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Eschato-horror films Hauka, David Phillip 2014

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 ESCHATO-HORROR FILMS  by  David Phillip Hauka  B.A., Simon Fraser University, 1999 M.F.A., University of British Columbia, 2008  A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF  MASTER OF ARTS  in  The Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (Film Studies)  THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA (Vancouver)  August 2014  © David Phillip Hauka, 2014     ii Abstract This thesis studies American studio feature films whose narratives are inspired by the Bibleʼs Book of Revelation. I identify these films as belonging to a subgenre of supernatural horror I have named ʻeschato-horrorʼ. American eschato-horror films reflect Christian eschatology and its violent visions of cosmic war between divine and satanic forces. While supernatural horror films exploit our fear of death and evil, American Eschato-horror ups the cultural stakes through its representations of pseudo Catholic and other Christian ritual, scripture, and iconography in its mission to frighten the viewer. Other national cinemas produce their own eschatology inspired films, but the American rendering of the genre as produced and exported by major Hollywood studios and distribution companies dominates screens world-wide. In order to better understand the cultural importance and usefulness of American Eschato-horror for film fans as well as self-identifying American Christian audiences, this thesis will study three examples of the genre, Constantine (Lawrence, 2005), Knowing (Proyas, 2009) and Legion (Stewart, 2010), all of which were produced by or for major American motion picture companies and distributors. Demonstrating that the version of eschatology found in their narratives reflects an identifiable American Protestant Christianity will be accomplished though an historical overview tracing Christianity from its roots as the marginalized, millennially-inspired “Jesus Cult,” to its evolution into one of the most powerful forces shaping American history and culture. The narrative elements associated with eschato-horror (monstrous women, self-sacrificing heroes, faithless priests, etc.), will be seen to be as much an expression of our collective fear of death and evil – forces James Carse associates with religion – as the Biblical illiteracy and confused understanding of Christianity identified by Stephen Prothero and Richard T. Hughes so central to contemporary Americaʼs view of itself as being “a Christian Nation.” The reception of American Eschato-horror films as seen on film fan and Christian websites, especially in light of   iii discourse similarities identified in film fan cults and religious cults, will be considered through the work of Matt Hills, Ernest Mathijs, Jamie Sexton and Jeff Hunter.     iv Preface This thesis is original, unpublished, independent work by the author, David Phillip Hauka.     v Table of Contents Abstract ................................................................................................................ ii Preface ................................................................................................................. iii
Table of Contents ................................................................................................ v
List of Figures .................................................................................................... vii
Acknowledgements .......................................................................................... viii
Dedication ........................................................................................................... ix
1 Introduction ....................................................................................................... 1
 Supernatural horror and the Christian apocalypse ................................... 1
2 Methodology ..................................................................................................... 4
 Religion as horror ..................................................................................... 4
 Identifying Christian eschatology and its American variation .................... 6
3 Religion, the Horror Genre and Defining Eschato-Horror .......................... 11
 Religion and horror: Mechanisms for navigating death and evil ............. 11
 Eschatology and the millennium ............................................................. 13
 The Jesus cult and the Parousia ............................................................ 17
 The Roman church and the suppression of the Parousia ....................... 19
 The Book of Revelation .......................................................................... 20
3.6 Reformation, Revelation and the Puritans in America ............................ 24
3.7 American individualism, noble self-sacrifice and skeptical heroes ......... 26
3.8 Puritan patriarchy and monstrous women .............................................. 27
3.9 American biblical (il)literacy—a lacunae for eschato-horror ................... 29
 Old world vs. American eschatology ...................................................... 33
3.11 Eschato-horror defined ........................................................................... 35
 Eschato-horror—summary and formulation .................................. 38
 Eschato-horror narrative elements ............................................... 39
4 Film Analysis ................................................................................................... 41
 Film selections and exporting American eschatology ............................. 41
4.2 Three expressions of eschato-horror: Constantine, Knowing and Legion ..   ............................................................................................................... 43
 Constantine: Birth of a child of Satan and imaginary Catholicism 44
 Knowing: “Stealth” eschato-horror and hidden meaning ............... 54
4.2.3 Legion: End Time Fantasy Pastiche ............................................. 73
  vi 5 Reception ........................................................................................................ 84
 Profiting from eschato-horror the American way .................................... 84
5.2 Worldwide profits through American eschato-horror prophecy .............. 86
5.3 American population demographics: Christians are “US - A” ................. 88
5.4 Religion, cults, fans, and ignorance ....................................................... 89
5.5 “Christian” reviews of eschato-horror ................................................... 100
5.6 “Christian” responses to eschato-horrorʼs Knowing ............................. 102
 Positive comments .................................................................... 103
 Negative comments ................................................................... 105
5.7 The “Usefulness” of Eschato-Horror ..................................................... 106
6 Conclusion .................................................................................................... 109
Works Cited ...................................................................................................... 113
Appendices ...................................................................................................... 117
Appendix A: Filmography ............................................................................... 117
DVDʼs and BluRays of films analysed ........................................................ 117
Films cited ................................................................................................... 117
     vii List of Figures Figure 5.1
 Religion, long term and cult systems of belief as defined by Carse vs. culture, established fan cultures and cult fandom .................... 108
     viii Acknowledgements  I am deeply grateful to the faculty and staff of the Film Studies program of the University of British Columbiaʼs Department of Theatre and Film, whose support and encouragement over these past several years have meant more to me than I can say. I owe particular thanks to my supervisor, Dr. Ernest Mathijs, for his guidance, incisive questions, and kindness during my research into what has sometimes been difficult territory. Many thanks as well to Dr. Brian McIlroy, who inspired me to undertake this degree in the first place. Many thanks to my family and friends for their bemused support of my academic adventures. Special thanks to my to my brother Donald James Hauka, who has listened patiently to more versions of certain passages than I can count.      ix Dedication  To my dear friend, Myra Davies, for her sharp intelligence and creative inspiration, and for catching me before I hit the ground on more than one occasion.     1 1 Introduction 1.1 Supernatural horror and the Christian apocalypse From its 19th century beginnings cinema has exploited the various narratives and themes imbedded in the text of the Christian Bible for use in multiple narrative forms. This comes as no surprise for myriad reasons, not the least of these being the central place Christianity has occupied in western culture since the Roman emperor Constantine legalized the religion in 313 CE. Humanityʼs place in the cosmos, moral and ethical constructs, turns of phrase, and evocative imagery just scratch the surface of Christianityʼs influence on the westʼs conception of the world. To quote Carl Jung from Joseph Campbellʼs edited collection of the psychiatristʼs writings in The Portable Jung:  We must read the Bible or we shall not understand psychology. Our psychology, our whole lives, our language and imagery are built upon the Bible. Again and again one comes across it in the unconscious of people who know practically nothing of it; yet these metaphors are in their dreams because they are in our blood. (Campbell 156) Unlike the majority of biblical narratives adapted for Hollywood, which can be found in comedy, drama, action, thrillers, and other genres, the Parousia is largely confined to the hybrid genre of supernatural horror, and for good reason: the Parousia is the story of the Second Coming of Christ, and the End of Days. The Parousia is the Apocalypse – and while these two words are different in definition, they have come, along with other words and phrases, to mean the same thing. Jung is right about this story being “in our blood”—there will be blood, oceans of it. This thesis focuses on the following three topics: how one of the Christian Bibleʼs most important narratives, the Parousia, is adapted for use in American horror cinema, the reliability of its appearance over decades of production, and how these adaptations are received by audiences. Identifying films exploiting American Christian eschatology will permit their classification as a specific sub-genre of the horror and supernatural horror   2 genres. I will propose the creation of a clearly identifiable sub-genre of supernatural horror: eschato-horror. I depart from the work done by Pamela Grace in her book The Religious Film, wherein she identifies a sub-category of the “serious” religious film, the hagiopic, which “focuses on films that represent the life… of a recognized religious hero… the “holy” or “saint” picture,” (Grace 1).  The narrative requirements of eschato-horror will be identified by taking advantage of similar work undertaken in defining the hagiopic by Grace. Once established, I will apply eschato-horrorʼs requirements during an analysis of three films representative of my proposed genre. Reception of eschato-horror films by American fans of the horror genre will be contrasted with audiences who self-identify as Christians. This comparison will be conducted while keeping in mind that information collected by the Pew Research Institute and the United States Census Bureau strongly suggests that these two seemingly different audiences may considerably overlap. American political and media commentators frequently refer to their country as being a “Christian nation.” While the specifics of such a claim may be up for debate, the census and poll numbers do support a deep identification with the idea of Christianity by Americans (I will examine what is meant by the American “idea of Christianity” in Chapter 2). Recent polls conducted by Pew (http://religions.pewforum.org/reports), as well as the 2010 US Census (http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s0075.pdf) reveal that 78%, some 240 million, of Americans self-identify as being Christian, with evangelical and fundamentalists representing more than a quarter of that figure. The importance of this high percentage of evangelical/fundamentalist adherents for this study lies in the centrality of the “imminence” of the Parousia to their religious practice. An intersection between supernatural/eschato-horror film fans and American Christians can be found on a range of Internet websites, which include such major sites as Bloodly-Disgusting.com and Christian Spotlight on   3 Entertainment (christiananswers.net/spotlight/), as well as smaller, “boutique” sites such as Theofantastique.com and TheChristianNerd.com.  