I gave 3 tips for “scary Christians” to use in their creepy tales, and because I love the spooks so much, here are 3 more:
1. Illustrate Your Own Demons
Imagine a story where Gluttony, Sorrow or Addiction is personified. This image would resonate with many souls who are struggling with such vices.
There is a saying for writers: “write what you know.” Do some introspection and try to put words and images to the demons that haunt you. It may even be therapeutic to get them illustrated and out in the open (1 John 1:7), but most importantly, when we use our personal history as inspiration, the story comes across as authentic.
Yes, we’re the monsters, vampires, werewolves, the Jekyll and Hydes (Rom. 3:10-18, 23). To illustrate the fallen state of humanity is to build a pulpit for the Gospel to speak (Rom. 5:20-6:1-11). We yearn for redemption, not just spooky thrills. We yearn for transformation (Rom. 8:19-23) and Christians have the authority to proclaim that it’s possible (Matt. 28:18-20; 2 Tim. 4:2).
2. Subvert the Glory of the “Horror Villain”
Like any story, Horror stories depend on the villain (the external conflict). But they tend to take it one step further. Horror movies become known for their villains (the masks they wear, the weapons/tactics they use, etc.) while their protagonists are the generally the “everyday, relatable people.”
The adage, “stories are known for their villains,” is true. So try subverting this principle by making the “everyday protagonist” take up the call to action and become more recognizable than the villain (the recent film, Get Out, is a great example). Give the protagonist the sort of recognition that comes with other genres.
Do this by being radical: bring the fear to the villain. What is he/she/it scared of? Let the protagonist flaunt it in the villain’s face. For example, sacrifice and courage put fear to flight because fear loses its grip on someone who’s willing to embrace it (i.e., The Babadook). Emphasize the heroism of the protagonist (like in Alien and Aliens), and then the villain stays a villain. Even if fear is all around, show audiences that fear doesn’t have the final say in Christ.
“Do not be afraid” ~ Jesus
3. Mind Your Conclusion: Tension or Resolution?
With the sharp contrast between good and evil in Horror, its conclusions need careful thought.
How do you end your story? With redemption or tragedy? Did the villain get what he deserved? If not, any indication that he will someday? Did the protagonist make it out alive or anew? Scarred forever?
The bottom line is that you, as the story-maker, have the power to determine which worldview wins in the end. What ending best captures what you’re trying to say about the worldviews involved? Resolution or tension?
Maybe a conclusion with the villain winning is what you need. After all, the true horror story is that monsters walk free. Perhaps this is the best way to summon a yearning for a final redemption when evil is truly put in its place.
One caveat must be made, however: be sure your intent is met if you make the villain win. It’s best to avoid the superficial “sense of thrill” that comes when the villain wins. Unless you want to make a cash cow franchise like Insidious, Saw or Paranormal Activity, don’t make Evil win just to springboard another film. As Christians, we better be intentional (Eph. 5:15-16).
Today, between this world and the next, we remain in the tension between horror and hope. So speak to that; let your experience of depravity and tragedy fuel radical images that prompt audiences to acknowledge what we are and how we hope to persevere through the dark forest.
Our world is an unfinished story, and much of the time it is indeed horrible. But the hope we have in Christ is the light at the end of the horror story that is human history. So we better start telling the horror stories that are happening around us and in us. Create stories where the tension is kept between monsters and the justice we deserve. Make audiences unsettled by the reminder that we need help.
Justice is far from us,
and righteousness does not overtake us;
we hope for light, and behold, darkness,
and for brightness, but we walk in gloom.
We grope for the wall like the blind;
we grope like those who have no eyes;
we stumble at noon as in the twilight,
among those in full vigor we are like dead men.
We all growl like bears;
we moan and moan like doves;
we hope for justice, but there is none;
for salvation, but it is far from us.
For our transgressions are multiplied before you,
and our sins testify against us;
for our transgressions are with us,
and we know our iniquities:
transgressing, and denying the Lord,
and turning back from following our God.
Originally published at A Clear Lens