One thing that’s become clear to horror fans (or those of us who try to analyze it, anyway) is that more and more pundits are asking serious questions about its appeal and its utility. A particularly interesting piece on Bloody Disgusting (and that title isn’t representative of the site) explores how horror is often about probing grief, loss, and mourning. People who immediately associate horror with slashers and blood and gore probably became aware of the genre in the 1980s. In the post-slasher era (and even during it) many thoughtful films have dealt with the primary areas associated with pastoral care: mourning, grief, and loss are the bread and vegan butter of ministerial work. These are elements all people have to face, and some horror is remarkably adept at helping viewers do so.
We all die. Horror has never been shy about that fact. When the dead do come back it’s seldom good. Given the permanence of the situation, it seems reasonable to think about it in advance. Shallower topics are good too—life without fun is hardly worth the effort. Horror, however, reminds us that the bill remains due at the end. One of the main points of Holy Horror is that people tend to find their meaning through pop culture. (It can also be through more classical means as well, but the point remains the same.) We watch movies for more than entertainment. Movies other than horror deal with loss, mourning, and grief, of course. But as Stephen King once noted, this genre forces the reluctant to look. What seems to be under-appreciated is how sympathetic it is to the human condition.
Apart from a few colleagues who work in this same nexus of religion and horror, I know few fans of the genre. Most people I know shy away from it. For me, it seems to be a brutally honest genre. There are speculative elements in much of horror—those are the elements that make the films fun to watch, in my opinion. Speculative is often synonymous with supernatural, or spiritual. Spirituality is often coded as a positive. Life throws a lot of loss and grieving our way. A genre that brings these things together can’t be all bad. Some of the more recent transcendent horror can be downright profound in its probing. The editorial by Marcus Shorter doesn’t take the step of addressing the pastoral aspects of the genre, but they are plainly there. And they can offer solace that all people can use.