Christian eschatological narratives do appear in other national cinemas (Żuławskiʼs 1981 feature film Possession, is one example). However, I will argue the eschatological narrative in American supernatural horror films is identifiable as one that has specifically evolved in response to the history and culture of America. With its flexibility and robustness, and in combination with the economic dominance and aggressive marketing of American motion pictures internationally, this “American Christian eschatology” is so persistent that it defines how apocalyptic supernatural horror plays out regardless of the national or cultural origins of the film or other media making use of it. I will argue that the cinematic version of an American interpretation of Christian eschatology is reflected in the eschato-horror films produced by major Hollywood studios. Further, based on studies conducted on Biblical literacy in the United States that will be discussed later in the thesis, I will suggest that audiences have come to confuse the narrative of Christian eschatology with the radically reinterpreted one found in American eschato-horror. This potential confusion regarding religious beliefs central to American history and culture lends urgency to our need to understand the origins of Christian eschatology and how it evolved over time.    4 2 Methodology My research objectives are: to establish that there is an important and identifiable subgenre of supernatural horror, eschato-horror, whose primary concern is religious narratives about the “end of the world” through supernatural agency. Based as they are on deeply held religious and cultural beliefs, eschato-horror films may offer deep insight into how a given nation sees its place in the world and history; Eschato-horror films whose narratives draw their inspiration from Christian eschatology will be the focus of this research, specifically those produced for or by major Hollywood studios; American feature films, including those of the eschato-horror genre, dominate cinema and other media screens worldwide, exporting their cultural narratives so effectively that other cultural narratives may be weakened or replaced. Given the centrality of Christianity to Americaʼs cultural discourse my research will attempt to determine through an historic overview, what ”America Christianity” might be, and how it is reflected in the narratives of American eschato-horror films; Finally, I will do preliminary research into the reception of American eschato-horror films by fans of the genre, as well as viewers who self-identify as American Christians. 2.1 Religion as horror Movies depicting a variety of “instructive” Christian narratives, the majority of which feature supernatural events have been a part of cinema from its beginnings – as have supernatural stories whose sole purpose is to frighten the viewer. So, itʼs little wonder that the climatic supernatural narrative of the Christian faith, with its horrific depictions of physical and spiritual suffering and the terrifying prospect of eternal punishment if you are not among the elect, would find its way into every national cinema where a large, paying, Christian population exists. Eschato-horror films, as I identify the genre, are different from those of supernatural horror, though their common exploitation of our fear of   5 death and evil – and that both those forces can touch us – is central to their success in disturbing audiences. In order to clearly identify and define eschato horror, I will position my examination of the relationship between supernatural horror and religion primarily through the scholarship of two authors; Douglas Cowan and James Carse, whose resonance work on religion as a management system for death and evil forms a basis of navigating Christianityʼs central place in eschato-horror genre. Slavoj Žižekʼs observations on the “absence of God” and apparent lack of “morality” in nature will also be touched upon, but only as far as it supports Carse and Cowanʼs much more focused arguments.   Cowan identifies the “unseen order” in his book Sacred Terror: Religion and Horror on the Silver Screen, as being the repository of all things supernatural and horrific, whose margins strain against the rational and living. Cowanʼs unseen order has the ability to contain the “sacred” category of religion and “profane” horror due to their similar projects of finding a way to navigate our collective fear of death. Cowan also identifies “the other” as being a part of the unseen order, linking the primal fear of difference, (thatʼs not me) which can relate to gender, race, another person or thing, to death, evil and their expression by the supernatural; Religious studies scholar and theologian James Carseʼs The Religious Case Against Belief, will provide for a deeper consideration of religion as a category exclusively concerned with recognizing death and the presence of evil in the world as a fact of human existence, versus systems of belief, including Christianity, whose culturally determined solutions for death and evil are often confused with, as Carse suggests, religionʼs larger, unsolvable project. Carseʼs exploration of religion and its two subcategories, long-term belief systems and short-term cult belief systems, united as they are through death and evil, will be shown to enrich and broaden Cowanʼs examination of religion and horrorʼs relationship especially as it relates to my proposed genre of eschato-horror. Carseʼs deep examination reveals how individual or group knowledge (which he   6 approaches through categories of ignorance) affects the long-term success of belief systems, whether religious or secular. Due to its clarity and depth, I will attempt to apply Carseʼs work throughout my research into eschato-horror and its reception, particularly when I consider the challenges presented by comparing the resonant discourses of film and religious cults. 2.2 Identifying Christian eschatology and its American variation The centrality of Christianity in the daily cultural discourse of America is well documented, with important narrative elements from that religious belief finding their way into news reports, political discourse and myriad other forms of cultural expression. I recognize that religious tradition and practice in the United States is deeply complex, by no means limited to one form of Christianity, and capable of inspiring extraordinary acts of courage and charity. However, those positive expressions of religion are often lost in the noise and fury of a manifestation of Christianity that seems limited in scope, obsessed with its own importance to American history, and that is deeply invested in the belief of the imminent return of Jesus and the end of the world.  A historic overview of the evolution of Christianity from its origins as marginalized and persecuted millennial cult to its contemporary American form will serve to illustrate how its eschatology, so central to its religious system of belief, differs from how it is understood and expressed by its “Old World” sources. Christian eschatology and its expression in American eschato-horror films, helped frame my approach to researching sources for this historical overview. Frederic Baumgartnerʼs Longing for the End: A History of Millennialism in Western Civilization, provides a clear historic context for Christianityʼs origin as a small and marginalized millennial cult suffering persecution under Roman occupation in the first century CE.  Always keeping the centrality of its eschatology in mind, Baumgartner traces Christianityʼs centuries-long transformation from a purposely self-limiting and marginal religious cult to a worldwide belief system central to the   7 stateʼs agenda of long-term stability and political/economic power. Insights into the context and history of Christian eschatologyʼs expression in the Book of Revelation (a text of great importance in the cultural discourse of United States), and its deep resonance with times of war and cultural trauma, are provided by the work of Elaine Pagels, whose Revelations: visions, prophecy, and politics in the Book of Revelation, along with Bart Erhmanʼs Misquoting Jesus: the Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, augment Baumgartnerʼs own research into this critical sacred text. The struggle to control the forces of corporate eschatology released by the newly formed Protestant Christian denominations during the Reformation and their centrality to evolving beliefs of the early 17th century Puritan colonies in New England will be considered through the work of Richard T. Hughes, Stephen Prothero as well as Baumgartner. Hughesʼ Christian America and the Kingdom of God, and Protheroʼs Religious Literacy: what every American needs to know and doesnʼt, will add to Baumgartnerʼs scholarship on the Puritanʼs “literal but scholarly” approach to the Christian Bible and its Book of Revelation, and the foundations of an identifiably American Protestant Christianity and its eschatology. Insights into American Protestant Christianity as being “different” from the European state sponsored forms of Protestantism, and the effects of “fundamentalism” on its contemporary form, will be provided by considering the research done by Robert Glenn Howard in Digital Jesus: the making of a new Christian fundamentalist community on the Internet. Howardʼs examination of the “literal” eschatology practiced by extreme “End Time” Christian fundamentalists, provides insight into what theologian Mark A. Noll identifies as an anti-intellectualism deeply ingrained into American evangelical Christianity. In The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, Noll interrogates the problematic misunderstanding of Christianityʼs core beliefs by Americans, adding considerably to the work of Hughes, Prothero and Howard. Additional insight into   8 what can now be identified as an American Protestant Christianity whose peculiar eschatology is expressed in the films of eschato-horror, is provided by scriptural studies professor Robert M. Priceʼs The Paperback Apocalypse: how the Christian Church was left behind. Defining eschato-horror as a subgenre of supernatural horror in its cinematic form will be assisted through the work done by Pamela Grace in her own attempt at parsing out a subgenre of cinema, the “hagiopic.” In The Religious Film: Christianity and Hagiopic, Grace argues that the larger genre of “the religious film,” whose “conventional” religiously inspired films can be set in any time or place, can be parsed, allowing for the hagiopic, whose narratives “represent the life of a recognizable religious hero.” Grace identifies the narrative elements particular to the hagiopic, including their framing within “miracle time” and the requirement of “suffering and sacrifice” by its hero – conventions resonant with those of eschato-horror. Grace then applies her hagiopic “rules” to the analysis of a variety of films with the new genre, demonstrating their usefulness to film studies. Reception of American eschato-horror films will be approached through two related paths: Hollywood Film Studio response to the genreʼs box office performance; and the critical response by Horror Fans and self-identifying Christian audience members. Domestic and International information for the examples of American eschato-horror films studied in this thesis were obtained by comparing data from two recognized American Media industry financial aggregators, Box Office Mojo (a subsidiary of the Internet Movie Database) and The Numbers, a Los Angeles-based analytic service owned and operated by Nash Information Services, LLC. The Motion Picture Association of America provides statistics on the dominance by American feature films of markets both domestic and international. The financial information for the eschato-horror movies analyzed in this thesis demonstrates that films of the genre are reliable investments on return for major Hollywood production. Besides guaranteeing   9 future productions, the success of American eschato-horror films internationally infers audiences whose religious traditions may differ substantially from those being represented on-screen are reading an American version of Christian eschatology effectively. Online reception by horror fans and self-identified Christians presented in this thesis were not gathered as part of a designed or ethically supervised research project. The information posted by those responding to the films in question cannot be verified in any way. This uncontrolled information will be considered as allowing only inferred conclusions to be drawn. Reception by fans of horror films will be examined through the responses and comments relating to eschato-horror films posted on the horror fan website Bloody-Disgusting. Ranked among the top 15% of websites worldwide for individual page visits, Bloody-Disgusting is a professional horror fan website with over 1 million registered users, media “recognized” reviewers and multiple forums for a variety of horror genres. While only allowing for inferred conclusions to be drawn, fan responses will give some insight into how well the American eschato-horror filmʼs narratives are being read both with regard to the specific film being discussed, and its intertextual relationship to other films of the genre.  Reception by self-identifying Christians will be considered thorough comments in response to eschato-horror films reviewed on the evangelical Christian website Christian Answersʼ entertainment page, Christian Spotlight on Entertainment. Similar in size and scale to the Bloody-Disgusting website, Christian Answers and Christian Spotlight on Entertainment have a clear demographic focus, which makes it likely that those responding to the eschato-horror films being reviewed are American Christians. Their comments, while not reliable, will be used to consider how the Christian viewers of American eschato-horror respond to the transgressional representations of narrative elements central to their beliefs, and   10 how their deliberation of the films may suggest the cultural ʻusefulnessʼ of the eschato-horror genre. How the discourses of religious cults are used to examine film fan cults by film studies will be approached starting with the work of Matt Hills in his book Fan Cultures. The challenges inherent with these comparisons have resulted in what appears to be hesitance on behalf of Hills to bring these discourses into close proximity, obscuring their relationship by insisting on an unnecessary sensitivity towards religiosity. Additional scholarship by Ernest Mathijs and Jamie Sexton suggests the “seriousness (indeed graveness)” of religious cultism might be found in film cultism to some lessor degree, and work by Russ Hunter in his essay ʻDidnʼt you used to be Dario Argento?