One question that I get asked by those who don’t understand is “Why horror?” The asker is generally someone that knows I’ve been “religious” all my life, or affiliated with religion—which people think means sweet and light—and who associates horror with bitter and dark. I know Brandon R. Grafius has been asked such things too, because I’ve just read his Lurking under the Surface: Horror, Religion, and the Questions that Haunt Us. Like me, Grafius has been writing books on the Bible and horror—I’ve reviewed a few on this blog. As in my former life, he teaches in a seminary. People find this juxtaposition jarring. This little book is Grafius’ struggle with various aspects of this question. He’s not anti-religion, but he’s drawn to horror.
For those of us familiar with Grafius’ other work, this offers a more detailed explanation of what one religion scholar finds compelling about horror. Specifically, he shows how various films deal with similar issues to his Christian faith. The book deals with that for about half its running time, and the other half discusses similar themes in horror. You get the sense that Grafius has been at this for a long time. Scooby-Doo seems to have been his childhood gateway to horror and it raised some deeper questions as he explored further along the line. If you read this blog, or search it, you’ll find such things as Dark Shadows and The Twilight Zone in my background, but then, I’m a bit older. The point is, being a religious kid doesn’t discount finding monsters fascinating.
As usual with books like this, I’ve come away with several films to watch. And more angles of approach to that tricky question of “Why horror?”. A recent post on a panel discussion titled “Religion and Horror” led to an online exchange about religion and fear. Grafius deals with that here as well, but from a more distinctly Christian point of view. Although he’s an academic, this book is written (and priced) for wider consumption. I found it quite informative to hear the story of someone else who grew up with monsters and the Bible. He had the sense, however, to start addressing this early in his academic career. We each have different paths to walk and for some of us it will take a jarring experience to chase us back to our childhood monsters. And being religious is no barrier to that, as this brief book demonstrates.