Christians and Horror Movies

Updated: Nov 1

I could feel the intense adrenaline, causing my heart to race. The palms of my hands began to grow increasingly sweaty as the butterflies rose in my stomach. I started to rock uncomfortably in my chair, wanting the moment to end. No, I was not on a roller coaster or watching a teacher pass out recently graded tests. I was watching a scary movie. Many of us, if not all, have had a similar experience with horror movies. Some of us grew up in the era of Jaws and Halloween, while others remember checking their closets for Freddy and Jason. For my generation, most scary movies dealt with the paranormal and demonic, with some of the most popular horror movies centering on exorcisms. With Halloween quickly approaching, many Christians and Christian parents may not only be wrestling with questions surrounding Halloween but also with scary movies. This article seeks to answer the question: should Christians watch scary movies?

1. Don’t Judge a Book by its Demons

We would be off base to say that the horror genre is inherently “demonic.” After all, the presence of demonic figures in a work of media does not automatically make the work demonic. For example, C.S. Lewis’s famous book The Screwtape Letters is a fictional story composed of letters from an imaginary demon named Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood, who seeks to secure the eternal damnation of a British man. Lewis’s purpose was to describe everyday temptations and how the devil might use those to cause Christians to stumble. Also, the famous (or infamous, depending on whom you ask) Left Behind books had the antichrist as one of its main characters. These characters are portrayed not as heroes but as antagonists who seek to destroy Christianity. However, we have ample reasons to be concerned when demonic figures are shown in a positive or entertaining light, like in films such as The Exorcist or Paranormal Activity. While there is no chapter and verse in Scripture we can point to saying Christians sin when they watch films that glorify the demonic; it would therefore be incredibly unwise and even dangerous for believers to partake in these.

2. Eyes Off the Prize

It is unwise because these films can tempt us to take our eyes off the glory of Christ. Whether the films are about demons, exorcisms, or serial killers, they can cause our hearts to go from rejoicing and resting in the Gospel to anxiously checking behind shower curtains and double-checking the alarm system. They can rob us of the joy, peace, and contentment that are ours in and through Christ Jesus (see Philippians 4:6). They can lead us astray from thinking the way Paul tells us to in Philippians 4:8. Why would we intentionally partake of something we know that might rob us of these blessings? Of course, this argument can be used with any film or television genre. A romantic comedy can cause us to idolize dating relationships or fall into despair if we are single. A home renovation show can cause us to grow discontented with our homes and envious of others. On the other hand, a comedy may cause us to feel lighthearted about a topic we should treat with sensitivity and care. There are unique challenges anytime we partake in entertainment. That said, I think that horror movies pose a unique and more extreme challenge for the viewer in that they cause us to fear the demonic when we ought to feel secure in Christ. As C.S. Lewis said in the preface of the aforementioned Screwtape Letters, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves (the devils) are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.” We want to avoid errors that create an unhealthy, unbiblical fear or obsession with the (very real) demonic powers whom Christ conquered and conquers.

3. Someone Call an Exorcist!

On that note, watching horror films can also become dangerous for Christians. These films can cause us to think that demonic influence looks like vomiting, spinning heads, and abnormal bodily movements. The Scriptures paint a different story. We see demonic possession and influence in the Gospels (Matthew 17:14-18; Mark 5:1-20; Luke 22:3-6; John 13:2) and the book of Acts (8:5-8; 16:16-18). These possessions had visible bodily effects on the individuals. These incidents are real and still happen today in areas where the Gospel is not widely believed or shared (a different article for another day). However, a focus and obsession with demonic possession, like we see in the movies, can distort how we engage in spiritual warfare.

Every Christian is engaged in spiritual warfare (Eph. 6:11-12). You, as a Christian, have an enemy who prowls around day and night (1 Peter 5:8) seeking to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). If you are in Christ, you need not fear being possessed by a demon. However, Christians are not immune to the enemy’s schemes. We can still be influenced and drawn away by evil forces. While we need not fear demonic possession, I believe a focus and obsession with movies dealing with demonic possession and exorcisms can distract us from how the enemy seeks every moment of every day to attack us. It can cause us to forget that hypocrisy (Acts 5:1-11), persecution (Revelation 2:9-10), divisions in a local church body (2 Corinthians 2:5-11), and temptation (James 1:13-14) are all schemes the enemy uses to tear down Christians and the church (check out Spiritual Warfare in the Storyline of Scripture by William Cook and Chuck Lawless for more information on this topic). We are to be on guard against the enemy at all times. Watching horror movies may entertain us for a moment, but they can slowly cause us to have misconceived ideas of the devil and distract us from how he may want to try and cause us to fall.

4. Murder She Watched

Another danger with horror movies, particularly those dealing with serial killers, is that it might lead the viewers not to be able to sympathize with those whose families have dealt with the loss of a loved one through murder or have been victims of crimes themselves. Graphic depictions of murder and other crimes may harden our hearts to news about murder or violence on the news. Christians are called to weep with those who weep (Rom. 12:14), have sympathy for one another, and have a tender heart (1 Peter 3:8). God is described as a comforter who helps us in our sorrow (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). Jesus wept over the sins of Jerusalem, the destruction that would come upon them (Luke 19:41-44), and the presence of death (John 11:33). Watching films where the goal is to be entertained by gory deaths can desensitize us to the very real violence all around us. When screams of agony are what entertain us, we can’t be surprised when they do not trigger sympathy and pain in real life.

5. Conclusion

All that to say, I don’t see evidence in Scripture that it is outright sinful for Christians to watch horror movies. However, before you rush to watch the next scary movie you can find, we must remember that just because something is permissible does not make it beneficial to us (1 Corinthians 10:23). Further, simply because something may not be overtly sinful, this does not make it prudent or wise, nor does it mean that such things will not eventually lead to sin. Horror movies impose a real and legitimate danger to our spiritual walk. They may not cause us to lose our salvation (something that cannot happen according to Romans 8:29-30), but they can cause us to live in fear, misunderstand the schemes of our very real enemy, and be desensitized to the people hurting all around us. Whether it's horror, comedy, or home renovation shows, let's make sure that our entertainment is helping us to “walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8).

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