Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Horror as it Should Be

Horror is one of the most profoundly theological genres of fiction. Other genres can be theological (or at least religious) without much effort, but the implications of horror are essentially theological. It deals with the life to come, the meaning and limits of humanity, and so on.

That's why it's so truly horrible when it goes wrong. The cheap scare, the sleazy accompaniment to the gasps--comic relief is better than jiggle, but not as marketable--all signs of shallow horror. It's probably the hardest genre to do right, given the theological weight, but it's too effective to leave to people who don't even understand the symbols they're using. At least the early Hollywood horror movies acknowledged their sources. Nowadays that's played as camp. But our guide for good fiction of any kind is always based on Philippians 4:8--Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-- think about such things. (NIV) Writing by this rule will always be true to its sources.

The other side of the problem is people who go for the gasp even if the theology is bad--assuming that they can be bothered to check it at all. One of the reasons I'm writing my essay on fictional demonology is to give would-be horror writers some idea of how horror can be handled in a theologically responsible way.

Acknowledge your sources. Know your sources. Remember the limitation of fear and of fiction: you can at best spark a teachable moment in your reader. But don't throw that moment away!

1 comment:

John said...

Hey, I was browsing blogs and have really enjoyed reading yours. I'm also a Christian, an aspiring writer, and I have a fascination with the paranormal. Your essay on demonology was very well done. The way you tied it all in with Lewis and Tolkin was brilliant. Have a great day.

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