Why Christian Horror Is Not Really Scary

by Mike Duran · 10 comments

  • Share this:

Tagged as: Christian fiction, Horror fiction

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

spacer Kessie February 12, 2012 at 9:56 PM

Is there even “Christian horror”? I can never tell horror from thrillers, except I suppose horror has more undead in it.

You made some good points there, about Christians aren’t allowed to be as edgy as secular horror authors, and also there’s the predictability that the good guys will always win. But what does make horror scary, anyway?

… I’m trying to think of a book that creeped the heck out of me. Turn of the Screw comes to mind. Also the Dekker/Peretti book House. The ending, good or bad, wasn’t what disturbed me–it was the freaking creepy stuff that happened in the middle. But I don’t read that genre much and I’m not very used to it.

What other Christian horror is there, anyway? Is it cliched or badly written or are the lights just too bright in it? I don’t know.


spacer Mike Duran February 13, 2012 at 7:10 AM

It’s a matter of semantics. Christian publishers do not like the term “horror” — probably because it invokes slasher flicks and blood and guts — so they use the world “thriller,” “chiller,” or “suspense.” But the genres are virtually the same. Think of all the religiously-themed movies that are labeled horror: The Exorcist, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Legion, Constantine, Fallen, The Rite, etc.

I haven’t read House. The only “Christian” book I’ve read that came close to really “scaring” me was probably Tosca Lee’s, Demon: A Memoir. The “horror” was more psychological than visceral. But the cannon of Christian horror is growing. Dekker and Peretti are probably the big names. Then you’ve got authors like T.L. Hines, Mike Dellosso, Anne Rice might be considered, Bob Liparulo, Eric Wilson’s Undead Trilogy, and others.


spacer Kessie February 13, 2012 at 10:38 AM

The psychology of the thriller, for me, is more horrifying than blood and guts. Remember that movie Signs, with the crop circles and the noises on the baby monitor? You never see anything, and it’s what you don’t see that scares the heck out of you.

House, though, was every horror cliche they could think of, all mashed into one book. When the rednecks came out with the meat cleavers and chainsaws, I was all, “Really?” I suppose it was scary (more disgusting than anything), but I kept choking on the cliches and couldn’t get past them.

I’ve had the same kind of cold horror evoked by books like Aunt Maria by Diana Wynne Jones. The sweet, fluffy old lady with her tea parties, who rules the town with an iron fist with her magic powers. It was so believable (and Maria so unstoppable as she sweetly killed people off) that it freaked me out.


spacer Donna Pyle February 13, 2012 at 9:22 AM

Nice vlog, Mike! Now I feel as if I’ve met you. spacer You made some great points, the main one being that the good guy always win. Admittedly, I haven’t read much Christian horror because I’m a sissy when it comes to getting scared, but I believe that having good prevail over evil would be an integral part of the ending. Small battles could be lost (a great parallel to real life), but in the war to end all wars – God wins hands down. Call me naive. spacer


spacer Mike Duran February 13, 2012 at 10:26 AM

Thanks for commenting, Donna! Having good prevail over evil is typically considered to be “an integral part” of Christian fiction. True, most readers / film-goers want a happy ending. I just think Christians are not as tolerant of ambiguity as we should be. While “God wins” in the end, we should not take this to nothing is lost. Which is why the Book of Revelation contains some of the most glorious images alongside some of the most horrific. So I’m not sure acknowledging a redemptive resolution necessarily means an absence of horror or ambiguity. Appreciate your thoughts.


spacer Brandy Heineman February 13, 2012 at 12:45 PM

Hi Mike! Great points. I’ll toss in my thoughts on what *is* scary. Yesterday I read T. S. Eliot’s play “Murder in the Cathedral,” which is about Archbishop Thomas Becket. The Becket character easily rebuffs standard temptations, pleasure and power, that sort of thing — but he is deeply affected when a tempter comes at him with his own desire to be elevated as a martyr. As a Christian, that element struck me as terrifying — the subversion of one’s service to God, or more specifically, one’s motives to serve. It’s not the murder that is disturbing, but the idea of succumbing to temptation under the guise of following the will of God. The play ends with ambiguity on this point (unless I didn’t “get” it, which is possible!), and that goes back to a point you’ve made before about Christian fiction always being wrapped up with a tight bow. My opinion is that ambiguity is ultimately more frightening than blood and guts.


spacer Mike Duran February 13, 2012 at 2:32 PM

Wow! Great thoughts, Brandy. It reminded me of a movie I saw a while back and really enjoyed, Paranoid Park. It’s not a horror movie by any stretch. But there is one horrific scene in which someone is accidentally killed in gruesome fashion. The kid who caused it is never caught and simply learns to live with the “crime / accident.” His emotional deadness ends up being just as “horrific” as the actual crime.


spacer Julian Walker February 13, 2012 at 2:04 PM

I agree with the posters above, House really wasn’t frightening. In fact Dekker and Peretti aren’t very frightening to me at all. Although I wonder if Christian horror fiction NEEDS to have the forces of good prevailing at end in order for it to be Christian. If the predictability factor lies within the good guys winning, why are so many Christians still writing predictable endings? It is something that has always gotten to me. I prefer ambiguity in some of my horror stories. Likewise, in a screenplay that I am working on, I know that good won’t exactly prevail in the end but protagonist’s attitude towards the supernatural will change.

As far as frightening books are concerned, Mike have you read L. Ron Hubbard’s “Fear” or Stephen King’s “IT”? I wasn’t jumping out of my boots or anything, but both titles were enough to make me weary before heading to bed. Tim Curry’s face on the book cover didn’t make sleeping any easy.


spacer Julian Walker February 13, 2012 at 2:05 PM

*Any easier*

Grammar correction done!!


spacer James Garcia Jr February 13, 2012 at 5:53 PM

Very good vlog post, Mike. I’ve been by a few times and it was great to be able to both see and hear you.
I think you really nailed it. It is very easy to frighten people with my books when they don’t care to be scared, but anyone who regularly reads and watches the genre may not be scared in the least. The trick will be finding new twists and turns, and more original plots. As you rightly put it, there is only so far we can push those boundaries. As much as I would like to be considered a Christian Horror author, perhaps it would be better to find another name for it anyway.
Take care.



Cancel reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post: 10 Reasons Why I Wish I Was a Faster Reader (or Wasn’t So Easily Intimidated By Long Books)

Next post: YA Challenge: “Holes”

gipoco.com is neither affiliated with the authors of this page nor responsible for its contents. This is a safe-cache copy of the original web site.