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A Call to Eliminate Horror Films

Dec 29, 2001

[Note: This commentary has a follow up article called
Let's Sever the Decapitation Scenes".]

Horror films should be eliminated.

That statement is controversial in modern American society, where horror films are the number one rentals in many video stores.

Horror films, like many other negative things in society, have slipped through a window and caught us by surprise. Our culture today is like a frog being cooked in a pot of water. To keep the frog from jumping out, one needs to turn up the heat incrementally until it's too late for the poor dear thing. I'm not alleging here that horror films are the result of a "conspiracy". Instead, I believe that the "raising of the temperature" is the result of the side of human nature that seeks to "get away" with more and more as time goes by. If no one objects, some film makers will push the envelope until there's no envelope left.

A side effect of constantly viewing images of horror and violence is that -- over time -- they seem less horrible. The viewer's sensitivity is decreased. It takes more and more blood and shock and ugliness to flutter open the bruised eyelids of horror film aficionados. Thus, the producers and directors and writers of horror films turn up the heat in an effort to top their last film.

Unfortunately, horror film audiences include the young. "R" ratings don't stop young people from watching horror films. All it takes is an older friend or family member to accompany a teenager to a local theater, or to rent a horror movie and take it home. Even if one could ensure that young people are protected from horror films at home, under current video store policies our young people are assaulted by images of horror as they walk through the video store aisles.

Video stores, along with the film industry, are making money at the expense of our children. The store owners and managers know full well that horror films make a great deal of profit. Consequently, many stores have large horror film sections, and even make a practice of placing older horror films in the New Releases section.

Thus, any parent that wants to take their child to the video store, and look at the new releases, has to contend with box cover images that are often sickening to the extreme. When I walk by the new releases and see, for the 100th time, an old copy of Tobe Hooper's Night Dreams, with snakes coming out of the eyes of a violent and ugly man, I shudder, and feel like I've been physically struck. If my children inadvertently see the same image, I worry a great deal about how it will affect them. The box cover alone is enough to create a lasting and harmful impression in the minds of both children and adults.

Many young people will say, "Hey, man, lighten up. It's just a movie." They excuse the images of violence and evil in horror films because they're "fake". I believe that one of the reasons that horror films have taken root in our society is that our culture has lost sight of "the ideal world".

Do we, as individual citizens, and as a group, have the option and potential to build a better society in the future? The Founding Fathers certainly felt so. They created our nation to be a "city upon a hill" -- a moral and virtuous society that would serve the world. All we really have to ask is, "Are we satisfied with the current state of our culture, and if not, would we like it to improve in the future?"

Imagine a world where the primary ethic of life is unselfish love toward others. Imagine a world where children have never seen images of violence or death or horror. They've never read a newspaper report of a drive by shooting, or domestic violence. Imagine that one of those "innocent" children grows up, still without seeing or experiencing violence.

Then take that innocent adult into your local video store, and walk him into the horror film section of the store. Give him a good look at the box covers. How would he feel? I believe that the experience would cause severe emotional pain, almost to the point of collapse.

Another way of looking at this issue is to ask, "Do we really want horror films to exist in a world of peace and unselfish love?" An even more pertinent question is, "Can we establish a culture of peace if horror films are polluting the minds and hearts of our young people?"

To state the case from a spiritual point of view, I believe that horror films are a total anathema to the loving and kind heart of our Parent, God. How could the Creator of unselfish and parental love -- the Creator of kindness, generosity and peace, feel about Tobe Hunter's Night Dreams?

My conclusion is that horror films are the result of a spiritual influence that originated in the bowels of hell. Hell is a place where we feel trapped by insecurity and fear. Does horror have a place in an ideal world of peace? Whatever our views might be about the reality of hell, can we not agree that we would rather not have the atmosphere of hell invade our homes and families? From both a religious and sociological perspective, I can't find anything but evil in horror films.

Therefore, let us eliminate horror films.

Are we talking about censorship? Frankly, I don't think so. Censorship has sometimes been quite harmful. If the censor has a "pea brain", things could get censored that really don't need restrictions. I believe that the best method is a social movement toward "education of heart" -- a movement to teach young and old that the most valuable thing in life is to serve and love others, and that the worst possible thing one can do is to harm other people. The "ethic of heart and unselfish love" must become a guiding light in the 21st century, if our culture is going to survive and improve.

Until then, let's pass legislation to give horror films an "X" rating, and pass additional legislation requiring video stores everywhere to place all horror films (including new releases) in a strictly cordoned off and out of view section of the store that is accessible only to adults over 21 years old. Relegating horror films to embarrassing back rooms will help move our society away from a culture of violence.

That same "X" rating should bar horror films from network television, and should prevent horror film previews from being shown in movie trailers. Legislation should include reasonable definitions of horror films -- in order to avoid giving "X" ratings to films such as "Young Frankenstein" or "The Sixth Sense". Much like pornography, people "know it when they see it". At the same time, many a great film was marred by unnecessary scenes of horrific violence. Legislation should address that as well. This is not a call for legislation based on hysteria, but instead legislation based on common sense that is rooted in the ethic of unselfish love.

Since we do indeed want to establish a culture and world of peace, let us insist that our local and national legislators act quickly to banish horror films to the gloom where they belong.

(Comments are moderated and must be approved.)
Peter Falkenberg Brown
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