Saturday, May 07, 2005

Sin, responsibility, and ghost stories

Richard Vernon writes in the April 2005 Sojourners Magazine about the recent proliferation of horror movies coming out of Hollywood. The appeal of horror movies, Vernon notes, draws on stirrings below the level of conscious thought:

Critics have long held that our most unspeakable fears are given voice in science fiction and horror films. Where does America go to understand how it feels about communism, atomic science, immigration, AIDS, or terrorism? Where it always has - the back row of the movies. Moviemakers deal in images and metaphor, and in film they give form to the darkest of our terrors.

Several high-budget ghost-thrillers with big stars have been released in the U.S. since the end of January. These ghost stories, Vernon writes, share

the concept of protagonist as innocent victim at the mercy of some larger, sinister scheme.

The success of this basic plot - the ghost is furious, it’s not your fault, but the ghost is going to kill you anyway - is arguably dictated in large measure by Western angst over terrorism and American terror of being misunderstood and hated abroad and divided at home. We are searching for someone to blame. And the darkest fear we nurture is that we are The Blamed.

People believe, deep down, that the world is a dangerous place but it's not our fault? That'll preach!

Vernon makes another fascinating observation: unlike ghost stories of previous decades, horror movies today are not built upon an underlying Judeo-Christian worldview. In fact, some of these films are remakes of Japanese movies with an underlying context of Shintoism. I recommend reading the whole article.


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