In the movie 30 days of Night, there’s a scene in which a girl walks through the town calling out for help because the evil vampires put her up to it. She reaches the end of the street and no one has come out to help her – no one has taken the bait. The vampires threaten her and she says “Oh God, please. Please Oh God.” The vampire just shakes his head and says “No. No God.” In narrative terms this establishes a base premise of the created universe. In the world in which 30 days of Night takes place, there is no God (in the movie version, I haven’t read the graphic novels so I don’t know if it’s different) in much the same way the Marvel Universe and the DC Universe have a base premise of the existence of superheroes.
But have you noticed how even in supernatural thrillers like The Exorcism of Emily Rose and The Exorcist in which the church plays an important part, the Father rarely does? Even Constantine which has a base premise of Spiritual Warfare has more about angels and the church than it does about the Father. I think this occurs for three reasons.
1) With the Father the world is not a scary place.
I mean it just isn’t all that scary. “If God is for us then who can stand against us.” “Take heart for I have overcome the world.” We know exactly how the story ends even if we don’t know the exactly course of the story (and if you figured out exactly what Revelations means, please e-mail me I’d love to talk). But there is no horror in the peace that surpasses understanding. There is no fear in perfect love, because perfect love casts out fear. With the Father running the show there is no room for a good scare-me-to-pieces story.
2) The Father’s love is simple.
The father loves us. It’s that simple. But if we use that as a base premise for movies like Constantine and The Exorcist then there’s no room for human error – human error isn’t an issue. I don’t know about you but the first time I watched The Exorcist I was absolutely terrified they were going to mess up the magic spell that would conquer the demon. What if the latin inflection is wrong? What if they replace one word with a similar one will it still work? If it’s just about faith, and anyone can overcome the demon with the Father’s love, then it’s not really scary.
3) The Father’s love is complex.
It’s the Stockdale paradox! No wait… it’s just a paradox. The Father’s love is abundantly simple, but even if you take it as such what do you do with it on screen? How do we possibly portray it as a compelling plot device in a horror film? There is no intense search for the magical sword to defeat the dragon; there is no mystical journey to the underworld for the knowledge to pass through the dangers of Whatever; there’s just a single solitary person standing in the middle of the carnage saying “I come before you in the name of the Lord of Hosts.” I mean that’s awesome, but incredibly complicated to work with in a horror film.
It’s the kind of thing that makes me wonder – can we create a supernatural thriller/horror that faithfully portrays our understanding of the Father, and still have it be a thriller/horror film?