Horror fans have always been wary of mainstream entertainment media outlets. Just try to find a glowing horror movie review on Entertainment Weekly, or any major news outlet. You can’t. There’s an immediate bias against the horror genre, where even fantastic example of cinematic art are only grudgingly praised (usually along with some kind of underhanded jab).
But who would expect an umbrella attack from the cool-as-fuck folks over at Vice.com? Ouch! Obviously Josiah M. Hesse is not a fan of our beloved genre. In his most recent article, titled “Why Are So Many Horror Films Christian Propaganda?”, he immediately displays what some might rightly consider genre bigotry:
When it comes to Christian propaganda films, most people think of the obnoxious God’s Not Dead, or Nic Cage’s get-me-out-of-IRS-debt Left Behind—critically reviled assaults on the secular world that occasionally make a lot of money. But there’s another genre that seems to have the same proselytizing agenda that champions Christianity and demonizes all other faiths (including the faithless): horror movies.
Every year we endure more of these predictably edited, laughably plotted thrillers centered around a young girl foolishly toying with the tools of Satan (usually a Ouija Board), becoming possessed by a demon, and then being exorcised by a priest who was struggling with his faith but now sees the error of rational thinking.
Here comes the grudging praise with an underhanded qualification:
It’s true that not all horror films serve as mouthpieces for Christianity—there are even a few examples that condemn church leaders—but nearly any horror film that touches on the supernatural will either condemn the faithless. frame non-Jesus religions as spooky, or claim that Biblical prophecy is coming to pass. Even slasher films with no ties to religion often dabble in moralistic tropes against drugs, premarital sex, or doing anything the least bit salacious.
I highly recommend reading the article in its entirety, HERE.
I’ll do my best to keep my rebuttal short and to the point. This is actually an old argument dressed up in a new suit; it’s no different than the litany of slings and arrows that have been hurled at the horror genre since it first emerged; for example: Horror movies endorse violence against women, horror movies are racist, horror movies encourage violent behavior, horror movies warp fragile young minds, etc. ad nauseum. My response is similar to what I told detractors who attacked The Green Inferno for its lack of political correctness in 2015:
No one goes to a horror movie to be educated. Just as no one went to see The Green Inferno to learn facts about indigenous tribes, no one will be going to see Ouija: The Origins of Evil for a lesson in Judeo-Christian ideologies. And remember, religion has been steeped in fear-mongering long before the advent of moving pictures.
Hesse could probably also benefit from lessons in subversive art and irony. While it’s absolutely true many horror movies use religious ideology as a plot motivator, few (if any) were made to encourage puritanical behavior. No one is trying to scare anyone straight—they’re trying to scare us silly! A film that revolves around an apocalypse or a possessing demon pulls at our innate subconscious (or societally ingrained) fears, but it also exposes the absurdity of it all. No horror fan ever walked out of a film like The Possession or Legion thinking, “Damn, I better get my ass to church!”
Just like no horny teenager ever left a Friday the 13th flick thinking, “Good thing I’m a virgin. Now I’ll never have sex!”
Hesse also quotes Hector Avalos, a professor of religious studies at Iowa State University who teaches a class on religion and film; he claims: “Many filmmakers actually believe in the message of their films. They see their jobs as being missionaries for Christianity, and film is their missionary tool. Fear is a missionary tool. The message is that evil is real enough to be feared, and that you should view Christianity or religion as the best answer.”
My response to this is: LOL.
Yeah right! Horror movies are part of a secret Christian propaganda campaign. Let’s break this down a bit.
I seriously doubt James Wan, The Soska Sisters, and Guillermo de Toro (to name just a few) are secretly hoping we’ll find our way to Christ through horror. Avalos is describing a scenario wherein major industry players are actually working against their own self-interests. He wants us to believe that filmmakers are spending their efforts hoping to dissuade us from non-Christian behaviors, like viewing their future horror projects (because that would be totally ungodly, right?). He wants us to believe that these directors, who obviously love horror, are secretly pushing Christian propaganda, spending countless hours and billions of dollars on a secret mission. When you get into the logistics of it, the very insinuation is so convoluted it’s ridiculous.
Let me wrap up with this final thought: I’ve loved horror movies since I was a kid and the good ones still scare the fuck out of me. I’ve probably seen a million of them. If the desired effect was to push me towards a Christian life, it obviously isn’t working.
Do you think horror movie practitioners are secretly pushing a Christian agenda? Sound off in the Comments section!
Ouija: The Origins of Evil opens tomorrow.
Official Synopsis: In 1965 Los Angeles, a widowed mother and her two daughters add a new stunt to bolster their séance scam business and unwittingly invite authentic evil into their home. When the youngest daughter is overtaken by the merciless spirit, this small family confronts unthinkable fears to save her and send her possessor back to the other side.