Once again I’m reminded that Holy Horror was never intended to be comprehensive. I recently watched The Cursed (the 2021 one, directed by Sean Ellis). This appeared after Holy Horror was published, but it’s a good example of religion (and the Bible) and horror. It’s artfully done but rather gruesome and difficult to watch. I suspect such aspects as gruesomeness are why many people dislike horror. That certainly isn’t my favorite part either. I watch for the story. The lesson learned. The moral delivered. And also to get a sense of what’s going on in the wider culture. People tell disturbing stories for a reason. And quite a lot can be learned from them. The Cursed has a complex story that was, I suspect, influenced by the historical incident of the Gilles Garnier killings in early modern France.
Set in France, this movie focuses on disputed land and the inappropriately extreme measures wealthy landowners will take to keep it. A group of Romani (“gypsies”) have laid claim to some aristocratic lands. Seamus Laurent, a local baron, decides (with the advice of the clergy) to kill them off. Foreseeing this, one of the women had a set of silver teeth made and put a curse on them. After she’s killed, the teeth are found by the children of the town and the teeth make monsters. There’s some confused imagery here, but the story-line is clear. The monster is revenge for the cruel treatment of and land theft from the Romani. They may be dead, but betrayal leads to revenge.
That’s where the Bible comes in. Apart from the locals fleeing to the church for safety, it turns out that the silver was from the thirty pieces given to Judas to betray Jesus. One of the murder victims had a page torn from the Bible with Ezekiel 22.22 highlighted. Unlike Pulp Fiction, this quote from Ezekiel isn’t made up and the “prophecy” is taken to refer to the beast conjured by the injustice done to the rightful owners of the land. This film is subdued, moody, and gothic. The story is sincere and well told. It leaves enough gaps for discussion. It also shows, once again, how religion and horror benefit from each other’s presence. Stealing land is a biblical crime. Although the church doesn’t ultimately protect, the absent God in this movie is on the side of those oppressed and tortured by the wealthy. Maybe it’s time for a sequel.