother watched Jaws with me for the first time and we got hungry for bagels halfway through, I’ve been hungry during every creature movie, ever. (Note: the only time this has gone wrong was when I decided to eat cold, leftover sausage during John Carpenter’s version of The Thing. For some reason that particular alien + cold sausage = not the most agreeable thing to my appetite. I did it, though.)

As for paranormal horror movies, 99% of the time I’d have to say I have no interest. Granted, I’m not usually even tempted (aside from Crimson Peak. Because it looks gorgeous, and it was directed by Guillermo del Toro, and…)

However, I’ve read some ‘horror’ books (Dekker, Peretti, Zindel) so I feel I can answer the question ‘Should Christians write horror?’ with a definite IT DEPENDS.

I feel like Christians have their opinions on horror split down the middle. One half says “ALL HORROR IS EVIL AND SHOULD BE AVOIDED” and the other half says “EVERYTHING IS ACCEPTABLE AND FINE, CHILL.”

Well, everything is NOT acceptable, but every genre can be redeemed (except probably erotica. Which is self-explanatory) if it’s done right. I’m a firm believer that broken things can be fixed, and most horror is ‘broken’ because God is nowhere to be found.

Most paranormal horror stories involved several things: ghosts/demons/lots of stupidity/lots of murder/lots of sex/lots of brain-searing, gruesome violence/lots of graphic imagery.

I remember one time a friend was writing a horror story and he asked me to read it, because he needed a second opinion. I agreed, because he was a Christian, and a good writer on top of that. The main character in the story was a Christian, and the story involved demonic activity. When I finished it, I told him that it was well-written, but there was no point to it. When he asked what I meant, I told him the main character was a Christian, but to what end? So he had a ‘Christian’ main character – if it didn’t affect the story, there was no reason for him to be a Christian in the first place.

In paranormal horror, the horrors (be they ghosts, demons, or serial killers) run rampant, cutting a bloody swath through the cast. The purpose of these movies is to shock and frighten – and if you’ll forgive me for saying so, shock and fear just aren’t enough for me. If I want to be shocked and frightened, I’ll read an article about the upcoming election. Shock value isn’t a redeeming feature, and most horror movies have no interest in redemption – which is why I don’t like them.

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was this whole post an excuse to include a gif of my predator boyfriend? maybe

I stated earlier that I adore creature-horror but don’t go for paranormal-horror, and let me explain why. Creature-horror frequently has a heavy focus on humanity. It focuses on a cast of characters as they band together against a common enemy. From what I’ve seen of the paranormal-horror genre, the movies tend to delve into some very cultic themes, with absolutely no spiritually redemptive qualities. Creature movies a) don’t have the cultic/spiritual element – rather, it’s usually aliens or mutants or some such and b) have a larger focus on the people in the movie rather than the shock value/horror aspect.

Paranormal horror tends to dwell heavily on evil. Creature horror tends to dwell on…well, creatures.

Are these huge differences? Well, to me they are. They make the story good – although not all of them are this way. (I didn’t finish the Alien sequel because I couldn’t stand anybody in it. Plus there were no Predators, which is the whole point of an Alien movie. Wait, what?)

I think the problem with most paranormal horror is the lack of anything redemptive. It delves too far into the occult and asks you to splash around in graphic violence, torment, and death. It asks you to dwell on darkness with little to no light. Some people like this, but I don’t see any redemptive qualities to it. Some paranormal horror movies might have a fantastic human element, but when battling spiritual darkness (demonic/ghostly forces, etc.) I believe you need spiritual redemption.

Good paranormal horror can be done, but it’s extremely rare. Personally, I’d love to see more Christians tackle the horror genre. I think it has incredible potential – rife with spiritual symbolism and themes that could leave extremely powerful imprints on readers and viewers. I think Peretti and Dekker do this very well – although horror is a very fine edge, and it’s hard not to tip over into ‘too far.’ As for ‘how far is too far,’ I think that frequently depends on the writer and the reader. As long as you’re very open to God’s word and what he’s telling you, you’re safe. When tackling paranormal horror, I would definitely advise remaining constantly in prayer and spending even more time than usual in the Bible. Technically, the Bible has paranormal horror! Possessed madman running amok, demons wreaking havoc – but as I’ve stated in previous posts, the whole point of the Bible is God. The whole point of the Bible is spiritual redemption.

