The Ethical Dilemma of Horror Films 

Ellen Huff 

Faith Editor 

It’s spooky season. You know what that means—carved pumpkins, witches, potions, corn mazes, black cats and so much more. The Halloween aesthetic is dark and ghostly. For some, this season is a constant adrenaline rush due to haunted houses, scary costumes, and most importantly horror films.  

From classics such as PsychoHalloween and Scream to the modern scary movies such as AnnabelleThe Conjuring and Sinister, horror movies have been produced with the intent of striking fear into the viewer. Blood pressure rises with the eerie music as the suspense builds. Horror movies have a unique opportunity to manipulate the minds of the eager participants.  

Inevitably, all movies assume the role of presenting ideas and images before the human being; therefore, films inherently have an ability to change humans for better or worse. Horror movies utilize gore, shock factor, dark themes, gratuitously evil characters and other ethically questionable components.  

So, the question presents itself, should we be partaking in the entertainment of horror films? 

Healthline states, “Horror films are designed to elicit certain emotions such as tension, fear, stress, and shock. These can cause the release of the hormones in the body such as norepinephrine, cortisol, and adrenaline from the autonomic nervous system”.  

This does not yet pose a problem. Seeking thrills is completely within ethical bounds as long as the individual is grounded in the truth and prohibiting harm to others and the soul.   

Healthline states, “There’s no harm in watching for those who can process the illusion for what it is”. 

On the biological surface, there are not inherent problems with this effect from horror movies; however, individuals seeking the thrill of thrillers should be informed of the risks of watching scary movies.  

In the context of the ethical questions of horror films, a professor commented a unique perspective. Anything permissible to present in the Bible should be allowed to be in horror films. If one is familiar with the Bible, many gratuitously evil characters and events are presented. Therefore, the portrayal of evil actions clearly does not present an explicit argument against horror films. Throughout history, profound literature pieces have presented ethical dilemmas in hopes of the audience recognizing the evil and being appalled by the wickedness.  

Individually, the intent in watching horror films is what should be deconstructed and deliberated. As stated in Ephesians 6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”. I am not asserting that horror movies posses an inherent evil constituting spiritual warfare; however, we need to be aware of the possible implementations on the mind. With clear distinction of the difference between the good and evil forces of the world, one can watch a horror movie strictly for the excitement of the experience.  

Socially, there are other factors to take into consideration. If the goal of horror films is to shock the conscience, the level of gore, darkness, and depravity involved in shock factor must increase each time the mind becomes desensitized to the fear. This can lead to a slippery slope into complete debauchery on screen. Some of the most recent popular horror films are a testament to this unescapable trend.  

The ethics and intentions behind the creation of films should not be taken lightly. As viewers, it is our job to think critically about films and their themes. Who does the movie seem to desire for us to resonate with and hope for their success? At the end of the day, movies should provoke an idea of what is good and what is evil. Filmmaking is an artform with the power to shape the culture and future generations. Horror films show different aspects of darkness and the depravity of humanity. It can expose different worldviews and perspectives of life or simply be a form of entertainment seeking a single jump scare reaction to trick the hormones in the viewers.  

II Corinthians 10:15 wisely guides the Christian to take every thought captive. As long as this command is followed, Christians should be able to watch horror films with an ethically sound mind, avoiding the debaucherously profane films and indulging in the suspensefully tasteful films. 

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