ʼ: The Cult Reception of Dario Argento establishes a clear form of “insular cultism” that resonates with James Carseʼs ideas on religious cultism in The Religious Case Against Belief. For my part, I will attempt to add to this discussion by adapting Carseʼs ideas on the relationship between his category of religion with the dependent subcategories of long-term religious belief systems and short-term cult belief systems to long-term film fan cultures and short-lived insular film cults. I will also use Carseʼs approach to the religious adherentʼs intellectual engagement of their belief system to suggest an approach to that of the cult film fan.      11 3 Religion, the Horror Genre and Defining Eschato-Horror  3.1 Religion and horror: Mechanisms for navigating death and evil Religious studies scholar and theologian Carse, in his 2008 book, The Religious Case Against Belief, argues that a monolithic view of religion prevents a more nuanced and effective study of the functioning and structuring of this universal aspect of humanity. Carse proposes that religion can be parsed into three aspects: the first and most powerful being religion itself, followed by long-term belief, with cult belief concluding the list. Germane to this study is Carseʼs proposal that the category of religion concerns itself with the human need to understand the presence of death and evil in the world. The other categories of belief represent long-term and short-term cultural institutions that have developed in response to the aforementioned universal challenges. Later in this thesis I will make use of Carseʼs categories of long-term and cult belief systems, but for now I will concentrate on the greater category of religion. I will focus on how Carseʼs category of religion relates to the horror genre and, specifically, to my proposed sub-genre of eschato-horror. For Carse, religion is our response to the presence of death and evil in the world and a means of navigating their presence. Carse asserts religionʼs purpose is the recognition of death and evil, not to offer solutions for them (solutions are offered by religious belief systems), thereby engendering a deeply complex system of thought he believes is vital to the ability to comprehend the universe and our place in it. Religion demands us to consider the reality of death as well as the presence of evil, while horror as a genre enables us to represent the fear and anxiety this consideration creates. Cowan, in Sacred Terror: Religion and Horror on the Silver Screen, contends that religion and horror are intimately connected through the concept of the “unseen order” where all supernatural forces reside: First, and most obviously, there is the matter of the supernatural itself, the   12 sine qua non of at least some definitions of religion... whether the narrative antagonists are vampires... or the elder gods, religiously oriented cinema horror relies for much of its effect on the direct collision between nature and supernature, between what we know to be true about the world and what we fear may be the reality of the “unseen order. (Cowan 7)  The fear of the unseen order is, I believe, a manifestation at the deepest level of our fear of “the Other” - “the thing that is not us.” Our fear of the Other is such that it propels not only horror as a genre, belief systems can be shaped by it as well. The Other can lead us beyond mundane difference (another person, sex, skin colour, etc.) to a confrontation with the truly disturbing: death and evil. It is the power of these two truths that give the supernatural its ability to split long-term belief and cult belief away from religion, by forcing a cultural address of the terrifying, transgressive, endless variations of death and evil found in the unseen order. As a film genre, horror is all about fear: fear of death, fear of our bodies, fear of the supernatural and the unknown. Horror films can act as psychic machines that create the conditions whereby the viewer can confront her or his fear of death and experience a form of catharsis—an emotional and intellectual release that assures the viewer—gives them comfort that the narrative provides for their escape. As we will see, Christian eschatology, as a subset of the greater category of religion, with its supernatural attributes and promise of endless pain and suffering for the disbeliever, is perfectly suited for representation in horror films, and may be the genesis of the genre. Žižek asserts in The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity, that these qualities in combination with the apparent absence and impotence of God, requires some form of narrative assurance for the believer that they will survive and will not suffer. However, that the believer will not suffer does not mean everyone else will escape mutilation and endless pain—that punishment is reserved for those who are “Other” than Christian.   13 In defining religion for his purpose, Cowan appropriates philosopher William Jamesʼ thinking on the “life of religion as the belief that there is an unseen order, and that our supreme good lies in harmoniously adjusting ourselves thereto” (Cowan 15). For our purposes, Jamesʼ definition is powerful and resonant with Carseʼs radically pared down variant, as it makes no attempt to join religion with subjective ideas of morality, allowing for the extremes identified in Christian prophesy and eschatology as well as Žižek’s Desert of the Real. Specifically with regard to horror films and religion, Cowan observes that the strength of James’ definition is: …that it avoids the “good, moral and decent fallacy,” the popular misconception that religion is always (or should always be) a force for good in society, and that negative social effects somehow indicate false or inauthentic religious practices. Many critics dismiss horror films that have at their core some depiction of religiously motivated torture or human sacrifice, for example, arguing this does not accurately represent religion, that its depiction denigrates authentic (and by implication, decent) religious impulses. (Cowan 17)  What is clear from the above is the intimate relationship between the missions of Carseʼs “religion” and Cowanʼs “horror,” and by extension supernatural horror: Religionʼs endless project to understand the existence of death and evil in the world demands the representation of death and evil by the horror genre in order for us to navigate their reality.  Recognizing the co-dependency between religion and horror will serve later to identify the importance of eschato-horror in the sometime violent interaction between theologically rigid cults systems of belief with longer established “Old World” (Europe) and “Mainline” (American) belief systems, and society. 3.2 Eschatology and the millennium Defining eschato-horror and demonstrating its origin in the American version of the Christian apocalyptic narrative requires a historic and cultural overview of   14 Christian eschatology. This overview will illustrate the difference between what I will call “Old World” versus “American” Christian eschatology and how these two related but distinct versions of Christian eschatology are intricately linked to the historic agendas of various political states. Further, the historic/cultural framing will permit the utilization of Graceʼs hagiopic and its association with “serious religious films,” which tend to reinforce mainstream interpretations of various Christian narratives, in contrast to eschato-horrorʼs disruptive and transgressional representation of Christianity. Baumgartner defines eschatology in his 1999 book Longing for the End: a History of Millennialism and Western Civilization, as: …coming from the Greek word for last things. It refers to the study of what will happen in the last days. It has the broadest meaning of the words for the end of the world, referring to the end time regardless of how it will come about or what will happen during or after it. (Baumgartner X) Eschatology has been and is central to religious belief systems for a wide range of cultures over the course of human history, and especially for Christianity. Eschatology, according to Baumgartner, fosters a specific and linear worldview wherein it is believed that a divine power, usually through the agency of a messiah, will force an end to time and history. The messiah figure, or other supernatural agency, is charged with punishing those who have done wrong to the believers of the eschatology in question, at the same time as rewarding the faithful. Howard, author of Digital Jesus: The Making of The New Christian Fundamentalist Community on the Internet, also observes that eschatology fosters an ahistorical view of the world in those practicing its most fundamentalist and extreme forms, as they look for signals for the End Times in contemporary events, disconnecting those events from their actual context. This fundamentalist reading of contemporary events reinforces a linear cause and effect formula for the bringing about of the longed for, and oft-time delayed apocalypse. In Chapter 3ʼs film analysis, I will be examining how the linear/ahistorical approach to the   15 search for signs and hidden meaning in text and events find their expression in eschato-horror films such as Knowing (Proyas, 2009) and Constantine (Lawrence, 2005). While “eschatology,” using Baumgartnerʼs definition, “has the broadest meaning of the words for the end of the world,” its use is somewhat limited in popular discourse. Other terms—especially “Apocalypse” and “Apocalyptic”—having for the most part shed their original meaning, have come to stand for the most violent aspects of Christian eschatology: “The Terms refer to a violent and catastrophic end time brought about by the deity” (Baumgartner IX). Martenʼs The End of the World: The Apocalyptic Imagination in Film and Television distills the key characteristics of Christian apocalyptic literature as follows: …(Christian) apocalyptic texts were expressed as “The Last Four Things:   Death  Judgment Heaven Hell Apocalypse is “the coming of the “end of days,” or The Last Day when God would act decisively and absolutely in human history and rectify all that had gone wrong. This day of crisis, this decision day, would be preceded by a battle between the forces of good and evil. The battle has cosmic dimensions, in that the fate of humanity and the earth are at stake. (Martens 226) We should make note of the obvious in Martenʼs “Last Four Things;” Death, the single reliable event in the sequence, comes first. What follows is Judgment and sentencing to Heaven or Hell, two critical events occurring squarely within the realm of the Unseen Order. The fear of death and the uncertainty of what occurs afterward, is neatly integrated with the individualʼs own uncertainty about their conduct during their lifetimes, infusing Christian apocalyptic literature with extreme anxiety and urgency.   16 The drive and urgency associated with Christian eschatology is tied directly to the concept of the millennium, a temporal framework that seems to add structure and justify urgency for the believer, as it allows for the arrival of the apocalypse in their lifetimes. Unfortunately the term “millennium” is somewhat slippery when applied to Christian eschatology, having taken on multiple meanings over time, including; a literal 1,000 year period tied to a specific calendar date; a time we are living in or that has already passed: a symbolic, liminal state, determined by each individual Christians status. Millennialism also accounts for the frequency of millennial cults over the history of Christianity, for “if the End Time is likely to occur in oneʼs lifetime, then it makes sense to prepare by becoming a member of the faithful remnant” (Baumgartner 3). The unfortunate downside of Christian millennialism is that should the expected return of Jesus not occur as promised, there is potential for violence as disappointed believers might act, perhaps to purge the world of non-believers, in order to bring about the desired return of Christ.  The end of History, a vengeful messiahʼs return, reward for the faithful, punishment for the sinners, and, not mentioned heretofore, after all this, the creation of a New World for the faithful who will live forever in harmony with their God and his Son—all accomplished through supernatural agency. How did such beliefs become so central to western civilization? The answer to the question is far too complex for this thesis to attempt a comprehensive answer. Instead, we will examine aspects of Christian history that assist in our understanding of eschatologyʼs place in American cinemaʼs horror genre.  In Longing for the End, Baumgartner states bluntly: “Millennialism pervades the history of Christianity because the religion began as an apocalyptic cult.” (Baumgartner 9) He goes on to describe Jesus as a charismatic leader of a breakaway Judaic cult, who drew upon the Hebrew Bibleʼs considerable apocalyptic literature as part of his ministry. Judaic apocalyptic literature can be traced back as a response to the Hebrew exile in Babylon during the 7th and 6th   17 century BCE, reflecting the deep psychic and cultural need for an explanation and solution to their condition. In general, the Hebrew Prophets explanation for the Babylonian captivity lies with the people breaking their covenant with God. Should the people return to practicing the requirements of the covenant in good faith, God will send the Messiah to rain vengeance upon their captors and allow their return home and the restoration of the destroyed temple. 3.3 The Jesus cult and the Parousia By the time of the Jesus Cult, around 30 CE, Judea had suffered through over 300 years of occupation and deprivation, first by the Greeks and then the Romans.  