What Horror Movies Taught Me About HellArts, Film — By Emily Timbol on June 25, 2012 at 7:09 am
It’s not easy being a cinephile with an extreme phobia of vomit. Anytime I see or hear someone throwing up on screen, my body has an immediate visceral reaction. My heart rate increases, my blood runs cold, and my stomach instantly clenches up like a fist. This, coupled with my intense dislike of anything depicting supernatural evil (especially of the demonic child type) makes most horror movies a “no-no” for me. Unlike romantic comedies, action movies, or dramas, where I can almost always tell when someone is about to throw up and therefore avert my eyes, horror movies are fond of the “sudden” puke attacks.
That’s one of the reasons I was hesitant when my husband asked me if I’d like to see the recent movie Cabin in the Woods, from much loved director Joss Whedon. As a rule, I don’t like being grossed out or scared, but I relented when I saw the multitude of positive reviews, and his mounting excitement. From the moment the movie started, I knew I had made the right choice. It was often times hilarious, very clever and smart, and had so many different twists and turns that we were never rolling our eyes or checking our watches.
What really affected me though was the end of the film. Without giving too much away, it involves a myriad of “horrors” that when released, create what many people might describe as hell. I have no idea how he did this, but even though there was a murderous clown, evil ballerina, and huge spider, Joss Whedon still managed to put in humor and wit into this bloody, thoroughly gory ending.
In the car on the way back home from the theatre, Ryan and I were discussing our thoughts on the film, as it was one of those movies that seems to prompt further discussion. We both agreed that we loved it, but the more we talked, the more something became clear.
Satan must love Hollywood’s depiction of hell.
Fire, terrifying red-horned, hoofed demons with pitchforks, darkness, and an overall feeling of fear and horror. Sure, some of that is inspired from the Bible itself; as Jesus refers to it in Matthew 13:50 as a “furnace of fire with weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Or the Revelations Chapter 20 verses that refer to it as a “lake of fire.” Theological explanations of Gehenna aside, I don’t think that this picture of hell is complete. First of all, we know now that the Bible is composed both of things we should take literally (Jesus’ life and death) and things we should take as symbolism or allegory (plucking out our eye if we sin.) Based on that knowledge, it’s safe to assume that hell is a lot more than just physical fire.
One of the things we know about God, is that he is love. Likewise, we know that the absence of love is sin, and therefore sin and distance from God go hand in hand. As a Christian, I should be much more scared of an eternity apart from the pure, just love of God, than a lifetime of enduring blazing fires. Physical pain is something of this world, and people of every age, mental capacity, and culture can understand the sting of a hot coal. It makes sense then that this would be the way God chose to describe the searing spiritual pain that is a ripping from God. On the cross, right before he cried out “it is finished” and went to hell, we must remember what happened to Christ. God’s presence left him. This was hell for Jesus, and will be hell for anyone who refuses the loving pursuit of God.
The brilliance of Satan is the total distraction from this truth, that is so thinly veiled. We only need to look at scripture to realize what true hell really is. But what’s easier than looking to the Bible is looking to movies, and the lie that the scariest things we might ever have to endure are demonic children or angry poltergeists. It’s all too easy to walk out of a movie theatre, and shake off the fear that the monsters under the stairs “aren’t real.” Of course there’s not really a Cabin in the Woods filled with unspeakable horror, that is just make believe. The gorier, and more horrifying the films, the farther we distance ourselves from them. Which is fine, as long as we realize that for every depicted demon, monster, or serial killer, there is a real evil out there lurking, that seeks to rob us of much more than our dreams or Earthly lives. It seems to rob us from the one thing that without, we’ll never truly live.
And that, is the scariest thing of all.