By Mia Brounstein
For many people, Halloween, or “Spooky Season,” is the very best time of year. The sweet fall treats, the decorations, the homemade costumes and the chill in the air all combine to create a delightful, if brief, holiday season.
I can understand all of the above reasons to love Halloween, but one aspect of the season that I can’t quite get behind is the practice of watching horror movies. In fact, I would go so far as to argue that watching horror movies is not in line with Catholic values for several reasons.
The first of these centers on the fact that the primary purpose of horror movies is to elicit feelings of fear and disgust in viewers. These feelings, however, are in direct opposition to the disposition that we are called to have: peace.
Throughout scripture, Jesus repeatedly makes it clear that he desires his followers to experience peace. I would argue that the feelings brought on by horror films are actually intended to destroy peace and replace it unnecessarily with anxiety and discomfort, emotions which God does not desire for us.
In addition, many horror movies lean into using violence as entertainment. Catholicism places a strong emphasis on the incredible dignity of the human person, and partaking in media that degrades that dignity needlessly cannot be encouraged.
In the case of war movies and other violent films, it can be argued that the gore portrayed serves a purpose: to tell a true story or to somehow highlight a character. However, in most horror movies, violence is simply meant to entertain.
Similarly, as has been argued for years, horror movies and other violent content may desensitize viewers to evil or frightening imagery.
As humans, we are created with a natural avoidance of disturbing and dangerous things. Numbing this natural response to evil cannot be healthy for our minds or souls.
Obviously, there is some room in this debate for case-by-case arguments. Different people absorb media in different ways, and even within the genre of horror there may be films that are meant to have a good message or that don’t treat violence gratuitously.
Overall, however, I believe that we ought to ask ourselves the question of whether the media we are consuming — which in this case is horror movies — is actually bringing us closer to holiness. Does it benefit our souls to have our peace stolen, to witness gratuitous violence and to become desensitized to evil?
Ultimately, we must remain aware of the fact that everything we consume affects us, and generally does so much more deeply than we realize. Perhaps it simply isn’t worthwhile to allow the content of horror movies to take root in our minds.
So next year, when jack o’ lantern season rolls around again, I encourage you to consider something a little lighter for your movie nights. It might not be your first choice, but it’s just one more way of integrating Catholic values into your daily life.