Sunday, April 5, 2009

RELIGION IN HORROR: PART 1-God's Messengers Are The Enemy

So I was born a Roman-Catholic, raised Lutheran, and have the mindset of a Universal Unitarian. The town my high school was in has more churches per capita than any other city in the world. This being said, I've had my fair share of religion as well as experienced the different "types" of religious followers. I've seen everything from anti-christ devil worshipers, to the nature loving Wiccans, all the way up to families performing Quiverfull or [the Jesus is my condom method] and having families with 16 home-schooled children. Whether we are believers, or non-believes, a source of God appears in horror films all around us. Easily identified is of course The Exorcist. Poor little Ragen is possessed by the Devil and we need a priest to save her! Repeated again is the similar The Exorcism of Emily Rose which also shows a poor girl suffering her demons. The more "in-your-face" religious horror film The Reaping shows a town being literally plagued in the same way Egypt was in biblical times. God is often seen as the "light" or the "savior" of these films. IE: Whatever is going wrong throughout the film, is fixed by the hand of God or one of his messengers through a Priest of some sort. BUT what about the times when the messengers of God are the BAD people? Sounds a little farfetched, but we see it in horror films [especially in the form of a woman] more than anything.

One of the most terrifying characters is the obvious is Margaret White of Stephen King's Carrie. The poor girl is so screwed up on numerous levels because of her overly zealous mother. Margaret gave birth to Carrie while in her house, without any medical assistance. Margaret and her then husband Ralph White both agreed that sex [even if married] was a sin and to never perform it. However, when he came home drunk he and his wife shared some weird marital rape that Margaret both hated and loved. Carrie was a result of the sex and she completely resented her daughter for it. From then on, she began to scold her daughter for just about anything, believing many things to be sinful. This deeply affected Carrie throughout the years, putting great strain on her. Whenever Margaret believed that Carrie has sinned, she threw her in a specially decorated closet to pray for forgiveness (for example, when Carrie had her first period at the age of 17). The haunting "first sin was Intercourse & Eve was weak" scenes is one of the most terrifying examples of fanatical religion I've ever seen. I don't think I've ever been more terrified of becoming a woman than I did after watching that scene. Not to mention, the woman wants to kill her daughter for choosing to go to the prom! Carrie is seen as this monster for killing all of these people in the film, but in reality, I don't blame the girl.

Stephen King sure has a knack for creating overly zealous religious women as well as religious characters *cough*Children of the Corn*cough*. Probably my favorite character of 2007 was Mrs. Carmody of Stephen King's The Mist. This movie had extremely mixed reviews, but I was captivated and thoroughly entertained. An elderly townswoman with a borderline reputation as a witch and an extreme belief in a bloodthirsty God, her speeches sound like something ripped straight out of a John Edward's sermon. She actively thrives in the situation of the townspeople being trapped in the supermarket by unknown creatures. She starts out as being seen as just another crazy Jesus freak, and eventually ends up convincing a large faction of the survivors that a human sacrifice must be made to clear away the mist. The survivors become almost cult-like and see the deaths of others a punishment by God. Luckily in the middle of another freak biblical speech, she is shot and killed by Ollie the assistant store manager. This woman is downright obsessed with God and even goes to say that as things go from bad to worse and the body count rises, Mrs. Carmody's vocal pronouncements of a "vengeful, Old Testament God" unleashing his wrath through these "plagues" begins to bring her followers. This woman is doing nothing more than taking advantage of fear. People will look towards anything with a solution when they are afraid, and she is milking it for all it's worth! I absolutely loved how much I hated the character and the performance of Marcia Gray Harden was WELL deserving of her Saturn Award.

So you'd think for a film that was SO monumental I'd be able to find an image of pretty much any scene right? WRONG. The last person I wanted to end today on was the almost forgotten about religious nut of Esmerelda in Edward Scissorhands. This woman who floods her house with Virgin Mary Candles and plays hymns on her keyboard throughout the day is the ONLY woman in Suburbia who isn't completely infatuated with Edward. She's convinced he's the spawn of Satan and begins spouting off biblical references that the rest of the town scoffs at. I loved the character and felt she was completely necessary for the film. If some guy walked into town looking like that...I'd be waiting for someone to preach gospel to me too.

3 comment(s):

Anonymous said...

I am fascinated by the role of religion in horror, and I think it often lends itself well to the type of horror films I enjoy, more gothic type films. There was an article recently in Rue Morgue about the rise of 'Christin Horror' which I wrote about in my blog. You should have a read, there are some great links to websites in the article. They also pose the interesting argument of whether the director needs to'out'their faith in order for it to meet christian criteria and the consequent dollars from the following if they do.

Ms Harker

B-Sol said...

I read that article as well. Raises a lot of interesting questions.

RoaOC said...

Horror movies that are guaranteed to scare the bejeezus out of me ALWAYS have to do with the supernatural, God vs the Devil, good and evil type scenario. I have to admit, I am not religious at all. Luckily for me, I was not raised in a religious household, so, I don't have a lot of repressed, guilty baggage. The Excorcist is one of my favorite movies - one that I can never watch alone - but still, one of my faves. I've been toying with the idea of putting together a list of the top 10 supernatural movies that scare me silly. But, everytime I start the list, I get scared and invariably I end up running away screaming like a little girly girl.

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