I got an email the other day from a fellow who had posed a simple question to us on our tumblr page. This same fellow had some further and very important questions and decided to shoot me an email to continue our the conversation. I found the points he was making to be so valuable that I asked if he would mind my sharing our correspondence here. And so, he wrote:
I wrote that question about the Evil Dead on the Showbread tumblr page. I wanted to get a bit more into it if I could and this wouldn’t really fit on there. I completely understand what you’re saying about the series and I totally agree with you. The tone of the new film is very different though. Before watching the film my girlfriend asked me why I was going to see it. She has a basic grasp of what the film is about and simply wanted to know why I wanted to watch it. The only answer I could give was I thought I would like it. I’ve never had any personal conviction in the past watching horror films but it made me think a little bit. Anyway, my brother and I went to see the movie as we are both fans of the originals and have bonded over the horror genre in general. About an hour in my brother leaned over to me and asked if it was alright if we left. So, we left. He didn’t feel comfortable subjecting himself to what was on the screen anymore. At that point I felt pretty bad bringing him there and started questioning why I was there.
Should I enjoy a film like Evil Dead? Or even why do I enjoy it? I have no idea. I suppose I’ve just always been into weird stuff. Is Evil Dead something Jesus sees and thinks, “I’m stoked you enjoyed this movie Josh!” (my name is also Josh) I knew what I was getting into before going to see it. I knew there wasn’t any sort of lesson to learn or wisdom to glean. It’s just entertainment. But why am I subjecting myself to witchcraft, gore, vulgarity, tree rape? (you know what I’m talking about…) The acting isn’t incredible, the characters aren’t incredibly bright, and it’s a story we’ve all heard before. Nothing new for filmmaking here.
I understand an appreciation for DIY filmmaking and being passionate about your art. This isn’t really about that though. I could ask the age old, “would Jesus watch this?” and blah, blah, blah but He was there with me. Now I’m not so sure I’m comfortable bringing Jesus to Evil Dead. Why watch it? Obviously, what happens in the film isn’t real but I can’t help but think of bloodthirsty Romans watching gladiators murder eachother. There is no point other than entertainment.
Just for fun let’s put aside the original movies and the original intentions. My question for you Josh is why do you think Evil Dead (2013) is a good film? Why are you entertained by it (if you are)? Why do you enjoy it (if you do)? and are these things in the character of Jesus? This is rhetorical but should my personal taste or creative leanings have the qualities of Evil Dead? (witchcraft, gore, vulgarity, tree rape, ect…) Although I haven’t felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit in a big way I’m not convinced that personal taste of creative leanings are a valid reason to watch it.
Thanks for the feedback Josh! I think you’re a very wise individual and really appreciate your time.
To answer the fourth, I think we all have to wrestle with the first three. As I have explained, I do feel that regardless of the film or the filmmakers intentions, it is possible for a follower of Jesus to find something of value in Evil Dead as I have. Now, if I were to answer the first three questions with something along the lines of “it’s fun to be grossed out and have a thrill watching people die,” then I would have to answer the fourth question with an emphatic “no.” But if I answer the first three questions with “it is an affecting metaphor, it employs strong, inspiring storytelling and filmmaking, etc.” then I might answer the fourth question by saying that while the content depicted is abhorrent, it stands to reason (as I have argued elsewhere) that exposing oneself to depictions of sinfulness isn’t sinful in and of itself, and there can be a greater good gleaned from the creative endeavor. Is death, dismemberment, evisceration, rape and demonic activity consistent with the character of Jesus? Absolutely not. But is storytelling, creativity, provocation, emotion and artistry? Good question.
Different people will answer the first three questions you’ve posed in vastly different ways. That’s why we must ask them. It will never be tricky for me to find someone to roll their eyes at my claim to be inspired for good by films like Evil Dead, and I sympathise. What each of us draw from various forms of media varies wildly. A friend of mine recently told me that he felt Watchmen was more of a “Christian movie” than Fireproof. He was sincerely offended by a self-proclaimed “Christian movie” because he found it to be insincere and creatively bankrupt. Watchmen, however, a graphically R-rated picture, moved him deeply as a follower of Jesus and stirred within him a myriad of theological topics. Recently, my wife felt convicted about watching American Horror Story and gave it up. I don’t watch it only because I find it dull and silly. In the same way someone like me may risk watching something like Evil Dead for cheap thrills alone, another person may run the risk of condemning films like Evil Dead based on their own misplaced agenda and the subjective convictions they impose on all.
The deeper danger, I feel, is not in finding that you’re offended by Evil Dead or in discovering that it inspires you. The deeper danger lies is not asking yourself the why behind either reaction. The deeper danger is not answering to Jesus as ultimate authority, not inviting the council and conviction of the Holy Spirit, and being unprepared to get up and leave the theater or unprepared to admit there might be something worthwhile, at least for someone, in there after all.
Keep asking good questions.