The Importance of The Horror Genre
"Whether it’s a dystopian future, a serial murderer, or a glimpse into hell, the horror genre appeals to our inherent sense that the world is not the way it’s supposed to be. And we cringe at its defilement." - Mike Duran (Christian Horror)
In my previous entry "Christmas & Horror" I stated, "horror deserves our attention and it must be taken seriously if we are to learn anything in this life worth knowing." and I stand by that statement wholeheartedly. Absolutely there are other genres that hold the same weight, but none quite like that of horror.
Horror shows us, I think, the one thing that we as a culture do not wish to see in ourselves. It shows us that we all have darkness in us. We all have a little monster lurking in the shadows, waiting to rear it's ugly head and devour something or someone. Horror reminds us that this world is not okay. This world is broken and terrifying in many ways and sometimes it seems as though there is no escaping it. Horror reveals the reality behind what we want to see in the world. Sure, there are great beauties to behold and wonderful seasons of joy, but at the end of the day, we must realize that the world we live in (at this moment) is also a broken horrifying place filled with death and destruction.
Well isn't that a happy sentiment?
Actually, it is. And I'll explain why.
I'm a Christian and grew up in church. I've heard many sermons on the sinful state of the world and humanity which leads to death and there's absolutely nothing we can do about it. If these sermons are biblical in nature (which most of them were) that grave news is followed up by the hope of the gospel. The pastor gives the realistic, soberingly bad news that we cannot escape from and in that moment, if you understand it correctly, you are left in horror. A horror that is very real and is something you truly cannot escape from.
However there is hope in this presentation. There is good news (in fact that's exactly what the word "gospel" means) that says there is a way out of this curse we are all under. That God himself became a human and rescued those who would follow him from the horrors inside ourselves, the horrors of the brokenness of the world, and from a very real enemy that orchestrates both of those things to destroy us. But the good news cannot be understood, celebrated, or received until you understand the horror of the bad news.
As you can see, it's not an unreasonable argument that from a Christian worldview the horror genre is extremely important to provide a proper representation to the world around us. Which is exactly what Mike Duran dives head first into in his book (quoted from above) "Christian Horror".
The quote above presents the main thesis of Duran's book perfectly. In this quote, he touches on the three enemies of the Bible which together cultivate evil: the sinful desires inside of us (ourselves), the brokenness of the world, and a greater spiritual enemy that is named as the satan (which means the enemy) in the Bible. For the sake of time, I'll break down a movie that represents the last portion of evil (the enemy) very well. The 2011 horror/drama called "The Rite" starring Anthony Hopkins.
In "The Rite", we meet a young seminary student named Michael Kovak who has serious reservations about becoming a priest because he's not even sure he believes God exists. Good reason to not be a priest. Instead of releasing him, The Church instructs him to go to the Vatican where he will learn about exorcism from the very best exorcist they have, Father Lucas (played by Anthony Hopkins). Throughout the movie Michael must face his past and also face the (what seems to be) very real supernatural forces of evil that are infesting this world, especially in places he would never expect. In the climax of the movie, Michael realizes the bad news of this world, in a very real and dangerous way, could very well not only take his life, but his soul. In this moment he must embrace the good news to save his soul and other lives around him.
We face similar situations in our lives every day. Maybe not in the extreme ways Michael does in the film, but we still face the bad news of our own corrupt thoughts and desires which lead to hurt and broken relationships, the natural progression of nature in a broken world (hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, natural selection, disease, famine, etc), and yes whether we realize it or not a supernatural enemy that wants us physically and spiritually dead and will use the other two to reach its goal.
If it's true that fiction shows us truth then I will again state that horror is one of (if not the most important) genre in literature and pop culture. If we ignore the horror genre and live in a "Hallmark" world where everything is wonderful and always ends in a happy ending, we are either setting ourselves up for failure in our expectations, or we are crippled when we see the true horror of the world around us. Horror is beneficial and helpful. Because, if told well, it will remind us of the reality of our current situation and leave us yearning for a hero who can rescue us from it.