I’ve been asked whether I’ll ever write horror, and the answer is – probably not. I may write novels with horror elements, but I doubt I’ll ever write a full-on horror novel. I’m just not that interested.

Nietzsche once remarked about the Abyss, and claimed that if you gazed it for too long, it would gaze back. I don’t agree with Nietzsche on many points, but I agree with him on this. What we dwell on, what we spend our time on, will become part of us. Some of us can handle more than others – some of us can write the book for the sake of the reader. Some of us can’t. Those who can’t shouldn’t, and those who can should be careful.

 In the end, I think it all comes down to one question:

what should you be willing to make part of you?

Note: After discussing this with Arielle, we came to the same conclusion: redeemed horror cannot, in the strict sense of the word, remain true horror. It may start out as such, but it would be something else by the end. And that, I think, is a good thing.

 

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11 thoughts on “//should Christians write horror?

  1. I’m more of a fan of creature-horror too, anything demonic and I’m out. I just don’t need that in my life. I love stuff like the X files and murder mysteries that have horror elements, but actually aren’t scary.

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  2. Megan and I have talked about this at length.

    At the core of a horror movie or horror novel (let’s set aside slashers like Saw and the like, they’re separate and monster or creature of the week tropes) is the idea that “good is not greater than evil”. Evil wins. That’s what is truly unsettling about horror. It’s why I don’t read Lovecraft. There’s something buried down in the psyche/soul that recognizes the fact that GOOD MUST BE STRONGER THAN EVIL or all of life is nothing but a horror.

    Horror stories play on this fear, this idea that no, Good isn’t stronger. Evil triumphs. It’s a hollow, carved out feeling I’ve discovered, personally. And it’s a lie. Evil is not only /not/ stronger than good, it’s shallow, often stupid short sighted, and not superhuman but “less than human” (Thank you, Agatha Christie for that thought)

    Now, can you write a thriller, a creepy tale, or a ghoulish story and have good win? Yes, yes you can. But then it’s not a horror story. And you’re not writing a lie.

    I really love Flannery O’Conner work. And she wrote creepy dark things. But even A Good Man Is Hard To Find where the entire family is slaughtered by escaped cons (sorrynotsorry for spoiling that story) is not classified strictly as horror because of the fact that the Grandmother in a flash of agape’ love, forgives the one killing her in such a way that love and mercy are offered to him. So, it’s a win. A complicated win but a win.

    To my way of thinking, horror, real horror is such a lie that Christians should not write it. You want to write creepy? Fine. You want to write thrillers? Fine. You want to write speculative things? Fine. But don’t /lie/ with your work. Fiction is a /lie/ that tells the truth, remember? *

    * Attributed to Albert Camus

    So tell the truth.

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  3. Two writers I would recommend looking into if you want to explore Christian horror: Mike Duran and Mark Carver. I’ve not read much of their work, but they both write in the genre and are pretty savvy when it comes to the (writing) craft and theology.

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  4. This is an interesting article! A well thought out point of view! I’m afraid I can’t comment too much because I generally try to avoid scary things due to my sensitivity. However I appreciated your thoughts on the matter especially the thought at the end.

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  5. Yet another awesome post! I haven’t been commenting much recently, but I really appreciate the posts you’ve been doing lately. You’re hitting on so many GREAT topics.

    And I completely agree–there needs to be redemption and light, at which point it ceases to be true horror. This is why I love Dekker’s books (which are not all horror; most are thrillers, but y’know), yet steer clear of most horror novels. Dekker uses the darkness to powerfully show the light, and, like you said, he utilizes the genre very well when it comes to symbolism and drawing parallels to our faith.

    P.S. For the last while, maybe a couple months or so, I can’t get onto your blog with the first try. I get an error message about this website’s security certificate or something. Usually the second try works, but I thought I’d just let you know. :)

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      1. Sounds good! ^_^

        HE IS. I’m reading Water Walker right now, and I’m fascinated by how creepy it is at some parts, without being one bit gory or violent. (It’s like those psycho-horrors you were talking about in your Requiem post.)

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