The Devil's Backbone
- compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2002 1 Jan
In most movies, says Parks, "death is usually just a plot device or, worse, a sign of victory, a validation of the hero's power. It is rare to find any movie that tries to convey actual pain. Instead, we're programmed to think violence doesn't have any results, that killing and maiming are routine." Not so in
I wholeheartedly agree with his assessment, and would encourage believers to interpret the film carefully. The purpose of the film is not to make people afraid of ghosts or to encourage investigation of occult phenomena, but to help us think about how violent acts—between people and between nations—leave behind wounded people who will neither forget nor often forgive.
For almost as long as people have built campfires, ghost stories have teased us with ideas about life after death. The greatest artists have wrestled with their fear and curiosity by giving shape to their afterlife imaginings, whether inspiring or terrible.
Shakespeare's famous ghost, Hamlet's murdered father, is one of the most haunting phantoms in all of literature, with his tales of hellish torment and his appeal to Hamlet for justice and vengeance. Movies frequently echo this episode—in
But finding a meaningful ghost story is a challenge. Most cinematic spook-stories recall another Shakespeare line—"A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." Most are so sloppily told that some Christian film critics go so far as to ignore or condemn any movie in which heroes come into contact with ghosts.