Divine Horror

Essays on the Cinematic Battle Between the Sacred and the Diabolical


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About the Book

From Rosemary’s Baby (1968) to The Witch (2015), horror films use religious entities to both inspire and combat fear and to call into question or affirm the moral order. Churches provide sanctuary, clergy cast out evil, religious icons become weapons, holy ground becomes battleground—but all of these may be turned from their original purpose.
This collection of new essays explores fifty years of genre horror in which manifestations of the sacred or profane play a material role. The contributors explore portrayals of the war between good and evil and their archetypes in such classics as The Omen (1976), The Exorcist (1973) and Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968), as well as in popular franchises like Hellraiser and Hellboy and cult films such as God Told Me To (1976), Thirst (2009) and Frailty (2001).

About the Author(s)

Cynthia J. Miller, a cultural anthropologist focusing on popular culture and visual media, teaches in the Marlboro Institute for Liberal Arts at Emerson College in Boston. She is the editor or coeditor of twenty scholarly volumes, many exploring the horror genre.
A. Bowdoin Van Riper is a historian specializing in depictions of science and technology in popular culture. He is the reference librarian at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, and is the author or editor of a wide range of volumes, ranging from science to science fiction to horror.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Cynthia J. Miller and A. Bowdoin Van Riper
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 256
Bibliographic Info: 35 photos, notes, bibliographies, index
Copyright Date: 2017
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6992-2
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2984-1
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi

Introduction 1

Part I. The Past, Bleeding into the Present

“What went we out into this wilderness to find”: Supernatural Contest in Robert Eggers’s The Witch: A ­New-England Folktale (2015)

(Thomas Prasch) 11

Emily Rose Died for Your Sins: Paranormal Piety, Medieval Theology

and Ambiguous Cinematic Soteriology (Kevin J. Wetmore, Jr.) 29

“Is this my reward for defending God’s church?” Monstrous Crimes

and Monstrous Punishments in Witchfinder General (1968),

The Devils (1971) and The Name of the Rose (1986) (James J. Ward) 40

Reckoning the Number of the Beast: Premillennial Dispensationalism,

The Omen and 1970s America (Brad L. Duren) 53

The Fall of a Domestic Angel: Horror and Hierophany in Rosemary’s Baby (1968) (Sue Matheson) 64

“I have seen things that would make the angels weep. And they do weep”: The Devil and Scotland’s Religious Horrors in Let Us Prey

(Eleanor Beal) 76

Part II. The Boundaries of Good and Evil

God’s Bloody Hand: The Horrible Ambiguity of Religious Murder

in Bill Paxton’s Frailty (Mark Henderson) 89

No Religion or Too Many: Problematizing God Told Me To (Fernando Gabriel Pagnoni Berns) 101

Demons to Some, Angels to Others: Eldritch Horrors and Hellbound

Religion in the Hellraiser Films (Lu´cio ­Reis-Filho) 113

Redeeming the ­Demon-Child and the ­Eco-Horror Fairy Tale: Ambivalent Theosis and Ambiguous Eucatastrophe in Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy Films (Daniel Otto Jack Petersen) 125

Binary Opposition, Subversion and Liminality in Francis Lawrence’s Constantine (Catherine Becker) 140

Monsters of God: Negotiating the Sacred in Stake Land (Rhonda R. Dass) 150

Part III. Horrors of Knowledge and Faith

“They’re not in charge here”: The Collision of Religion and Science in [Rec] and Quarantine (Bart Bishop) 163

Prince of Darkness: The Metaphysics and Quantum Physics of Evil (Matthew A. Killmeier) 174

The Folly of Faithlessness in Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (Martin F. Norden) 186

Unquenchable Thirst: Morality, Theology and Vampires in ­Chan-wook Park’s Horror Romance (Michael C. Reiff) 200

Of Heresy and Horror: Stigmata (Cynthia J. Miller) 213

The Power of Film Compels You! Transgressing Taboos and the War on Demonic Possession in The Exorcist (Steve Webley) 225

About the Contributors 239

Index 241

Book Reviews & Awards

“An overall detailed analysis of the genre of divine horror… Highly informative… Divine Horror explores the many dynamics and dimensions of divine horror in modern day cinema and will be of interest to both upper-level high school as well as college-level students.”—Journal of American Culture