As has been demonstrated repeatedly throughout history, when a powerful state oppresses people long enough, they will respond in ways available to them. In the case of Jesus and those like him, that is to say, poor and politically powerless, an escape from their condition through supernatural means—a means that the prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible showed to work—was his solution. But instead of returning to the “original” rules of the covenant with God, Jesus proposed a radical alternative: to defeat the oppressor, and to be saved, you had to give up all possessions, reject your friends and family—in fact, avoid having children—and live within a pacifistic community of the weak and disenfranchised. Important to Jesusʼ radical new belief was that God would destroy this world of pain and inequity soon, and only those who joined him and his community would survive. Pagels observes in her book Revelations: Vision, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation, along with prophesying the destruction of the Great Temple in Jerusalem: Jesus repeatedly warned that judgment day – and Godʼs kingdom– would come within one generation: “there are some standing here who will not die until they see the kingdom of God having come with power… I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.” (Pagels 10)   18 The rewards for following the rules of the Jesus Cult were great: life everlasting with God and the eternal punishment of their oppressors—and better still, they would be rewarded soon! That Jesus did not return within the lifetimes of his first followers as was promised, is, paradoxically, a challenge to, and the driving force of its success as a system of religious belief. The failure of Jesusʼ return is a core argument against Christian eschatology by many religious scholars, including Price in The Paperback Apocalypse: How the Christian Church was Left Behind, wherein Price also surveys the apocalyptic literature and films based on Christian eschatology. However, whichever side of the debate one finds oneself is less important to this thesis than the result of the long delay of Jesusʼ return: it is human nature to look for explanations as to why something is, as well as why it is not. Given enough time, the explanations as to why something that isnʼt will be, can become quite interesting. And so over time, especially as the original apostles succumbed to death, explanations for the delay in Jesusʼs return to deliver the promised rewards for the faithful had to be constructed. Suffice to say, without the delay in the return of Jesus—without the decades, centuries, and millennia since his reported resurrection—there would be no Christian eschatology beyond that referred to in the Four Gospels, which are influenced by the Hebrew Bibleʼs books of Daniel and Ezekiel (and none of us living today would be around to read any subsequent eschatology, as, given the end of time would have occurred sometime shortly after 33 CE, we would not exist!)—there would be no Book of Revelation, and therefore no eschato-horror to be defined. With a mechanism for the creation of a fully formed Christian eschatology in place, that being the delay in Christ ʻs return, and the requisite need for the faithful to be always vigilant for signs of his return, what needs to be understood is how the Jesus Cult made the leap from a small group of believers eagerly anticipating the end, to one of the largest and diverse religions in todayʼs world.   19 For that we must turn to the Emperor Constantine and a Roman Empire nearing its own “end time.” 3.4 The Roman church and the suppression of the Parousia Whatever the reasons for Constantineʼs decision to legalize and elevate Christianity in the late Roman Empire after centuries of suppression and persecution, we have to keep in mind that the Christianity of 350 CE had already evolved considerably from the form practiced by the Jesus Cult in 30 CE. The transformation of Christianity from a small, geographically isolated, millennial cult lead by a charismatic figure to a widespread and successful, if technically illegal, religion, had as much to do with the attractions of its core beliefs as with its evolution under the influence of the Roman Empire. As the number of Christians grew throughout the empire, methods of communication and management had to evolve or the control of which texts and practices that were considered correct or heretical would be lost. To solve this challenge, the Christians turned towards the management and organization systems of the Empire, embracing them fully, thus making the transition from persecuted millennial cult to state religion possible. Recognition of Christianity by the Emperor Constantine also strengthened the authority of the Roman Christian Church over the other Christian churches scattered across the empire, making possible the formalization of sacred texts and standardizing religious practice using the stateʼs authority to back the decisions—and it is here, with the power and interests of the stateʼs effect on Christianity, that the forces that will create American Eschatology are set into motion. Christianity requires its adherents to follow teachings, which include: the rejection of property and power; the embracing of members of its community as family at the same time as practicing celibacy; the celebration of the weak over the strong; pacifism over vengeance; and, along with other requirements, being prepared for the Parousia, with it violent cosmic war and the End of Time and history. The   20 majority of these beliefs, so central to the idea of Christianity, are problematic for an imperial state such as Rome, with its territories, treaties, economic interests, and the need for a growing population to serve the Empire as soldiers and citizens—and letʼs not forget the slaves. The core of Christianity, its millennial DNA, with its message of poverty, peace, and the imminent Kingdom of God, needed to be suppressed by the Empire. The suppression of the imminence of the Parousia, and the justification of the stateʼs control of power and violence, moved Christianity away from its community, or “Corporate,” eschatology, with its emphasis on the Faithful Group triumphing over the unbelievers and oppressors, towards the now long-established practice of “what theologians call “individual eschatology,” the individuals destiny in heaven or hell” (Price 9).  This  “institutional” imperative to contain the Parousia, diminishing it to little more than a metaphor, or an event that would take place in the far distant future, created unresolvable and sometime extreme conflict within what was to become the Roman Catholic Church. From its time of origin up into the present day, there have been periods when the millennial core of Christianity could not be contained, usually in response to traumatic events, such as plague, war, and natural disasters, which were read by some as a prelude to the Second Coming of Christ and the end of time. However, Jesus did not return during any of these episodes, and so the Roman Catholic Church and the Christian kingdoms and states within its authority would return to the institutional practice of playing down the Parousia and its corporate eschatology in favor of the less problematic individual eschatology. 3.5 The Book of Revelation Knowing; Constantine; Legion; The Exorcism of Emily Rose; Devil; Dominion: Prequel to The Exorcist; The Rite—this list represents only a fraction of the films that have been inspired by or make use of narrative elements found in The Book of Revelation (also called “The Apocalypse of John” and Revelation) that have   21 been produced or distributed by major Hollywood studios since 2001. These and other films are attractive to audiences for a variety of reasons, not the least being the familiarity of the stories being told; all use Christian inspired apocalyptic narrative elements that have currency in day-to-day conversation: Armageddon, 666, Antichrist, the Mark of the Beast, martyr, the Seventh Seal, and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse—it is difficult to imagine English (and more particularly American English) without these or other Revelation inspired terms. Yet despite The Book of Revelationʼs full integration into our culture and thought, even today it remains contentious, as explained by Pagels: Controversy about the book of Revelation is nothing new: Ever since it was written, Christians have argued heatedly for and against it, especially from the second century to the fourth, when it barely squeezed into the canon to become the final book in the New Testament… Martin Luther wanted to throw (it) out of the canon, saying there is no Christ in it, until he realized how he could use its powerful imagery against the Catholic Church, while Catholic apologists turned it back against him and other “protesting” Christians. (Pagels 2-3) The well-documented controversy over Revelation illustrates the continuous challenge faced by the early Roman Christian Church and its authority to determine how the Christian message and its sacred texts were to be interpreted (as well as which texts were to be recognized as sacred and included in the canon), and what practices were truly “Christian.” Recognizing the Roman Catholic Churchʼs struggle with heresies from its beginnings is important—according to Carse, such struggles, no matter how vicious and complex, are central to the Churchʼs success and longevity. This positive struggle to understand Revelation and other texts sacred to Christian belief, I will argue later in this thesis, is also central to the cultural importance of eschato-horror and other transgressional cinematic genres.   22 By the time of Constantineʼs legalization of Christianity, what is known, as noted in Biblical scholar Ehrmanʼs Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, is that the majority of sacred texts to be included in the Christian Bible had been determined. Among those texts to be considered sacred and divinely inspired is The Book of Revelation, the major source of Christian eschatology—possibly making the final cut due to its intensification and expansion of what was already present: There is little in Revelation, however, that was new: it amplified the millennial ideas already present in Christianity and provided a Christian interpretation for images, numbers, and symbols largely taken from Daniel. These ideas have inspired and agitated Christians ever since. (Baumgartner 27) Unlike cinemaʼs secular apocalyptic narratives, whose concerns are generally based on natural or human generated crises that demand rational solutions, Revelation is purposefully irrational, weaving a narrative that finds its genesis and solutions in the realm of the Unseen Order. In the Gospels, Jesus does speak of the imminent arrival of the Kingdom of God, but is short on details as to what the End Time process will be. Written some 60 years after the death of Jesus by John of Patmos, Revelation, taking its inspiration from the Hebrew Biblesʼ apocalyptic texts, Jesus as quoted in the Gospels, and importantly, the terrible contemporary events befalling the Jewish and Christian communities, fills in the details of the End Times and provides an explanation for the seeming delay in Jesusʼs return.  In Revelation, Jesus does return to save those who believe in him and, after a time of tribulation, the forces of Heaven and Hell meet in a final, hyper-violent confrontation that will decide the fate of humanity. Revelation is “the strangest book in the Bible—and the most controversial” (Pagels 1). Strange, indeed, for it attempts to describe the indescribable; Controversial, certainly, for of the many apocalyptic books written after the crucifixion, it is the only one to have been   23 included in the final version of the New Testament—and then just barely. Revelation is radically different than any other book in the New Testament, for: Instead of stories and moral teaching, it offers only visions – dreams and nightmares… even today, countless people throughout the world turn to find meaning, and many Christian groups claim to see its prophecies of divine judgment being fulfilled before their eyes. (Pagels 1) Revelation is also intensely specific regarding cause and effect (a narrative constraint important to eschato-horror), with prophetic signs and the supernatural events of cosmic war occurring in a sequence, as illustrated by the famous opening of the Apocalyptic Scrollʼs “Seven Seals” in chapters five through eight. Revelationʼs prophetic visions, dreams and nightmares in combination with its cause and effect structure, transmits its meaning, power and relevance to believers across 2000 years because “it was written in the aftermath of war…” Christians in America have identified with its visions of cosmic war since the 1600s, when many immigrating to the new world believed they had arrived in the “new Jerusalem” promised in Revelation. Many have seen America as a “redeemer nation” that is to bring in the millennium, while others see its present of military and economic system as evil Babylon. Political rhetoric still appeals to our nation sense of divine destiny– or damn America for your sins. (Pagels 2) The crushing First Jewish-Roman War (66-73 CE), the destruction of the Temple, and the scattering of the Jews deeply influenced the writing of The Book of Revelation—the desperate hope for rescue, justice, and vengeance, felt by the early Christians and Jews, is what makes the bookʼs contents meaningful to different readers over the last 2,000 years, for when was there a time without war, without injustice, and without the need for vengeance? Revelation, besides containing visions of destroyed peoples and cities, offers a sequence of signs and portents, both cryptic and overt, for the believer to decode and to watch for. The signs and portents can be read from both the “corporate” and “individual”   24 perspectives, allowing for the state to launch divinely sanctioned wars and the individual to see Kings and Popes as Antichrist. This distillation of the Book of Revelationʼs contents does it no justice; the breadth and scope of the events related in the Book are many and densely layered. Yet for all its detail, The Book of Revelation is intensely cryptic and difficult to interpret beyond the most basic elements. As noted above, of particular concern to Christians is exactly when the events described will occur and what will happen during the time of tribulation. Given the importance of the text (it essentially delivers the long deferred promise made by Jesus), these core uncertainties generate endless anxiety and speculation in its adherents. This combination of anxiety and uncertainty make Christian eschatology a rich source of inspiration for that most problematic genre of cinema: Horror. 