If the devil is going to show up at some point in a movie, I’d rather not see it. Yet, any exorcist will tell you that it’s the devil that you don’t see that is the most dangerous—the ones that tell you immorality is a good thing and if there’s a God, he wouldn’t mind.
In horror movies about exorcisms, the devil shows up. He does not come trying to make evil look good, he comes as pure evil with all the horror you would expect.
A few years ago, a friend had emailed me about a horror movie based on a true story when friends used a Ouija board and an evil spirit came out. I mentioned it to an exorcist I was interviewing. I expected him to shake his head and say, how horrible. He surprised me and said otherwise.
According to Fr. Patrick, (not his real name, since he is a parish priest and his work in exorcism is not publicized), horror movies are not necessarily bad and can even be good in some ways. “One of the things that I have found about these kind of movies—such as The Exorcism of Emily Rose—is that it has helped some people, done nothing for some people, and caused a stir among others,” he said. “It is a person’s emotional make-up that can effect how they react to such movies.”
In the case of Emily Rose, Fr. Patrick said he had people come to him in fear after watching the movie because they kept waking up at 3 AM [supposedly the opposite hour of the hour of mercy at 3 PM]. Those are the kind of people that he said should not go to horror movies since they are left in a state of fear which does not help them spiritually. He noted that there were others who saw the same movie and responded by going to confession and telling him they wanted to be sure to stay away from evil. “Horror movies can bring evil to light and that’s a good thing,” Fr. Patrick said. “I would not go so far as to recommend them to people but at the same time, some people are helped by recognizing evil for what it is.”
In the old Dracula movies, Fr. Patrick pointed out that there was no question that vampires were evil and a crucifix was used to fight them—fighting evil with the power of God. He said the problem is when evil and good are blurred or when evil is portrayed as good such as in movies that promote immorality.
Fr. Patrick was in the seminary when he watched the classic exorcism movie, The Exorcist. He credits that movie with inspiring him to eventually become an exorcist himself. Evil was evil and good was good in the movie; there was no confusion. But some people ended up confused. “A lot of people walked away and were afraid they were possessed,” he said. “Those kind of people should not watch a horror movie, but I thought the movie itself was pretty balanced and not that sensationalized.”
Hollywood movies, according to Fr. Patrick, usually do sensationalize the truth. So even in a movie which shows evil for what it is and portrays the Church in a good light, there is still a lot of sensationalism. “There are some weird things that you see during an exorcism, it can be pretty horrible,” he said, “but still, the movies usually exaggerate them.”
The most important thing, according to Fr. Patrick, is for evil not to be glamorized. Regardless of whether one goes to such movies, he gives a stern warning against Ouija boards, even out of curiosity. He has had several people come to him after experiencing problems that stemmed from Ouija boards.
Fr. Patrick said he talks to his parish’s high school youth group about the dangers of the occult and playing with Ouija boards. One student called him after he went away to college. “I’m so glad I got a hold of you; you were right,”’ the student told Fr. Patrick. “We were messing with a Ouija board last night and in the morning, I woke up with scratches all over my back.”
Fr. Patrick told him to go to a priest to confess and renounce what he had done. He kept in touch with the student for a while but lost touch and assumes there were no further problems.
The bottom line, according to Fr. Patrick, is that curiosity and dabbling in anything occult is very dangerous. “God warns us against it in the Bible,” he said. “There’s nothing good that ever comes from that, there is nothing safe about it. It’s a dimension you have no control over. It’s always a mistake.
Featured image: Wikimedia commons.