Caroline tries to deny the reality of her occult experiences, eventually reduced to (if you've seen the trailers) chanting a reassurance of her disbelief. But each denial brings her closer to a conversion she desperately wishes to avoid. Humans believe – we are hardwired to do so. Life is not a question of whether we will believe, but in what or Who. Pascal's Wager – which roughly argues that it is safer to believe in God than to not – may be dicey as an apologetic statement, but it is a great discussion starter.

The Force of Fear

Rudolf Otto, in "The Idea of the Holy," comments on the uncanniness of the supernatural. Otto calls it the mysterium tremendum, a part of which is the sensation of supernatural "otherness" that can make your flesh crawl. As Caroline walks her script-appointed path, her cool detachment is replaced by fear and horror. Everything she wanted to deny she discovers is true. The Bible claims that supernatural powers are a reality. Movies such as "The Skeleton Key" cause people to ponder that claim. The shiver of excitement that supernatural films deliver is often later replaced by moments of contemplation. This movie would not work if there were not some suspicion that a transcendent realm exists. I am not arguing for the veracity of Hoodoo, but for the reality of spirits – and more importantly, for the reality of God.

Otto argues that the dread in the dark is, for many, a first step toward the light. Now that many of our pulpits no longer speak of heaven and hell, Hollywood has stepped in to slake our supernatural thirst. Christians should respond to the feelings Hollywood creates by discussing the nature of supernatural reality and leading people toward a deeper understanding. Discussion cards on MovieMinistry.com can help those new to using film as an evangelistic tool. In an age that tries to ignore the supernatural, horror films provide a portal. Carefully examined, they can reveal the desire in everyone for a life beyond this present one, which can only be grasped by faith.


Marc T. Newman, PhD (marc@movieministry.com) is the president of MovieMinistry.com, an organization that provides sermon and teaching illustrations from popular film, and helps the Church use movies to reach out to others and connect with people.

Publication of this analysis does not constitute endorsement of the film. WARNING: MPAA has given this movie a PG-13 rating for violence, disturbing images, some partial nudity, and thematic material.