3.6 Reformation, Revelation and the Puritans in America State and religious institutional control over Christianity and its sacred texts, were shattered in the 16th century by the Protestant Reformation. Fuelled by a variety of cultural and institutional challenges that had been growing in the Catholic Church and its European followers, three of the major outcomes of the Reformation were the translation of the Christian Bible from Latin into English and other commonly spoken languages; its wide distribution because of innovations in printing technology; and the possibility for individuals to interpret its sacred texts themselves without the intervention of the Churchʼs priests or some other authority. This loss of control occurred during a time of great political and natural turmoil that had already excited the barely containable millennial “enthusiasm” at the core of Christianity, which had caused significant violence and grief when it was unleashed in the past. This traumatic break from the Churchʼs central authority also had the effect of unleashing one of the defining qualities of American Eschatology—that being corporate eschatology with its tendency toward radical and sometimes dangerous interpretations of Revelation.   25 As discussed above, corporate eschatologyʼs focus on the immediacy of the Parousia with its attendant cosmic warʼs hyper-violence before the faithfulʼs reward and the end of time and history is socially disruptive and thrives within a very limited, millennially-driven timeframe, thus explaining the stateʼs preference for the less disruptive individual eschatology. By the time the Puritans had established their American colonies in the early 17th century, Puritan interpretation of the Bible, and especially Revelation, was at the extreme end of what we might today call a fundamentalist Christianity, with excessive interpretations of Revelation and other apocalyptic texts tied to contemporary events and individuals. Among Puritan beliefs was the idea of the Old World as too corrupt to be perfected, and that God had specifically revealed the existence of the New World and to encourage the settlement of New England in order to create a place for his pure church to flourish while Antichrist ravaged the Saints in the homeland,” and “that they had to destroy the Satanic hoards of natives, the forces of Gog and Magog, to achieve their goal” (Baumgartner 124-125).  That genocide and extreme violence could be justified in order to bring about the promised Second Coming is a vivid example of the destructive potential inherent in Christian millennialism. It was only after 1650 when Mather and other influential Puritan theologians, in a new reading of Revelation, suggested that the millennium was close at hand because “the spread of the true faith among Satanʼs children in America foretold conversion of the Jews, the last step before the Parousia” (Baumgartner 125), that Puritans tempered their view of native Americans as being simply the forces of Antichrist. Puritan influence on Americaʼs culture in general and its eschatology in particular can be seen by the persistence of two powerful, Biblically inspired myths; Exodus and the Covenant with God. The Puritans profoundly believed that they were the new Israelites, superseding the Jewsʼ claim to the Covenant with the God of the Old Testament, and their journey to the seemingly unlimited frontier of the New   26 World was a new Exodus to the Promised Land. In order to bring about the promised Kingdom of God, Puritans had to succeed where the Jews—and the hated Catholics—had failed: they had to live according to the requirements of God, requirements determined by the Puritan eldersʼ interpretation of the Bible. American theologian Hughes puts it: Indeed, the themes of chosen people and national covenant were central to the Puritan imagination, especially for those Puritans who settled the American colonies. John Winthrop, the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, refused to allow Puritans to set foot on American soil until he had first impressed on their minds his deep conviction that they were a latter day chosen people, standing in covenant relationship with God. (Hughes 1: 21) Of course the United States has never been a Puritan monoculture, other Christian denominations insisted on founding their own American colonies, particularly after discovering the Puritans tendency to repel, exile and burn at the stake those who did not conform to their communityʼs beliefs. So, while the Puritans were merrily burning witches and Quakers, Baptists and Presbyterians, and even a small number of Roman Catholics, other primarily Protestant colonies began to take part in crafting the American origin myth, the myth that insists, rightly or wrongly, that America is a Christian Nation: “the theme of the United States as Godʼs chosen people, standing in the covenant relationship with the Almighty, persisted into the 20th century and beyond,” “the new Israel for these latter days” (Hughes 1: 24). 3.7 American individualism, noble self-sacrifice and skeptical heroes The relationship between the myth of American individualism and the construct of the idea of America is deeply connected with the concepts of corporate and individual eschatology discussed above. How the powerful American individual—usually a man—so different from the corrupt and decadent men of other nations,   27 possessing abilities and know-how forged on the Westʼs New Frontier, a mercurial maverick whose energies are impossible to tame, is incorporated into the greater group that is the American nation, a process that usually involves an emasculation of some sort, is brilliantly illustrated by past major motion pictures the likes of Top Gun (Scott), An Officer and a Gentleman (Hackford), and the contemporary The Avengers (Whedon). The cognitive dissonance produced by insisting on oneʼs individuality while still being within an integrated whole is made possible only by noble self-sacrifice, a critical component of eschato-horror, and almost exclusively a male act. As suggested by the short list of films above, the American male hero is by his very nature a skeptic—of groups, of facts, of his own worth, and especially of women.  This version of American masculinity and how it relates to the larger subject of violence and American ideology, is explored by Sharret in his essay “Sacrificial Violence and Postmodern Ideology,” wherein he determines the iconic historic sacrificial male heroes, Davey Crockett and General Armstrong Custer (among others), along with their fictionalized cinematic representations, as central to the ongoing project reinforcing the Christianity infused myth of America as a chosen nation. These elite characters of the Action Genre, whose fictional offspring include Captain Miller of Saving Private Ryan (1998), differ from the male heroes of eschato-horror in that, no matter how modified, they always maintain an element of their skeptical nature. As we will see, in eschato-horror, the skeptical hero must sacrifice everything—especially his skeptical nature—in order to prevail. 3.8 Puritan patriarchy and monstrous women The struggle of maintaining the myth of American individualism within the greater construct of America as a coherent whole can also be traced back to the internal political and cultural pressures found in the Puritan colonies. As examined by religious studies scholar Prothero, author of Religious Literacy: What Every   28 American Needs to Know – and Doesnʼt, what had started out as being central to the Protestant and Puritan project, the individualʼs right and responsibility to read and interpret the Christian Bible was discovered to be a threat to the very survival of the early American colonies: if anyoneʼs interpretation of the sacred texts was as valid as another, if one says “this is lawful, and another “this is an abomination,” to what final authority do those charged with the colonyʼs survival appeal? This potential threat to the Massachusetts Bay Colony came in 1637 in the person of Anne Hutchinson, a woman who in many ways personified the very essence of Protestant Christianityʼs individual imperative. Charismatic, intelligent, and with a flawless Protestant pedigree, Hutchinson had begun to fracture the colony with her insistence that God had communicated directly to her that she was among the “saved,” and that the same transformative experience was open to all. Interviewed for the PBS series God in America, for which he was a principle consultant, Prothero details the colonyʼs intensely patriarchal Puritan authorityʼs response to Hutchinson as being brutal and final, answering her “God is speaking directly to me,” with “No. God speaks through the Bible, and the Bible is mediated through us”—a position absolutely in line with Roman Empireʼs restrictions on the early Christian Church, and at odds with the principles of Protestantism. Hutchinson was found guilty of heresy and exiled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony along with her family, all of who died during a native uprising on the frontier in 1643. The Massachusetts Puritans who had condemned her greeted Hutchinsonʼs death with a macabre enthusiasm. Thomas Weld, an inquisitor at Hutchinsonʼs trail proclaimed:  The Lord heard our groans to heaven, and freed us from our great and sore affliction... I never heard that the Indians in those parts did ever before this commit the like outrage upon any one family or families; and   29 therefore God's hand is the more apparently seen herein, to pick out this woeful woman. (Champlin 3) The harsh treatment and demonization of women who threaten religious patriarchal authority, especially if they are powerful intellects or in possession of special abilities, is an established fact of Christian history, and the violent excesses of the Puritan colonies (shunning, exile, torture, witch burnings) are well documented. Women, in the Puritan world-view (and of many other Christian sects) are simultaneously holy and monstrous, and must be controlled and suppressed much in the same way as corporate eschatology. As will be illustrated in the analysis of the films considered in chapter 3, female characters in eschato-horror are denied a choice between the two states—holy or monstrous—allowed for them in these narratives: the choice is made for them, by the supernatural forces of the Unseen Order or the skeptical hero. Worse still, the bodies of the central female characters in eschato-horror are the vessels or gateways through which the Unseen Order attempts to force its way into the world of the living, in an act that is usually violent, non-consensual and performed by a masculine entity. 3.9 American biblical (il)literacy—a lacunae for eschato-horror None of the classic events in American history—the Revolution, the Civil War, the New Deal, the Reagan Revolution—can be understood without some knowledge of the religious motivations of the generals, soldiers, thinkers, politicians, and voters who made them happen.… religion has always mattered in American society. (Prothero 2: 18) Protheroʼs statement above is not particularly surprising to anyone who pays attention to contemporary American history, media and culture. It is impossible to escape Americaʼs insistence on its Christian heritage and character, nor the exhausting rhetoric of politicians and pundits referencing Biblical texts, real or imagined. From its colonial foundations, through the trauma of revolution, Civil   30 and international wars, to its arts and industry, the predominant American touchstone is its particular form of Christianity and the almost overwhelming influence of the book of Revelation. Whatever the legal standing of the claim that America is a Christian Nation—a marvellously interesting and controversial subject examined by Prothero, Hughes, and other historians and social commentators—is secondary to its undeniable presence in daily discourse. As referenced in the introduction to this thesis, the last available US Census of 2010 reported that of the total American population of 308 million, 78%—some 240 million—of Americans self-identify as being Christian, with Evangelical and fundamentalists representing more than a quarter of that figure. Yet despite the centrality of Christianity to the American identity, actual knowledge of the Bible and its contents is largely absent. In Religious Illiteracy, Prothero presents some bleak, if amusing, statistics gathered from a variety of scientific surveys, which include: • Only half of American adults can name even one of the four Gospels  • Only one third of Americans know that Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount • 55% of Americans believe the New Testamentʼs book of acts is actually in the Old Testament – more than a third did not know where it was located in the Bible • 10% of Americans believe Joan of Arc was Noahʼs wife (Prothero 1: 27) While the numbers on Joan of Arc may have changed since the release of Aronofskyʼs Noah in 2014, it is alarming how little the majority of Americans know of Christianityʼs most sacred text. Prothero charts the historic decline of Biblical knowledge in America without identifying a single root cause. He does however identify a powerful influence, that being the American form of Evangelical Christianity:   31 But when it comes to intellect and education, Puritanism and evangelicalism, are nearly polar opposites… Puritans went to great lengths to spred religious literacy… (but) evangelicals learned to ignore religious learning… and more than that… In the name of heartfelt faith, unmediated experience, and Jesus himself, they actively discouraged religious learning… we owe both the vitality of religion in contemporary America and our impoverished understanding of it (to evangelicalism). (Prothero 4: 18-19) The considerable impact of evangelical Christianity, and its extreme expression in fundamentalist Christianity, on American history is complex, nuanced, and beyond the scope of this thesis to fully