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« on: June 10, 2006, 06:18:34 PM »

Revealing the Real Horror Film

by Dr. Marc T. Newman
June 9, 2006

(AgapePress) - - Two horror films opened over the last week. One told the story of how a diabolical evil is spawned in a God-rejecting culture unleashing wanton destruction on everything it touches. The other film was about the Antichrist.

The Break-up used its misleading "preview of coming attraction" trailer to sell millions of folks on the idea that this was a Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Aniston romantic comedy. The trailer contains all of the standard elements: an attractive couple, snappy banter, goofy relatives, supportive and quirky friends. But after seeing the film you realize that this preview is kind of like that spoof trailer circulating on the Internet that makes The Shining appear to be a wacky-yet-heartwarming family Christmas film. The Break-up is a horror film, and I would like to argue that it is more effective than The Omen in achieving its purpose.

Realism
The Omen (both the original and the remake) is a rather stupid film about the coming of the Antichrist that was remade only because someone with pull at the studio must have said, "Hey, a date with 666 is coming up, we should jump on the 'religious film' bandwagon and remake The Omen. We won't have a marketing opportunity like this for another hundred years!" Actually, the date was 6/6/06, and since the producers felt comfortable ignoring the extra numeral; using their reasoning this film could be remade every 10 years (now there's a frightening thought!).

The Omen is filled with ridiculous dialogue (the day after their nanny hangs herself at their son's birthday party, the husband casually asks his wife how the hunt for a new nanny is coming. She says, "Frustrating" -- no kidding), unbelievable situations (a 35-year-old ambassador to the United Kingdom?), unexplained "miraculous" events (why should photography become a new prophetic medium?), and theological explanations that make The Da Vinci Code look like orthodoxy (the World Trade Center attack becomes the fulfillment of the "mountain burning" trumpet judgment of Rev. 8:Cool. And you don't have to be Dr. Laura to figure out that this kid has problems. It would be hard to imagine people taking any of this seriously enough to spark an eschatological conversation.

The Break-up, on the other hand, has moments of remarkable realism. It is the story of Brooke and Gary, a cohabiting couple who purchased a condo together. Eventually the bloom comes off the rose, tensions flare, and the action that sparks the title of the film ensues. To make the trailer work, the director had to let Vaughn riff a bit so that he could capture some funny footage. But when the arguments begin -- and they begin very early -- the results are decidedly not funny. The unsuspecting audience might giggle at first, waiting for the other shoe to drop, but it never does. This couple is fighting, and they mean it, and it's ugly in its realism. The Break-up is like watching a car crash -- horrifying, but it's still difficult to avert your eyes.

Scariness
The Omen is not particularly frightening. If you are old enough to remember the original (and unembarrassed enough to admit that you saw it) there is nothing new. This is an evenly paced mayhem film. In fact, the deaths seemed so uniformly spaced out that you could use them to track the amount of time left in the film (two dead, two major characters to go -- must be about half finished). Sure there are a few jump cut scares, the cheapest way to get a scream in a horror film, but the reaction on the faces of my fellow audience members as we left the theater was boredom.

But if you have ever truly been in love, what happens in The Break-up is far more terrifying. Coming on the heels of Aniston's real-life divorce from Brad Pitt, some scenes had to have been hard for her to film. One of the most frightening things that people ever do is to give their hearts away. The results leave you more vulnerable than any co-ed in a teen slasher flick. No one can hurt you like one who holds your heart. That is why God builds for us the bulwark of marriage -- a protection that the West has been steadily eroding for decades, but which is still effective in the lives of those who strive to honor God.

The fear in The Break-up is amplified because Brooke and Gary are not married. Their hearts are entrusted to each other on the slimmest of premises: how they happen to feel about each other on a given day. When a series of events pushes Brooke over the edge, she concludes that she deserves better and utters the devastating words that begin this couple's unstoppable decline. True commitment signified by a God-honoring marriage might have done a lot to put some brakes on the slide. We discover that each party to this disaster wishes that it wasn't happening; they simply have no mechanism in place to hold their relationship together.

Universal Application
But the real trump card in determining this week's top horror flick is universal application. Fear is at its highest in a film when people can relate -- when they conclude that what is happening on the screen could potentially happen to them in real life. That is why a film like Jaws kept some swimmers out of the ocean for years (the especially impressionable even avoided lakes). I know folks that still get tense when they are in the water and someone starts intoning: "da-dum, da-dum, dum-dum-dum-dum...

Let's face it. It is unimaginable that the rise of the Antichrist will look anything at all like The Omen films. If John Kerry couldn't be elected President, who would support a sallow, staring, stone-faced demon child in his bid to be the leader of the world.? You can get away with a lot in politics, but The Omen takes the idea of digging up dirt on a candidate to a whole new level. Additionally, the temporal impact of the end times is confined to seven years. The majority of people will never see it. Films about it lack any real lasting punch. It is more like a visit to Ripley's Believe It or Not -- you have a look, then move along.

On the other hand, the West has rapidly become a culture of cohabitation. There is nothing in the setup for The Break-up that seems unusual or out of place anymore. But every time such people are torn apart it harms them in irreparable ways. They become a little more gun-shy, there is a little less of their hearts available to give away the next time. And often it doesn't happen just once. I applaud The Break-up for having the courage of its convictions; there are no easy outs offered or taken. But one gets the terrifying feeling in watching the film that there is absolutely nothing to keep this kind of disaster from happening to Brooke and Gary over and over again.

Oh, some might argue that they have learned valuable lessons by "test driving" potential "lovers." But the undeniable fact is that no compatibility test is a substitute for a mature sense of commitment before God -- the kind of commitment that says that I promise to act in a loving way toward my spouse every day for the rest of my life whether I happen to feel like it that day or not. That promise must be accompanied by a will to act. Not all marriages are grounded in this kind of commitment, but the best ones are.

But unlike a lot of cheesy, low-budget horror films where you learn so little about the characters that you really don't care much whether they live or die (and, as one stand-up comedian noted, "these kids are so easy to kill you could strangle them with a cordless phone"), in The Break-up you do care. I desperately wanted to see someone tell these two to stop playing sex-as-a-weapon and jealousy games with each other, confess that they sinned in cohabiting in the first place, get some counsel from a mature Christian couple, come to be reconciled with God, and (if they can get past the rocky start) get married and make a go of it. Unfortunately, following in the footsteps of most other horror films, there simply is no solid Christian character written into the script to shed light. And so Brooke and Gary (and millions of other real people) are left to their own devices, stumbling in the dark, and having their hearts repeatedly ripped out. If only such horrors were confined to the screen.

http://news.christiansunite.com/Religion_News/religion04587.shtml

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