Gathered around a campfire, a group of kids roast marshmallows. One of the kids begins a tale of intrigue and horror, drawing in his fellow campers. All attention is on him, while they listen in with bated breath. He takes a pause, and the silence is broken by a grumble from the woods.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, 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,” reads Philippians 4:8.
Most Christians are aware of this verse. If the Bible directs us to think on things that are lovely and pure, what are we to do then with stories that are characterized by evil, death and darkness? Should we avoid horror stories altogether? The grotesque and shocking features of horror causes many Christians to dismiss the genre altogether.
However, in doing so, some Christians overlook the redemptive aspects of horror films and what they can teach us.
The story of the first Passover in Exodus, the execution of Christ, encounters with demons and the death of Jezebel are all frightful stories. Yet, these stories encourage a healthy fear of the Lord and testify to the possible usefulness of horror stories.
Horror stories can have redemptive purposes. First, the stories within the horror genre can remind us of our fallen nature. They remind us that we live in a dark and broken world. They expose evil and the true nature of sin.
Second, horror stories can cause us to face our fears. Acknowledging the fact that our lives are fragile could shock us into making the most of the time we are given.
Third, some horror stories are depictions of good triumphing over evil. Real life can be scary sometimes and reading or watching stories from the horror genre could encourage us to fight against the evil.
Our motive behind it is what is most important. Horror is not the only genre that can be watched for the wrong reasons. When it comes to horror, however, we should remember that we are not to dwell or meditate on evil. If we are watching horror to fuel an obsession with death or a yearning for violence, we should stop immediately. However, if we are watching or reading a horror story with correct motives—for the purposes of facing our fears, understanding human flaws and being encouraged to conquer evil—horror could be helpful.
Personally, horror is not a genre I watch most of the time and I don’t watch rated R horror films, like “It” or “The Exorcist,” but I have watched “Stranger Things” and “The Quiet Place.”
Keeping our limits in mind, Christians shouldn’t ignore the possible benefits of horror stories because they can encourage us to face our fears and overcome evil. Horror stories don’t have to be avoided but we should always read them in the light of the one who overcame all evil.
Illustration by Jonathan Westcott