Recently, my gal and I stumbled into the movie theaters for a showing of Annabelle Comes Homeon a restless Friday night. It’s the third film in the Annabelle series and the sixth in the increasingly convoluted Conjuringuniverse. The very first film, The Conjuring, is destined to be a classic. The various spin-offs, however, including this most recent offering often pale in comparison to the original. They can veer from average to comically bad in a heartbeat outside a few compelling scenes and jump scares here and there. In short, Annabelle Comes Homewas as fun as it was forgettable.
Horror can certainly be a genre that suffers from cheap thrills and tired formulas. Still, the dread, uncertainty and sort of deep, Jungian fear of the unknown that a good horror film elicits can also lead to a healthy amount of religious introspection. If one abides by a certain amount of faith and fear of God in their lives even the most clichéd supernatural thriller can lead to some reasonable theological food for thought. I actually seek out horror films and supernatural thrillers to reify some sense of faith as odd as that may sound to some.
When done reasonably well, horror films and novels allow one to reckon with veritable unknowns outside the seemingly drab, empirical scope of our being. The existential dread that a scary tale evokes forces one into the arena of faith and God. A domain many of us often grant only a kind of lip service to in our busy, tedious lives.
Unlike any other genre, God is often actively sought out for protection in horror. Such reaching toward the high heavens is an absolute rarity these days in entertainment, particularly when any explicit mention of God is met with so much mockery and derision in the media and elsewhere unless reduced to some New Age slop.
Often as the climax approaches in these films, the protagonists are left with literally no other choice but to call upon God for help. No physical strength or prowess can avail them against the evil that confronts them. For example, in Annabelle Come Homes, a young girl cornered by a demonic presence successfully brandishes a cross to thwart the evil. Though brandishing a cross or praying are common symbolic tropes throughout horror films, it touches upon a reality that holds true for many of us when we contemplate our own sense of existential dread in fear and trembling. Namely, that we must continually yield to God and trust in His Strength, Wisdom and Mercy no matter how dire or demanding our circumstances.
Oddly enough, as I watched Annabelle Comes HomeI was reminded of Viktor Frankl’s timeless masterpiece, Man’s Search For Meaning. Frankl recounts the horrors he witnessed in the Holocaust alongside the endless wellspring of strength he drew from his faith in God to persevere and finally endure. A particular line always resonates with me:
“Life in a concentration camp tore open the human soul and exposed its depths…The rift dividing good from evil, which goes through all human beings, reaches into the lowest depths and becomes apparent even on the bottom of the abyss…” – Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
Obviously, the humdrum monotony that most of our lives entail pales in comparison to the abject horrors of the Holocaust. As a result, we are rarely aware of this rift within ourselves as we hurdle through life at an increasingly maddening, anxious pace. However, something as seemingly innocuous as a horror film can continually remind us that this distinction exists, especially within ourselves. Faith needn’t always be some vexing labyrinth of exegetical constructs and theological disputes. Sometimes the best reminders of God and our place before Him are the most simple.