Why I Love Religious Horror: A Personal Story

I was originally working on a post for later this week and my intro paragraph became a whole page. I decided it was time to talk about why I love religion in horror and to an extension my slight obsession with cults and radical faiths. Sooooooo, here we go.

As a kid I had the beginnings of becoming a massive horror fan. Along with sneaking in some movies I was too young to watch, I remember reading Goosebumps for years, and even delved into Fear Street in my pre-teens. I was thirteen when my personal life hit the fan and soon after I ‘found religion’ to help with the pain.

It wouldn’t be till years later that I realized that parts of who I was were stifled and repressed for a good decade. Denying what I loved to be ‘good enough’ in my new religion’s eyes. Even though horror was frowned upon, I remember hearing the call at least once a year to indulge in a movie, at least the first few years.

I didn’t completely stop consuming horror until one time when in a youth group a girl saw The Ring and swore that an evil presence was plaguing her. Some adults in our church actually prayed over her to vanquish this movie demon back to hell. The teens then got a stern talking to about how scary movies invite demons into your life.

And of course, as the good follower , I thought this would bring me closer to God. the deepest sigh

There wasn’t a significant moment that I left the church, after college it was just taking one step back at a time. Somewhere along the way I found my love for horror again. I think it’s funny that it still took a few years to embrace this, with the ghosts of my past still there judging me. Now I feel like I need to play catch up, trying to watch so many classics that others in the community talk about.

The beginning of searching out religious horror strangely started with a historical fiction novel, The Poisonwood Bible. Boy, a true nightmare. While fiction, I know enough about missionary work to know how real the danger was, dropping a controlling white narcissist in the middle of a village in 1950’s Belgian Congo. Not technically horror, but deeply tragic and it impacted me greatly.

As I’ve removed myself further from my past beliefs I see myself stepping towards similar narratives. I know horror stories are ones about extremes, but I see familiar faces in the stories. I just recently read A Head Full of Ghosts, about a teen girl who starts showing signs of acute schizophrenia and as things progress her religious father decides to bring in a priest. Cue the exorcism.

There are many elements at play in this book, including if there’s actually any supernatural goings on, but honestly that wasn’t the horror for me. It was how the priest, along with the reality crew (oh yeah, they also film the exorcism), manipulate the situation for their own purposes using a sick young lady. It’s a manipulation I’ve seen before.

Maybe that’s why I love religious horror and keep going back, I see my story in the cracks. Maybe I can in some way reclaim my lost time. I don’t know, but I’ll keep reading and searching.

(**I want to say that I’m not against people having religious beliefs. I have loved ones who are Christians and I respect them greatly. It’s due to the fact that they were not like me and are able to have a foot in reality. They understand that their beliefs are their own and value those who hold different beliefs, not just pawns to ‘be saved’. **)

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