I had heard for months of the Conjuring movie from one of my good friends and was eager, like many, to see it when it premiered. I went it knowing very little about Ed and Lorraine Warren, but as I’m writing a ghost hunter and medium horror series, I was intrigued how they might pair the husband/wife duo solving supernatural cases together. I assumed they were ghost hunters and as the movie portrayed them as such, I didn’t think to consider otherwise. So I went on to dig deeper and read up more on the Warrens.
I dove into the Demonologist after considering several options about the Warrens. It seemed to be a catchall of their ghost encounters, including bits about Annabelle the haunted doll from the first scene of the movie, and also some background about Amityville itself. I had no idea going in that they were so deeply interested in Demonology and Ed was, in fact, the only Demonologist recognized by the Catholic Church that wasn’t a priest or ordained clergy member. They had their hands in thousands of cases and all of them were demonic, not human ghost hauntings. They go at great lengths to mention numerous times handing off ghosts to well-instructed mediums or psychics to deal with regular hauntings. How unlike the movie, I thought. The movie portrayed it as a ghost possessing people. Naturally, I do not believe everything I see in movies, but it surprised me that the movie had to deviate so far from the truth. They go so far as to describe in the book the difference between symptoms of a haunting by a human entity and a not-so-human one.
The problem of the movie taking out the “demon” to their work interested me because it’s a problem with horror I’ve been thinking about for a long time. It is extremely difficult to find the correlation between faith and horror at all anymore. Faith has left our horror and these days it is almost absent. Sure we have movies about possessions and ghosts, but when was the last time you saw someone brandishing a cross with the villain spitting “you must have faith for it to work” like in Fright Night or Salem’s Lot, you would probably have to look somewhere back in the early to mid-90s or 80s to find examples, I would imagine. Let’s take Annabelle for instance, the opening scene to The Conjuring. Never once was it mentioned, as found in reading The Demonologist, that the doll Annabelle was not haunted but manipulated by a demon who pretended to be a little girl to try and possess the doll and then the family.
Whether you believe in such things religiously or not is irrelevant to the fact that the details in horror, when religious, are sensitive subjects to touch on and are therefore almost always removed. We’ve tried as a culture to be more sensitive, but as a result we are also losing a component of our fiction that addresses fear of a more religious nature. And that fear lends to some powerful storytelling as well as lessons. And this doesn’t mean just Christianity and Catholicism, but any faith. I found it interesting in that in the Demonologist, Ed and Lorraine references any faith having exorcists to help with possessions and mentioning that people have sought help from all faiths to deal with demonic possession and fear.
Let’s take this back over to old school vampire rules where a priest faces a vampire instead of a demon. This is a classic image, with the black-robed priest brandishing a silver cross and the vampire or demon laughs and says they must have faith. While some who might not be horror fans would cringe at the idea of their faith being questioned, I view it in a different way. Faith, found within horror or dark fiction, used to be used as the sword and shield given to the hero to fight the villain. Now, with the faith references being stripped from stories, we find our heroes without swords. Faith is no longer used as a weapon to fight the dark. It’s too controversial. We don’t want to offend everyone. We want everyone to feel included. And we should include all faiths in our horror fiction as writers of it.
I’m not saying this to be controversial, but to make a point that: have you noticed in horror that weapons of faith are being omitted like I have?