explore. That said, American evangelical Christianity and its history of anti-intellectualism and anti-science, makes it a clear target for this discussion, especially with regard to our understanding of eschato-horror films such as Knowing and Constantine as well as historical examples the likes of The Exorcist (Friedkin) or the Exorcism of Emily Rose and the reception by the wider American cinema going population. As we will see in Chapter 4, some of the evangelical and fundamentalist Christians that screen eschato-horror films participate in online forums, where their discussion or critiques of the films frequently make use of quotes from the Bible. While the use of Biblical quotation by some self-identifying Christians in this context does not necessarily challenge Protheroʼs analysis, it does signal the proposed underlying cultural importance of eschato-horror that is central to this thesis. Interestingly, and of importance for us to consider, is the 17th century Puritansʼ insistence on Biblical literacy in order to participate in their community, requiring each colonist to learn to read and to contend with the meaning of Scripture—albeit in a way heavily controlled and mediated by the Puritan authorities: During the Protestant Reformation… the focus of Christianity shifted… from sacraments to Scripture, from the idolatry of images to the veracity of words. Sola scriptura (“Bible Alone”) was the new rallying cry… reading   32 became a means of grace. To receive this grace, however, to free oneself from the tyranny of priestly mediation and papal bulls, one had to be able to read. (Prothero 3) This 17th Century emphasis on Biblical literacy also meant that the cultural and political discourse of the day, filled with scriptural references, could be understood and that the citizen could participate from a position of knowledge. That former intellectual climate stands in stark contrast to contemporary America, where ignorance, it would seem, is valued above knowledge. As noted historian and theologian Noll observes in his book The Scandal of The Evangelical Mind, “the scandal of the Evangelical mind, is that there is not much of an evangelical mind” (Noll 3), which is not meant to denigrate or undervalue the great and good contributions to society of evangelical and other Christians. Noll is lamenting contemporary evangelicals rejection of their rich intellectual history with its “probing, creative, fruitful attention to the mind”—which included full engagement in the science, arts and politics of the day, as well as the founding of some of the nationʼs most important centres of learning, among them Harvard, Princeton, and Brown Universities. With the exception of a minority of American Christians, both Mainline and evangelical, Biblical literacy approaching that of the 17th century Puritans seems to be concentrated among Christian fundamentalists, and the more so in the extreme End Time fundamentalists online communities described by Howard in his book Digital Jesus: The Making of the New Christian Fundamentalist Community on the Internet. It is important at this point to clarify one major difference between the End Time fundamentalists identified by Howard and other Biblically literate Christians—they are marginalized by evangelical and other Christian communities who question or doubt their extreme beliefs. More particular for this study, we must keep in mind Hillʼs admonishment in Fan Cultures regarding the “linking (of) fan cultures to notions of religious devotion… that such interpretive links run the risk of seeming absurdly insensitive to cultural   33 and historical context,” at the same time is taking advantage of Hillsʼ observations on factors that allow us to later explore the elements they have in common, these being: 1) Marginalization 2) The practical unconsciousness of the cultist 3) Increased individualization Returning to the high level of American Biblical illiteracy identified by Prothero, we discover the existence of the lacunae within which my proposed genre of eschato-horror exists and thrives. This gap in biblical knowledge by American citizens in general and fans of supernatural horror in particular, does not seem to affect their ability to understand and enjoy the highly encoded, Biblically inspired and uniquely transgressional narratives presented. Rather than depending on actual knowledge, eschato-horror exploits the viewerʼs cultural exposure to competing versions of Christianity and it sacred texts, especially Revelation and its powerful linkage to the American narrative. These competing Biblically inspired narratives immerse the viewer through their presence in all forms of media, creating powerful and flexible intertextual narratives driven by previous films of the genre, books, and graphic novels, Internet-based resources and discussion groups, and existing historic cultural artifacts. Freed from the constraints that would be imposed by a biblically literate audience, eschato-horror is unrestricted in its exploration of religionʼs concerns of death and evil while simultaneously challenging a literal reading of Christian eschatology and its American variant. As we will see in Chapter 4, the transgressional potential intrinsic to eschato-horror can generate extreme responses in audiences Christian and otherwise, forcing the address of American Biblical illiteracy in some small, if valuable way. 3.10 Old world vs. American eschatology I will not pretend to be an expert on any form of Christianity, let alone the variations of a religious belief so profoundly important to so many. However, for   34 the purposes of this thesis I will propose to identify some of the elements to be found in an “American Christian eschatology,” a cultural construct that is peculiar in that, while historically based it can depend on a high level of Biblical illiteracy to function. With regard to “Old World Christian eschatology,” it is important to note it is not confined to Roman Catholicism, and includes many Protestant and Orthodox denominations. This is also true of what are called the “Mainline” churches in America, who do, in many ways, follow the model presented for American Christian eschatology, with the major exceptions being the embracing of the Old Worldʼs emphasis on individual eschatology and a mainly symbolic reading of the Bible, including Revelation. American Christian Eschatology: 1) Traces its origin from Protestant Christianityʼs 16th-century Puritanism 2) The imminence of the Millennium and Parousia 3) An interpretation of the Book of Revelation that is ahistorical, and combines the literal and symbolic 4) Rejection and abjection of Roman Catholicism and the Old World 5) Embrace of a modified version of corporate eschatology 6) That Americans are the new Chosen People, responsible for bringing about the events detailed in the Book of Revelation Old World Christian Eschatology: 1) Evolved from the union of the 4th-century Roman Empire with the young Christian church 2) Supports the symbolic interpretation of the Bible, which places events in Revelation sometime into the distant future or in the realm of metaphor 3) Controls access to Scripture and mediates its meaning 4) For the majority of its existence it has promoted individual eschatology   35 5) Its original anxiety over competing Judeo-Christian beliefs has dissipated over time 6) Maintains that all Christians of good faith will find Godʼs favour in the afterlife 3.11 Eschato-horror defined In The Religious Film: Christianity and the Hagiopic, Grace analyzes and extends the definition of films that attempt to represent the “holy” elements of the Christian narrative, coining a new term for the genre: the hagiopic. Hagiopics possess a specific set of attributes: “blind faith, chastity, extreme forms of virtuous suffering, and the superiority of one religion over all others” (Grace 1). The hagiopic focuses on its heroʼs relationship with the divine and usually is set in a past where miracles can occur and Angels (and sometimes God) interact with humanity. Grace’ s sub-categories for the hagiopic include: Spectacle and Anti-Spectacle; The Religious Comfort Film; The Religious Musical; The Sacrificial Hagiopic as well as others. This wide range of hagiopic sub-categories reinforce an element common to so- called “serious” religious Christian Films: that these films are serious—serious in their intent to depict the Christian narrative and/or the story of its saints as accurately as possible, or to convince the viewer that the depiction is true to the Christian narrative. This “accuracy” is accomplished through a variety of narrative devices, which include; historic/period settings, dialogue from the Bible or other associated texts and the use of authoritative quotes from the Bible. What is not included or categorized are films that make use of the Christian narrative in horror or other related genres. My proposed sub-genre of supernatural horror—eschato-horror—is found in films that are inversions of Graceʼs requirements for the hagiopic. The settings are generally contemporary, or in a near/recognizable future. Angels, demons, and Satan frequently are present (though God is seemingly absent) and “miracles”   36 can occur, but with unintended repercussions. “Accuracy” is less important in eschato-horror (though it can be present) than “resonance” with certain aspects of Christianity and its complex history. Eschato-horror frequently draws upon extra-Biblical texts—or outright textual fabrications masquerading as being Biblical—traditions and unrelated historic events or technological innovations to put its narrative into action or bring it to a conclusion. Eschato-horror always requires the confirmation of the unseen orderʼs existence to its viewers from the start. The unseen order has usually been prevented from fully entering and affecting the “living world” at the storyʼs outset, and changing that condition is the narrativeʼs driving force. This knowledge places the viewer in a superior narrative position relative to the filmʼs human protagonists, who are unaware of the unseen order or are struggling with their belief in it. The unseen order in eschato-horror is occupied by Christianity-inspired supernatural entities, for the most part representing death and evil. This privileges the subjects that define Carseʼs category of Religion—death and evil—excluding or diminishing the direct narrative presence of any supernatural force that could be construed as “good” or life affirming, forcing the human protagonists to provide the “narrative assurance for the believer that they will survive” that Žižek speaks of, in the face of the apparent absence and impotence of the Christian God. Ritual and its liminality are central to the construct of eschato-horrorʼs narratives —especially, as we will later discuss in Chapter 3, rituals that parody or appropriate the rites of Roman Catholicism. Christian religious rituals are performed on specific occasions associated with very real human events, such as birth, marriage, and death, and resonant supernatural events that align human experience with the Divine, such as the birth, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus and the promise/terror of the Parousia. Rituals are performed following a specific sequence of actions, sometimes making use of sacred objects and reading from or referring to sacred texts, which must be completed successfully or the desired transformation that is the ritualʼs purpose will not be accomplished.   37 In the course of ritual, the subject that is its focus arrives at a “threshold”—a balance point between how they structured their previous identity or community, and a new way, which the ritual establishes. Eschato-horror narratives are centred on humans preventing an attempt by the unseen order to successfully complete a ritual that will allow its entry into the living world, and, in resonance with the narrative found in Revelation, bring about a transformation that is both feared and desired. For the majority of the films in the genre, the human protagonists are successful—though at great cost. As in the hagiopic, eschato-horror is also concerned with its heroʼs relationship with the divine, usually involving their lack/loss of belief—a condition based on their intimate knowledge of how the world and humanity work in the realm of the real. Eschato-horrorʼs hero, after great trauma, eventually comes to accept and believe in the divine, but does so in order to become a worthy sacrifice that will prevent the entry of the “evil” aspect of the unseen order from entering the living world, differentiating his journey from that of the hagiopic, who is usually on a quest resonant with acceptance of Divine will. Female characters are seldom the heroes of eschato-horror, rather, they are its victims, for it is though their bodies that the unseen order attempts to obtain its objective—entry into the living world. While the characters of both genders suffer hideous injuries and abhorrent changes in eschato-horror, it is the body of the female protagonist that suffers the most extreme insult and monstrous transformation. As we will discuss in Chapter 4, the concept of the “abject”—that which disturbs social reason and forces the taboo (excrement, blood, corpses, etc.) upon us, is a critical element of eschato-horror, and central to the treatment of its female protagonists. Drawing from the work by Creed in her essay “Horror and the Monstrous-Feminine” (Grant 35-65), I will illustrate this most problematic aspect of eschato-horror as it appears in the films under analysis. Given their origin in Christian eschatology, the narratives of eschato-horror are   38 necessarily contingent, as the Parousia and its attendant horrors and delights are supposedly longed for by the majority of American Christians. The contingent nature of these narratives allows for endless variations—sometimes in the form of sequels—on the subject, explaining in part the genreʼs longevity, inventiveness, and financial success. The persistence of eschato-horror does give rise to the question, why do the Christian believers represented in the films (usually Catholic priests or their associates) strive to prevent the arrival of the unseen order with its promise of violence, death and judgment? I will examine this question in detail in Chapters 3 and 4, and find a possible solution in the stateʼs preference for the social stability produced by individual eschatology.  