Horror movies provide a strange consolation at times such as this. When evil has overtaken democracy, it’s almost like strategy, watching how fictional characters deal with things that are wrong, things that are too close to real life. The Lazarus Effect has been on my watch list since the last sane presidential administration, but need finally dictated that I watch it. The premise is clear from the title—Lazarus is universally known as the dead man who came back to life. A group of medical researchers at a university in California find a way, through direct stimulation of the brain, to bring dead animals back to life. The idea is that they will give surgeons more time to resuscitate critical patients if they can get the formula right so that it works on people. An evil corporation steals their discovery and they have just a few hours to replicate the experiment to prove they are the ones who perfected it. Predictably one of them (Zoe) dies and her fiancé brings her back to life. Mayhem ensues.
Those who’ve seen Pet Sematary will find many similar ideas covered here. Those who come back from the dead are somehow distorted versions of their former selves. Those who do the resurrecting end up dead at the hands of the modern-day Lazaruses. There’s not much unexpected here except that Zoe, a Catholic, ends up in Hell. There’s quite a bit of talk about religion versus science—what really happens when you die. Zoe, despite being a practicing Catholic, has never been forgiven for her childhood sin of setting a fire that killed some neighbors in the apartment building. Religion and horror sharing the screen is something fairly common, but it is seldom as forthright as it is here.
Resurrection—necessarily a religious concept—is a frightening prospect. Horror films have shown many times that this is a miracle that just shouldn’t happen. At least not on this plane. (Those who’ve watched Re-animator know how bad the consequences could be.) Scientists, generally unbelievers in the cinematic world, just can’t accept either an afterlife or death. Using technology to challenge a godless fate, they inevitably end up losing. So it is in The Lazarus Effect. Some biblical scholars have suggested John’s rendition of the story is a kind of biblical horror tale. I mean, Lazarus had been dead four days in the warm climes of the Holy Land. His resurrection seems to have ended up well, however. Then again, there is an inherent difference between science and religion. Neither one, however, is now really in charge.
Posted in Bible, Current Events, Movies, Posts, Science, Sects
Tagged Catholic, horror movies, Pet Sematary, Re-Animator, resurrection, science and religion, The Lazarus Effect
Those who write put part of themselves into every piece. Sometimes that tiny fragment of the author is nearly invisible, while at other times fiction becomes difficult to separate from biography. One of my daughter’s assigned summer readings is Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night. Since I use the opportunity of her assigned readings to catch up on what I should’ve read long ago, I recently sat down to see what the play was about. A dysfunctional family. Alcoholism, tuberculosis, and self-loathing are the unholy trinity of much writing from the nineteenth and turn of the twentieth centuries. But God also comes into the mix. Perhaps the divine was nearer to the surface back in the days when you might assume every other American had been raised in a Christian household. O’Neill’s dark and disturbing Tyrone family might be considered good candidates for irreligion were it not for the fact that being Catholic was so much a part of Irish identity in those days. Perhaps in some quarters it still is.
In Act Two, Scene Two James Tyrone is discussing his wife’s as yet unrevealed addiction with his two sons. Edmund, the scholar (and in reality bearing the family position of O’Neill himself), has rejected belief in God. He asks his father if he prayed for Mary in the days when her difficulties began. “I did. I’ve prayed to God these many years for her,” James Tyrone declares. Edmund responds, “Then Nietzsche must be right.” The debate is the classic issue of theodicy—where is God when things go wrong? Mary, the wife/mother believes she was bound for a convent, having been raised in Catholic school. When her life spirals in unexpected directions, she chooses morphine over faith in God, and the men, soused in whiskey, wonder who’s to blame. James, the father, declares atheism to be the culprit.
I found this an interesting study. Characters either unthinkingly accept the religion with which they were raised, or reject religion altogether. Edmund follows up his declaration by quoting Thus Spake Zarathustra: “God is dead: of His pity for man hath God died.” Nietzsche is never simple to comprehend, but even in the declaration of the divine death is an implicit indication of the existence of deity. The subtle nuances here are often lost in family debates where God’s abstract existence is far less important than the human suffering that raises the question in the first place. O’Neill was writing not only in the shadow of Nietzsche, but also of Karl Marx and other theorists whose nails had been pounded into the heavenly coffin over the past two centuries. So Mary, in her morphine vision, returns at the end of the play to state, “I went to the shrine and prayed to the Blessed Virgin and found peace again because I knew she heard my prayer and would always love me and see no harm ever came to me so long as I never lost my faith in her.” The reader, however, along with Karl Marx, knows that this is really the opiate of the people finding voice through one of the faithful.
Posted in Books, Literature, Posts, Religious Violence, Sects
Tagged Catholic, Eugene O'Neill, James Tyrone, Karl Marx, Long Day's Journey into Night, Nietzsche, theodicy, Thus Spake Zarathustra