In one of those weird synchronicities the universe likes to play, the very next day after I watched The Entity (2015) and wrote a blog post on it, this happened. In yesterday’s post I noted that I couldn’t remember where I’d read about the movie, or who had recommended it to me. I couldn’t even be sure which The Entity it was, since I didn’t write down the movie’s date. The next morning I had the privilege of watching Claire Donner, of the Miskatonic Institute, talking about The Entity and it immediately came to mind that it was she who’d suggested I might like it (or might not). Also, that I got the wrong one. I haven’t had the opportunity to watch the one actually recommended yet, but it brings back to mind just how the Miskatonic Institute contributes to understanding horror.
The Institute has asked me to present a course this coming October and I will be posting more on that closer to the time. It got me to thinking about a couple of things. One is that I missed some major horror films growing up. When I “got religion” in high school (I always had it, of course, and saw no problem with enjoying monsters too) I began to steer away from horror. In college I had a dating occasion or two to watch horror, but it really only started again in earnest after being booted out of academia. I was interviewed in seminary by a sociology grad student interested in why people watch horror, but my watching was (and still is) circumscribed by lack of cash flow. The Entity made quite a splash in the early eighties, but it took someone in the 2020s telling me about it before I realized I probably should watch it.
The other thing Donner’s talk brought to mind is how religion and horror relate. Such films are scary because of an existential threat—THE existential threat. There’s nothing more powerful than God, but in such movies God can do nothing. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I suspect that’s true. It’s certainly true of The Exorcist, with which it’s sometimes compared. God doesn’t deliver Regan McNeil, no, Fr. Karras does. And only by sacrificing himself to do so. The existential threat has to involve a universe entirely out of kilter. What is a God that’s powerless (it’s implied) to drive out evil? The exorcism in The Exorcist doesn’t work, does it? Yet there’s some benevolent force in the universe that gives us synchronicities and, it seems, is looking out for goodness in an often cruel world.