A few weeks ago I was interviewed by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation for an hour-long Encounter special on Horror and the Sacred. The main question that I and the other authors on the program were given to grapple with was: Why horror?
It’s a terrific question. Why are people — especially, I find, religious people — fascinated by supernatural horror? As the show’s teaser puts it:
From the legends of Frankenstein and Dracula to films about zombies, witches and vampires, supernatural horror has always captured the popular imagination. Fictional horror scares us because it confronts us with our deepest fears about death and the unknown. It make us tremble, but it also acts as a catharsis. So it’s no wonder then that the horror genre often intersects with religion.
In the genre of horror we are working out our deepest anxieties. Vampires, zombies, and the like are stand-ins for our other fears, the ones we can’t talk about. That means fear of death, of course — but even worse, of being a living corpse who drains those we love.
I’m not sure if this comment made it into the final cut, but I remember talking about the last few years’ cultural shift from a fascination with vampires to one with zombies. I heard on NPR this winter (on Marketplace Money, of all places) that our current obsession with zombies has a good deal to do with our feelings of cultural disconnectedness. Zombies travel in packs, but they’re not able to connect — something the main character of this year’s charming Zom Rom Com Warm Bodies puts very well in his opening monologue.
What am I doing with my life? I just wanna connect. Why can’t I connect with people?
Oh right, it’s cause I’m dead.
I hope you enjoy the interview on the intersection of faith and horror.