3.11.1 Eschato-horror—summary and formulation Simultaneous with presenting transgressional versions of Christian eschatology is Eschato-horrorʼs reinforcement of certain American cultural narratives, especially as they relate to gender and patriarchy. This is accomplished by refusing to allow its hyper-ritualized and over-determined cause-and-effect narrative structure to end with the triumph of the unseen order, through the willing self-sacrifice of a skeptical hero who surrenders his rationality and knowledge to belief and wilful ignorance. The usual counterforce to the skeptical heroʼs efforts is a monstrous female who was formally his object of desire. Only through the skeptical heroʼs acceptance of the reality of the unseen order and conscious self-sacrifice can the woman be restored along with the patriarchal order. Driven as it is by Christian eschatologyʼs longed for Parousia and the associated End of History, narrative closure in eschato-horror is contingent with the expectation that the story will be told again, but with a successful apocalyptic conclusion. The Christian God is notably absent in eschato-horror, leaving the human players alone to face the naked force of the supernatural and its associated anxieties of death and evil, the two forces Carse associates with his category of Religion.   39 3.11.2 Eschato-horror narrative elements 1. Based on or Inspired by narrative elements found in The Book of Revelation 2. A Supernatural Force with Agency attempts to enter the Natural World 3. Cause and Effect is in play a. Revelation itself has chronology of events (the sequence of the breaking of the Seals is an example) b. Is a product of the fundamentalist response to the Scientific Methodʼs systematic approach to “reading” and understanding nature and the great threat posed by Darwinʼs Theory of Evolution c. If the required actions are not performed in the correct sequence or are interrupted, the desired outcome will not occur 4. Narrative depends on the “successful” completion of a “Religious” Ritual, frequently a depiction or perversion of a Catholic Rite 5. Woman as “Vessel” for the Supernatural a. Usually a beautiful and innocent young woman b. Possesses some rare quality or special ability she is unaware of that is needed for the supernatural force to succeed c. Her womb or body will be used by the supernatural force to enter the natural world d. Is the love interest or family member for the skeptical hero (see below) e. Frequently becomes a willing participant in the act after being corrupted f. Frequently is monstrously transformed 6. Skeptical/Non-Believer Hero a. Usually Male   40 b. Has “lost his faith” due to trauma or a “lack of proof,” or is a rationalist who believes in science over supernatural explanations for events c. Will “find” their faith or become a believer when confronted by the “truth” of the supernatural events threatening the world d.  Sacrifices themselves in some way in order to prevent the supernatural from entering the world, usually saving the woman/victim in the process 7. God is “Absent” a. Forces Skeptic/Hero to “believe” because of Godʼs absence b. Links back to “Cause and Effect”  8. The “End” is Contingent a. We are reminded that no matter what sacrifice is made in order to prevent the entry of the supernatural into our world, it can only delay the eventual success of the supernatural to enter our world b. The hero skeptic and/or the woman victim—if they survive–are transformed into believers who will stand ever vigilant, watching for signs of the next supernatural attempt to in the world     41 4 Film Analysis 4.1 Film selections and exporting American eschatology The three eschato-horror films selected for analysis have several things in common—all were produced after 2001 for distribution by an American “Hollywood Major” motion picture distributor; all of their narratives spring from the “American” approach to Christian eschatology; each makes use of the majority of eschato-horrorʼs narrative elements identified in Chapter 2; and all were financially successful in the United States and in international markets. There are many narrative elements shared by these films that will be examined and discussed in the course of this analysis, among them the treatment of female characters and the portrayal of religious iconography. Each film represents a clearly defined aspect or cultural result that can be traced to American Christian eschatology, which I will detail below. The decision to limit the films under analysis to those produced after 2001 came after considerable research into the patterns of production for both secular and supernatural apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic American studio-backed feature films produced between 1950 and the present. This research, which will be used as part of a more comprehensive study of American Christian eschatologyʼs expression in media over time, suggests that while the majority of secular apocalyptic and post apocalyptic films are made in response to and take advantage of cultural and historic events, supernatural horror and eschato-horror films are produced on a regular basis exclusively due to the reliability of their financial success. Eschato-horror films—and their secular cousins—produced after 2001 also have the advantage of not having been produced in order to take advantage of the anxiety attached to the turning of the new millennium. Rather, these films carry with them post-millennial disappointment (nothing really happened on the day we entered the new millennium) and the trauma of the September 11 2001 attacks on New Yorkʼs World Trade Center, two sharply   42 defined and different dramatic events that set them apart from films of the previous decade. Also critical to the selection of films for this study are their direct association, either through an individual filmʼs production or distribution company, with what are commonly called “Hollywood Majors,” companies, while transnational in ownership, are emblematic of American cultural and financial hegemony. These companies include production giants such as 20th Century Fox, Universal, Warner, Paramount, MGM, and Disney, as well as smaller players the likes of Lionsgate, The Weinstein Company and DreamWorks. By limiting the films being considered in this thesis to this production, and more importantly, distribution criteria, we are assured that they were produced under the creative and market controls demanded by companies whose mission is profit over an individual filmmaker or non-American media industryʼs aesthetic. The approach taken by these companies to audience and content, while subject at times to pressure from special interest groups, allows for the continuing presence of films and other media that seem at odds with American moral, ethical and religious values. Eschato-horror films produced by non-American industries such as Canada, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom—all principle markets for American media—enjoy, at some level, government financial support, which limits the productionʼs approach to market in favour of local cultural imperatives. The dominance by American media of international markets is well documented, as are the concerns of individual countries regarding the drowning out of their own cultural voices. Americaʼs media dominance is clearly illustrated by statistics compiled annually by the Motion Picture Association of America, which reported the global box office for American films in 2013 as $35.9 billion. While the overwhelming presence of American media displaces some local narratives in favour of one “made in the USA” cannot be addressed within the scope of this thesis—what can be demonstrated is the success American eschato-horror films have at home and internationally. As suggested in Chapter 2, the lack of Biblical   43 literacy in America creates a gap within which the narratives of eschato-horror can thrive, potentially posing a threat to Christian eschatology by replacing or perverting elements of its narrative. Given the decline of Biblical knowledge in Europe—through the process of secularization—the exportation of an American Christian eschatology by way of eschato-horror and the resurgent Biblical epics produced by Hollywood majors, I would suggest, is not only a possibility, it has likely already occurred. 4.2 Three expressions of eschato-horror: Constantine, Knowing and Legion As with Graceʼs hagiopic, eschato-horror has sub-categories, three of which (one for each film) will be examined in this thesis. These categories, while linked to both Old World and American Christian eschatology, are closely aligned with the beliefs of American Christian fundamentalists and End Time fundamentalists, the most important of which are; the inerrancy, frequently meaning a literal reading, of the Bible; the imminent return of Jesus heralding the End of the World; and a suspicion and misunderstanding of Roman Catholicism.  The first and most prevalent narrative formula used in eschato-horror concerns the impending birth of a child of Satan (a “naziresis” of evil according to Cowan (27)) or of a holy child who may be Jesus. The narrative action usually centres on a rational, non-believer who discovers and must act in order to prevent the birth of the naziresis or protect and make possible the birth of the holy child. Various forces—both natural and supernatural—are deployed against the hero, but he will only triumph once he rejects rationality in favour of belief. Elements from this formula are found in most eschato-horror films including The Exorcist, End of Days, and Lost Souls.   44 4.2.1 Constantine: Birth of a child of Satan and imaginary Catholicism Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz) has been transformed: formerly a beautiful young woman and gifted police detective, Angela now writhes in agony on the hydrotherapy roomʼs white ceramic-tiled floor, her belly swollen in a grotesque parody of pregnancy. Angelaʼs bloated belly is being assaulted from within; the demonic face of Mammon, Son of Lucifer, is seen screaming in frustration as he attempts to chew his way out. Desperate to be free of Angelaʼs womb, Mammon extends his clawed hands and tries to rip open her already too-taut flesh with sharp talons, but to no avail: Mammon is trapped, and Angela suffers terribly as he raves in ferocious frustration. Standing astride the tormented woman, the Archangel Gabrielʼs (Tilda Swinton) androgynous face is a smooth mask of icy calm. Seeing Mammonʼs face distorting the womanʼs belly, Gabriel smiles gently and raises his right arm high into the air. In his hand Gabriel holds the one ancient relic that can cut open the flesh wall that holds back Luciferʼs only son: The Spear of Destiny—the very blade that pierced the body of Godʼs son Jesus, ending his suffering on the cross. Gabrielʼs smile widens into a grin: his mighty arm muscles flex, and he plunges the Spearʼs needle sharp point down towards the womanʼs belly.  Time stops: Drops of water hang in the air, Mammonʼs face is a frozen outline in Angelaʼs tortured belly and the Spear of Destinyʼs plunge is arrested a few centimeters from its target. In the next room Lucifer (Peter Stormare) has arrived, and heʼs in a good mood. Unaware of the ritual being performed in the hydrotherapy room, Lucifer, using his supernatural powers to suspend Timeʼs Arrow, has inadvertently prevented the crossing of one threshold in order to be present for another: John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) has died, and, as promised, Lucifer has come to personally collect his soul.   45 This hyper-violent, transgressional scene from the 2005 film Constantine, illustrates multiple narrative elements typical of eschato-horror, among them; cause and effect; the interruption of a “religious” ritual meant to bring about the Apocalypse; woman as “vessel” for the unseen order and the monstrous transformation of her body; and the willing self-sacrifice of the Skeptical Hero.  