I'll spill a secret: I love creepy stories. I was the kid who watched every B-level vampire film that came around - back when all vampire films were B-level, full of delightful cliches like hungry glances toward bared throats, women running through foggy moors, and spot-lit tooth reveals.
What was better than B-level was Rasputin the Mad Monk, with Christopher Lee. That one really scared me, and I haven't gotten over it yet.
But I do draw lines. I don't like on-screen violence. I don't like blood-spattered camera lenses. And especially, I don't like exorcist movies. I like to be scared by mythologies, by suggestion and atmosphere. I'm not fond of genuine, unfiltered evil.
So it came as a surprise one recent (Sunday!) afternoon, when I opened my latest envelope from Netflix, and found an exorcist film titled The Rite. I'd forgotten it was in my queue, and I couldn't remember why I'd put it there.
A quick read of the description provided the explanation: Anthony Hopkins had a starring role. Enough said.
So I slipped it in the player, and told my husband we could turn it off if things got too bad.
To my surprise, they didn't. In fact, when the film was over, I walked with a lighter step, and praised my Lord with a truer voice.
I don't go around watching these things, so I can't explain when or how I became so jaded to all the cliches: There's the sweet young thing talking in a male voice while twisting herself in two. Ah, of course, she's coughing up nails. No surprises here.
What saved it, of course (apart from much in the story that was not cliched), was Anthony Hopkins. I'm amazed the same man can play someone deeply good one moment and deeply evil the next, but in so doing he manages to expose the dirty devices of the devil for the weak things they are, and reveals that their chief strength lies in deceiving us to think that everything depends on us.
We are weak, you see, but Jesus is strong.
I recently discovered a short talk titled The Arc of Storytelling by Bobette Buster, and in that film she brings up a book, The Uses of Enchantment by Holocaust survivor and leading child therapist, Bruno Bettelheim.
Ms. Buster paraphrases the seeds for Bettelheim's thought as follows:
"Children who had been in the death camps, who had been read the true Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales, these children had been taught that someday you may be thrown into an oven; someday a wolf may come to the door. But guess what? There is an inexorable force in the universe there to support you. If you will keep going, you will discover the faith, the courage to move on."
Put differently, there's no use hiding from your fears. Much that you fear will come your way. But there is more, much more. There is an inexorable force in the universe. We are weak, but he is strong.
How about you? Have scary stories ever been a source for truth for you in the way Ms. Buster put it?
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