Thursday, April 25, 2013

Thoughts on Christian Horror: Dark and Twisted

Is there such a thing as Christian horror? Can Christians write horror stories, or is horror always a bad thing? In this series, I am exploring those questions.

Imagine a happy and peaceful small town. Life goes on like it has for many years. A family lives securely and helps their community. Then, one day, a dark presence creeps into their town. People begin vanishing during the night. Everyone is wondering if they will be next. But a few people get together to battle the darkness...

That sounds like the basic plot of many horror novels, doesn’t it? However, I wasn’t describing a horror novel. I was describing The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, a classic Christian autobiography.

The Hiding Place tells the story of a remarkable woman and her family who lived in Holland and saw the Nazis take over their country, with that dark influence steadily growing over various aspects of their daily lives. Instead of going along with the Nazis, the Ten Boom family and others fought back by helping and hiding Jews. Their true story, with its steadily mounting tension and horror, is scarier than most horror novels.

Unlike many horror novels, The Hiding Place had a point: It showed God’s power and love in the midst of frightening circumstances. And that is the most important thing that Christian horror should do: Show God’s power and love in the midst of frightening circumstances.

How Christian horror should look, and how most horror looks, are quite different. A lot of horror says, “The world is a dark and twisted place. The End.” The focus is on scaring the reader and giving them a thrill. Christian horror should say, “The world can be a dark and twisted place, but God’s light will overcome the darkness and make things right.” The focus is then on giving the reader hope.

Since the world truly is a dark and twisted place, stories with dark and twisted aspects are needed, as long as they point to the light and don’t let shadows obscure the message. Do you agree?

The next article in the Thoughts on Christian Horror series: Living in a Nightmare

Friday, April 19, 2013

Movie Review: Treasure Planet

A troubled teen gets the chance to redeem himself when he is given a map to treasure hidden on a distant planet. As he sets out on a voyage through space to find the planet, he’ll encounter quite a few colorful friends and enemies. The dangers of space turn out to be not nearly as dangerous as treacherous companions who will do anything to get their hands on the treasure.

The setting of this film reminded me a bit of Titan A.E. (which I also reviewed) in some ways, but in general the sci-fi elements are unique enough. The animation was solid. The villainous Long John Silver and his pet Morph are fairly well-done, as are his monstrous crew, and give the story more depth than it otherwise would have had.

If you watch this film hoping to see a good sci-fi adaption of Treasure Island, you will be disappointed by how many changes were made, as might be expected, during its conversion to sci-fi. If, however, you can separate it from the classic novel that inspired it, and just watch it as a light-hearted sci-fi film with some steampunk elements, it is decent entertainment.

Aside from mild violence and some gross-out humor, there’s no content of concern. Some people may be bothered by a “good-hearted” criminal being allowed to get off free with the help of a good character, since there is no clear indication that the criminal has learned better and won’t commit more crimes.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Book Review: Eccentric Preachers by Charles Spurgeon

I have published this little volume very much in self-defense.

With that line, a unique book about eccentric preachers begins. As an influential pastor in 19th century England, Spurgeon was sometimes seen as eccentric, which coming from many was neither a compliment nor a neutral observation. As he notes:

When God raises up a man of original mind who strikes out a course for himself and follows it with success, it is usual to charge him with being eccentric. If his honesty may not be suspected, nor his zeal questioned, nor his power denied, sneer at him and call him eccentric, and it may be the arrow will wound.

Spurgeon is quite clear how such attacks should be responded to:

Fear no man's frown, and court no man's smile, but say the right thing and the true, and say it as best you can, and ask God's help that you may say it so that you may make men feel it, even though you sting them into anger, for blessed shall that man be who has discharged his conscience before the living God.

He also warns against the wrong kind of eccentricity:

Find us a preacher who obtains notoriety for himself by descending to buffoonery, and who goes out of his way to say smart things, and make jokes on sacred subjects, and we decline to be his advocate.

After exploring various aspects of eccentricity, Spurgeon gives an overview of eleven eccentric preachers, some of whom were greatly slandered, but all of whom were righteous men of God. He shares many amusing stories along the way, at least one of which was from his own life. It’s an enjoyable read, and safe for all ages, so I recommend it to anyone who is interested. Its message is much needed in our day.

This book can be read for free online: Eccentric Preachers

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Movie Review: The Great Mouse Detective

After a mouse toymaker is kidnaped by a peg-legged bat, his daughter seeks out the most legendary mouse detective to help her find him. Along the way she is joined by a mouse doctor who has just returned to London from military service. As the three mice begin their investigation, they go up against the mouse detective’s greatest enemy, a rat criminal who claims to be a mouse. Soon they find themselves not only trying to save the toymaker, but also the queen of mice from the rat’s evil schemes.

This is a fun family film with interesting characters, colorful animation, and a fast-paced plot. The night setting is atmospheric, and offers a variety of memorable scenes, such as a showdown between an evil bat and several mice in an eerie closed toy shop, with mechanical toys being used by the bat to help him escape. The idea of a mouse version of Sherlock Holmes who lives under the real Sherlock Holmes’ house was reasonably well done, though whether serious Holmes fans will agree, they will have to decide for themselves.

Violence is mild, but pervasive, including a villainous rat who feeds one of his minions to a cat. The sometimes horror-ish tone might scare small children. A scene involving a mouse bar dancer who removes her dress and dances about in the more revealing attire underneath, to the lustful delight of sailors and the less lascivious enchantment of a protagonist, was cartoonish but still problematic due to its implications, and surprising in a G-rated Disney film.