Monday, October 10, 2011

Hollywood and Another Spirituality Fail

Hollywood has always tried to tap into the religious market, and to tell stories that explore spiritual and philosophical themes. In the last decade, “The Passion of the Christ” reminded them that this audience in particular is a good target to shoot at, and renewed interest in stories that address spiritual and religious directly. Of course, horror has always tended toward those ideas but even before Mel Gibson mixed Christianity and Grand Guignol, filmmakers started taking a closer look at faith and the philosophy of religion in movies like “Candyman,” “In the Mouth of Madness,” and “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.”

So, when Craven wrote and directed last year’s “My Soul to Take,” and the previews showed a potential spiritual aspect to the story, interest here was peaked.


Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, it was a case of false advertising. The closest this thing comes to spiritual exploration is the old idea of suggesting that schizophrenic patients are demonically possessed, or at least that a demon might hide out in schizophrenia. The plot—as best as it can be condensed/interpreted—revolves around a town where a schizophrenic serial killer was caught and presumably killed on a night when seven babies were born. Sixteen years later to the day, as the children celebrate their birthday; the killer is back killing them all.

On second thought, it is not devoid of any other spiritual ideas. There is a (also somewhat trope-ish) Christian character in this story. Penelope is one of the seven children and also a very devout Christian girl. In a fresh twist, Craven does not make her a creepy weirdo that the audience looks askance at; he just makes her a nice weirdo. She is an inexhaustible source of faith cliques and witticisms that make one think she must have divided her time between Christian bookstores and hanging out with youth ministers.

“If things get too hot, just turn on the prayer conditioning.”

Groan.

She also has a strange idea about how God communicates. She asks God if this is the year the killer will finally return to kill them all as a legend implies. When her mom calls out to her to say, “It’s getting late!” she looks toward the ceiling and prays, “Thank you, message received.” Unfortunately though, that is how a lot of believers think that God speaks. Penelope isn’t much smarter when it comes to life in a horror movie. She is the only character who hears a strange noise and goes to investigate a lonely boiler room.

Then again, she thinks God has told her they are all going to die anyway.

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