Ladies and gents, I think I might be clinically insane.
There are many reasons I think this might be true, not the least of which is my propensity for cackling maniacally while formulating plans to take over the world, but if you’re not entirely convinced, I think I could prove my point if you just asked me one question: “Where in our culture do you find pro-life values most prominent and most upheld?” You’d then have me carted off to the madhouse when I nonchalantly answered, “Oh, horror movies, most definitely.”
But, like all madmen, I have a very compelling and meticulously thought-out reason to believe the things I do, and I’d like to share it with you so you can be stark raving nutters too. Before that, though, let me clarify what I mean by “horror movies.” True horror movies, by my estimation, are movies that instill a sense of true fear in the viewer by endangering the lives or well-being of the main characters. This means they are NOT to be confused with “slasher” movies, which are simply an excuse to fill the screen with disturbing, gory, and often flatly demonic imagery. Slasher movies do not actually inspire fear out of concern for the main characters – they merely cause the stomach to turn and the senses to revolt against the horrible things portrayed onscreen. There is no real interest in seeing the characters survive in slasher films, but in fact most people who enjoy slasher films actually watch them to get enjoyment out of the gruesome deaths of each character, reveling in the spurts of blood and severed limbs as if death were some sort of game. Examples of true horror movies would be The Shining, Psycho, or The Silence of the Lambs; slasher movies would be more like the Saw movies, Sinister, or the Final Destination series.
So, now that we’ve established that distinction, how could it be that horror movies are pro-life? It would seem that they are entirely predicated on utter disregard for human life, right? Actually, I would say no, the exact opposite is in fact true – horror movies are entirely predicated on the sanctity of human life. Think about it for a moment. Why is it that we get so afraid when someone is in mortal danger in a movie, even if we know it’s just a movie and isn’t real? Isn’t it because we want that person to be alive? Isn’t it because we care about whether they live or die, whether they get hurt, whether they survive the mess they’re in?
We care very deeply about the heroes of horror movies. Maybe they’re not perfect, maybe they have some issues or mistakes in their past, but we know that they are human beings who have a right to be alive. We know internally, deep down in our guts, that taking their lives from them would be wrong, to a degree that makes us shiver and gag at the very idea. We know that the killer is the bad guy, because no matter what his justification for killing may be, he is operating with complete and utter lack of regard for human life. He does not care that murder is wrong – which is what makes him the bad guy, and allows us to pin all our revulsion at the whole situation on him. He is Evil Incarnate, and not one person watching the movie would argue the point.
So what we have before us, in a horror movie, is a perfect case of extreme polarization. We’ve removed all the shades of gray and outlined everything starkly in black and white. Everything is no longer couched in political, connotative language like “pro-life” or “pro-choice,” or any of the million terms being used and abused by people all around us these days. In this movie, here is the good guy, here is the bad guy, and here is what makes the bad guy’s actions completely wrong. You root against the bad guy because he has no respect for human life; you root for the good guy because YOU, the viewer, have respect for his life.
In fact, when watching a horror movie, you are not allowed to be anything but pro-life. If you’re watching The Silence of the Lambs and find yourself cheering Hannibal Lecter or Buffalo Bill on, you are undoubtedly a sociopath and need immediate help. Any sane person watching the same movie would find himself practically commanded by his conscience to pull for Clarice. You can’t help but be pro-life if it means there’s an actual, recognizable person and life at stake. And thus we turn the discussion to the greatest horror movie of all.
Here is the ultimate example of a movie in which you deeply care about the danger and death facing the main character. Here is a story that, though you know the ending, leaves you utterly transfixed, unable to look away from what is about to happen. Here, every bloody swipe of the scourge, every sand-stung footstep on the road to Calvary, makes you cringe and weep, yet we hail it as the great story of the triumph of Life, Love, and our King. We look on with horror as Christ suffers, but why do we not enjoy it? Why do even the fans of the slasher genre treat the Passion of the Christ with far greater respect (or even distaste) than Saw or The Collector? Why are they fanatical devotees of blood and gore… except THIS blood and gore?
This is what it means to be pro-life. To look on death and suffering and pray with all your heart that it might not happen. To desire life and light not only for yourself, but for someone you have never met, even Someone who lived 2000 years ago. The “horror” that is integrally part of a horror movie is abhorrence of that unnatural, unnecessary, unnerving reality we call “death.” Especially when we see one who could, at a mere thought, obliterate His murderers, heal His own wounds, reverse time so that the Crucifixion never happened, or even start the universe over from scratch… but instead chooses to willingly undergo this suffering.
The silence of this Lamb is deafening.
I really do think that the best way in which we have captured the life-and-death stakes of the pro-life view is by translating this horror of death and crucifixion into real, personal, intimate stories, starring people just like ourselves. The more you root for Clarice, the more you understand why you don’t want her to die. And the more you understand why you don’t want her to die, the more you understand that life is beautiful, sacred, and dignified. It cannot be taken lightly, nor thrown in the gutter.
Life is holy. Let us rightly be afraid of profaning it.