- compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2002 1 Jan
Actor Bill Paxton turns in his second performance as a director with the horror film
Bill Paxton plays a gentle, loving father who wakes his two sons in the middle of the night to tell them that God has charged them with a holy mission—to hunt down and kill demons in the world. The older of the two boys struggles, emotionally and psychologically, as his father draws the three of them into violent acts of supposedly righteous retribution. Matthew McConaughey plays one of the boys, now grown, who relates to a police officer this chilling tale, right to its troubling and shocking conclusion.
The film has raised the ire of religious press critics chiefly because it portrays faithfully religious people as murderous maniacs. And the film's implication that God might indeed require his followers to behave so wickedly isn't going over too well either.
The USCCB's critic explains that the movie "terrifies, because it takes a good thing like faith and doing God's will, and warps it beyond recognition." But the film fails even in its horror because of "narrative holes that require the audience to fill in the blanks and a few all-too-convenient details that become harder to believe once some thought has been given to them."
John Adair (Preview) writes, "While plenty of good, evangelical lingo about faith is spouted throughout the story, the film joins others that cast religious believers in a strong negative light, since most of the pious phrases come from the killer." But Adair agrees with Carole McDonnell (Christian Spotlight) in observing, "It definitely leads to heavy discussion after its ending."
Tom Snyder (Movieguide) condemns the whole package: "It's often amazing how apparently intelligent people can seem so theologically dense sometimes. That's why the false, abhorrent theology in
I sincerely doubt many moviegoers will be led astray. The horror genre is famous for entertaining us with twisted "What if?" questions.
Mainstream critics are impressed by how the film's effectiveness, considering its low budget and its avoidance of extreme violence and onscreen gore.
Roger Ebert doesn't find
Some Christian critics have taken aim at the recent horror film
Chattaway quotes Ed Vitagliano, director of research for the American Family Association, who wrote in a review at Agape Press that
Chattaway responds that there are several problems with this claim. "First, if Vitagliano is responding only to a 'description' of the film, then it sounds as though he is passing judgment on the film before he has even seen it. If that is the case, then he is speaking out of ignorance, and it is somewhat ironic when he complains later on that Hollywood always portrays Christians as 'loud-mouthed' and 'self-righteous.' Learning to think critically about films, and about art in general, is a necessary skill in this media-saturated age, and no one is helped when self-appointed culture warriors condemn obscure movies they've apparently never seen."