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Why should the devil have all the good movies?


Friend of The Praus Movement and film critic for Sorted Magazine, Andy Godfrey has just released a new book called, 'Faith on Film: Confessions of a Christian Film Critic'. Here's an excerpt from Chapter 1 - 'Why should the devil have all the good movies?'


Way back in the late 1960s, Christian rocker Larry Norman wrote the classic song ‘Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?’ It debated why a ‘good’ person would want to be part of a secular band. I can really relate to that, because similar things have been said to me in the context of my love of movies. ‘What’s a good person like you doing sitting in a cinema, watching that?’


To be fair, the question has changed over the years. Not so long ago it was thought by some followers of Christ that Christians shouldn’t actually go to the cinema at all (many felt it was OK to have a TV though). It was considered worldly and corrupting. Thank goodness that attitude has mainly vanished into the ether, although it’s been replaced with an even more challenging question: are there certain films that Christians shouldn’t watch? As a Christian and a film lover, my answer to that question is… well, frankly, yes and no!


Of course, there are some films Christians shouldn’t watch. Pornographic material is the obvious place to start. That’s out, and there is no need to go any further on that point. But what about horror films, supernatural chillers, and thrillers about people having affairs or dealing drugs? What about 18-certificate films where the language is going to be ripe, the love scenes vivid, and the violence gory, at best?

I turned eighteen in 1980, and if my memory serves, the first 18-certificate film I saw at the cinema was Alien, which came out in 1979, so it must have been a reissue. Alternatively, it might have been An American Werewolf in London, which was released in 1981. Whichever it was, both remain on my list of all-time top-ten films. Yes, both have gory scenes. (Whatever you do, don’t remind my mum about that scene in Alien (1979). She saw it on TV and still had nightmares for weeks after!) Both are horror films. But I find them incredibly entertaining, thrilling and scary. These are classics that I can watch over and over again.


Something I can’t (and won’t) do, however, is get on a roller-coaster. Honestly, just the thought makes me shudder. Why people want to get on one of those things and risk, at the very most life and limb, and at the least being ill, is totally beyond me. (I did once manage the old Thunder Mountain ride at Disneyland and considered myself a hero, but that was the limit.) Roller-coasters are just way too scary. So why do people line up, hoping to get a seat in the front carriage? Because they want the thrills, chills and experience. Human beings like being scared. My way of experiencing thrills and chills is to sit through a horror or science-fiction movie. It can be a deeply uncomfortable and unsettling experience, but it gets the blood pumping, and it does feel… exhilarating. I love it in the same way that other people love sitting on a roller-coaster.


The moment that seagull pecks Tippi Hedren on the head in The Birds (1963); the sight of the bathroom door opening in Psycho (1960); watching John Hurt have his final meal in Alien (1979); seeing Frankenstein rise from his slab (Frankenstein, 1931); hearing Jenny Agutter scream as the werewolf dies in An American Werewolf in London (1981) – these all have the same effect… and somehow, because it’s only a movie, it isn’t bad. At least I’m not about to get thrown from a moving train into a funfair at high speed!


Horror films, science-fiction films, and chilling films remind us that we are human. They remind us that there is evil in the world, that the supernatural is real, and that humanity’s capacity for evil is greater than we realise. They scare us because this horror might actually be possible. Yet at the same time they also help us – they help me – to remember that when everything goes to pot, and life isn’t as it should be, I am on the winning side, regardless. Jesus is coming again, the devil will be defeated, and heaven awaits believers.


In the vast majority of horror films, evil is eventually defeated. Good (God in some shape or form) always wins. Justice is done and the evil spirit, alien or mad scientist is done away with. The message of The Exorcist (1974) is that self-sacrifice and love beat even the devil himself – check it out. My favourite line in any supernatural horror film occurs towards the end of The Devil’s Advocate (1990). Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves) is talking to his dad, John Milton (Al Pacino), who happens to be the devil incarnate. Keanu tells his dad that he has read the Bible and that the good book tells him they are destined to lose. This was a punch-the-air moment in a horror film for me. (Did you know that The Exorcist was banned in the Communist Bloc for being too pro-Christianity? Christ always wins!)


So, when I watch and enjoy these films as a Christian, I can do so secure in the knowledge that I am not only on the winning side but that all will be well.


This an excerpt from Chapter 1 of Andy's new Book, 'Faith on Film: Confession of a Christian Film Critic'. published by scm and available here.


Main Photo Credit: Courtesy of Andy Godfrey






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