The scene also neatly summarizes the bizarre repurposing and interpretation of Roman Catholicism so central to the genre; the story of Christʼs death on the cross has been changed so that it is the Spear of Destiny that took his life, not crucifixion; the Archangel Gabriel, the angel at “the left hand of God,” is now a “half-breed”–placed on earth as part of a wager between God and Lucifer where human souls are the winnings. Central to this wager is a “rule” that the balance between good and evil must be maintained, as Constantine explains to Angela early in the filmʼs action: When I came back (from Hell after his suicide) I knew all the things I could see were real: heaven and hell, right here, behind every wall every window, the world behind the world, and weʼre smack in the middle. Angels and demons cannot cross over into our plane, so we get what I call “half-breeds,” the influence peddlers. They can only whisper in our ears, and a single word can give you either courage, or make your favourite pleasure into your greatest nightmare. Those who the demons touch, like those part angel, living alongside us, they call it “The Balance.” I call it hypocritical bullshit. So when a half-breed breaks the rules, I deport their sorry ass straight-back to hell. The unseen order explained, Constantine makes clear another element intrinsic to eschato-horror: the stability required by the system until… perhaps the actual arrival of the Apocalypse? Perhaps, for during his confrontation with Gabriel, Lucifer says, “This world is mine—in time. You, best of all of us, Gabriel, should understand this.” Or perhaps not, for Lucifer is shown to have the ability to grant the souls of the damned entry to heaven; God is seemingly absent, and the supernatural creatures representing Him are passive or traitorous, while those of   46 Lucifer are active and dedicated to their Satanic cause. What is established firmly is that Constantineʼs universe is structured dualistically, with “good” and “evil” in balance, demons and angels working the room for their cause in the quest for souls—but the medieval nightmare we glimpse of Hell makes it clear which side the viewer wants to be on. The (mis)representation of Roman Catholicism in eschato-horror is one of the most clearly establish elements of the genre. Almost all aspects of Catholic belief and practice are opened for use, in large part due to a radical anti-Catholicism practiced by early Protestant denominations. This historic foundation when combined with the “radical certainty” associated with American Christian fundamentalism, “with its dualistic division of believers and nonbelievers,” (Howard 35) reinforces the Otherness of Roman Catholicism, aligning it in the most extreme cases with the Satanic. Paradoxically, this Othering can also act to increase the attractiveness of Catholicism, most especially due to the performance of ornate and mysterious rituals. As discussed in Chapter 2, exploiting the transformative nature of ritual is central to eschato-horrorʼs narrative structure. By appropriating Catholic ritual for its purpose, eschato-horror takes advantage of American Christianityʼs foundational suspicion of the faith, and Americaʼs religious illiteracy. Constantine is of particular interest for several reasons. First is the filmʼs use of the most common eschato-horror narrative formulas identified above (preventing the birth of the naziresis and an artifact possessing Holy Power). Of equal, perhaps greater, importance, given this thesisʼ attempt to illustrate the dominance of an American version of Christian eschatology on an international level, is that the filmʼs depiction of what are clearly Roman Catholic rituals and iconography are derived from the screenplayʼs origin in the alternative narratives created for supernatural and occult inspired graphic novels and other popular media: Constantine “the film” is an adaptation of the popular and long established occult graphic novel series Hellbrazer (Vertigo and DC Comics). Since 1988, this series   47 has enjoyed the support of fans whose attention to narrative detail rivals that of the most skilled theological scholar. The attention to details associated with objects, rituals, and actions are excessive and precise, both to accomplish the verisimilitude demanded by audiences for the suspension of belief in the cinema, and to satisfy the arcane and established alternative narratives constructed for the graphic novelʼs genre. Constantine also takes advantage of elements identified as being central to Graceʼs hagiopic – starting with a short, authoritative text in white letters over black field that situates the viewer in the filmʼs universe of “imaginary Catholicism: He who possesses the Spear of Destiny holds the fate of the world in his hands. The Spear of Destiny has been missing since the end of World War II. The title fades and is replaced by the filmʼs first image: the ruins of a strangely shaped Christian Church on a desolate landscape filled with swirling smoke—a subtitle locates the action in Mexico. Inside the ruin, beneath giant, concrete crosses that tower above them, two men scratch at the earth, looking for anything of value. One man, a lean, red-eyed scavenger (Jesse Ramirez) wearing a red track suit top, accidently breaks through the church floor and discovers (and hides from his colleague) an ancient spear wrapped in a Nazi flag: it is the Spear of Destiny as described only moments ago, and now this man holds the fate of the world in his hands. Things go badly for scavenger almost immediately: hearing/feeling some kind of call, he runs onto a highway and is killed by a speeding car, his body cutting a deep hole into the vehicle. But he is not dead! Possessed by demonic power, the man, still clutching the Spear, reanimates and begins to run, heading north towards Los Angeles. On scavengerʼs journey, cattle will fall dead and decay as he passes them, a businessman will be slain for his car and other portents of evil will appear. Scavenger has an appointment to keep: the birth of the Son of Satan.   48 While this opening sequence and the description of the possessed mansʼ journey that follows makes use of narrative elements common to the hagiopicʼs representations of Christian eschatology, as this is eschato-horror, these elements are in most cases inverted, acting against the narrative commonly associated with them. The authoritative text that seems vaguely biblical is a construct based on extra-biblical sources; the possession of the “Spear of Destiny” (itself an object of controversy in the Church) by the Nazis and its disappearance after World War II has more to do with conspiracy theory than Biblical prophesy. Yet the imagery and story are familiar to most viewers because of their currency in popular culture. It is the power of popular culture to transmit a wide range of information, some removed utterly from its original context, that enables the viewer to recognize and follow the narrative presented. That the narrative is a collage of conflicting sources is secondary to what agrees with the genreʼs popular narrative, in this case the culturally charged Spear of Destiny has been discovered, the destroyed Church signals the inability of a temporal institution to keep it safe, and that evil is loose in the world. Shifting the action to Los Angeles, we meet the film;s hero, John Constantine, when he, with the aid of Father Hennessy (Pruitt Taylor Vince), a tattered and alcoholic Catholic priest, attempt to exorcise a demon from the body of a possessed little girl. That the possessed child is female, clearly Latino and Catholic, is important to what follows. Constantine, using a variety of Christian themed arcane symbols and objects, forces a demon who we see as being inside the child, attempting to burst out of her tortured body in a parody of birth, into a mirror. During the exorcism, Constantine repeats (in Latin) portions of the Catholic ritual of Extreme Unction as part of his attack on the demon. Seduced by its own foul and decayed (abject) image, the demon leaves the childʼs body and enters the mirror, which Constantine throws out the window, The demon-carrying mirror falls several stories, crashing to the street, and on to the taxicab driven by Chas (Shia LeBeouf), Constantineʼs sidekick and wanna-be exorcist, destroying   49 both mirror and demon. Shaken at seeing a demon try to burst though the child and onto “our plane” (which is not supposed to be possible in this story), Constantine and Hennessy leave, but not before seeing the formerly possessed childʼs drawings of the Spear of Destiny. Later, after experiencing a severe, blood-spitting coughing fit, his doctor informs Constantine, a chain-smoker of legendary status, that he has terminal lung cancer and will die within a year. This news has little affect on our hero; it merely reinforces his negative view of the world—and what a world view. Constantine can see what “normal” people cannot – that the earth is inhabited with divine and satanic creatures who vie to win the souls of the living as part of a “wager,” (an obvious parody of Job) between God and Lucifer. There are rules, of course: neither side can do more than “persuade” their prey to follow a path to Hell or Heaven, thus maintaining a kind of balance based on the concept of “free will,” though the appearance of the demon in the child would appear to break those rules. Constantine has a lot riding on this wager: he attempted suicide as a youth in an attempt to escape the visions of demons and angels he did not understand and that terrified him but was revived, which damned him to Hell in this narrativeʼs interpretation of Catholicism. In an attempt to win favour with God, and perhaps admission to Heaven, Constantine has become an exorcist—a very good, albeit a skeptical one. So good in fact, that Lucifer himself has said he would personally come to collect Constantineʼs soul. Of the multiple eschato-horror narrative elements arrayed in Constantine, the one involving the absence of God from the action deserves special comment. There are plenty of angels and demons—and the ultimate Fallen Angel, Lucifer—but God or Jesus fail to make an appearance (it is interesting to note that while crucifixes figure prominently throughout eschato-horror films, Jesus is seldom represented or referred to). As discussed above, it is left to the human players of the narrative to act on Godʼs behalf, especially the skeptical hero: Constantine slashes his wrists in order to die and summon Lucifer in the hope of saving   50 Angela and preventing Mammonʼs entry into the living world, but even that act of self-sacrifice is insufficient to gain an entry to heaven. This is because Constantine is simply bargaining with Lucifer, a conscience act that seems to be more about his growing affection for Angela than selflessly saving the world.  Constantineʼs problem centres on the difference between Faith as defined by the Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, which is based on a ” spiritual apprehension rather than proof,” and “Knowing,” which involves acts done in full awareness or consciousness (Oxford English Dictionary). This is an excellent illustration of the divide between the radical certainty of American Christian Fundamentalismʼs dualistic division of believers and nonbelievers and its established anti-intellectual and anti-science worldview, and the secular/Skeptical elements of contemporary American society. Constantine seems incapable of salvation because he is fully aware of the existence and power of the Unseen Order—albeit an imaginary Catholic expression of it—trapping him in a strange double-bind from which there would seem to be no escape. In an early scene, set in the ornate library of the Basilica for the Bishop of Los Angeles, eschato-horrorʼs inaccurate Roman Catholic “Rules” of salvation are starkly laid out for Constantine by the Archangel Gabriel (the italics are mine for emphasis): Constantine: Havenʼt I served him enough? What does he want from me? Gabriel: Only the usual: self-sacrifice. Belief. Constantine: Oh I believe, for Christʼs sake! Gabriel: No. No–you know, and thereʼs a difference. Youʼve seen! Constantine: I never asked to see… I was born with this curse. Gabriel: A gift, John, one that you have squandered on selfish endeavors. Constantine: Like pulling demons out of little girls? Whoʼs that for? Gabriel: Everything youʼve ever done youʼve only done for yourself, to earn your way back into His good graces.   51 Constantine: Impossible rules, endless regulations! Who goes up, who goes down! … Why me, Gabriel? Itʼs personal isnʼt it? I didnʼt go to church enough, I didnʼt pray enough, I fell short in the collection plate. Why? Gabriel: Youʼre going to die young because, youʼve smoked 30 cigarettes a day since you were 15, and you are going to go to hell, because of the life you took. Youʼre fucked. In a separate corner of the library, Angela is negotiating with Father David, an old friend who is also an assistant priest to the Bishop. The ʻRules” elaborated above are echoed, but as they are applied to people who “donʼt know:”   Angela: She has to have a Catholic funeral, Father. She has to… David: Angela, itʼs still considered a Mortal Sin. Angela: She didnʼt commit suicide. David:  The Bishop believes otherwise. You know the rules, Angela… Angela: Oh, rules! Father David; this is Isabel—God is the only person she ever believed loved her. Please? David: Iʼm sorry, Angela. Unlike Constantine, Angela is certain in her faith—faith that her twin sister Isabel loved God, and despite video evidence to the contrary, did not commit suicide. But the Church isnʼt buying it; Father David may not say “youʼre fucked” outright, but the implication is hanging in the air. Seemingly occupying two very different positions, Angela and Constantine share a common problem: access to Heaven instead of a confirmed reservation in Hell. This commonality between the filmʼs protagonists leads to an examination of another crucial eschato-horror narrative element: Woman as “Vessel” for the supernatural. In what is the most disturbing scene in the film, Angela is confronted by scavenger, who we now understand to be possessed by Mammon, in the same hydrotherapy pool her twin sister had died in earlier in the film. Angela, half submerged in the poolʼs water, fires her automatic pistol, emptying it into the rapidly advancing Scavenger, who holds the Spear of Destiny in his   52 outstretched hands. Angelaʼs well-placed bullets have no effect, and she screams in terror as Scavenger embraces her, violently forcing her under the water. It is on this image of a rape in progress that the film cuts to another scene, the hyper-violence of which substitutes the violence being perpetrated on Angelaʼs body. The speed with which the action moves from Angelaʼs rape, camouflages the act, permitting the viewer to forget whatʼs happening and enjoy the transgressional pleasures induced by watching Constantine dispatch an army of Mammonʼs demons, whose bodies are transformed into abject piles of rotting flesh as they fall under a rain of holy water cascading from the roomʼs sprinkler system and the hail of Christian bullets emanating from his crucifix-shaped shotgun. Angelaʼs rape is the penultimate act of the Ritual that will bring Mammon into the Living World. That we are not permitted to see the grotesque act of demonic insemination—we are guided to look away—suggests Angelaʼs, and the majority of female characters represented in eschato-horror, passive acceptance of their narrative position: she is reduced to a non-character, functioning as a vessel to be “occupied” or worn by the masculine antagonist, and in the process transform into a monstrous female.  Angelaʼs character is introduced during an act of confession at the same church where she will later meet Father David and Constantine. Her confession to an unseen priest reveals Angela to be a particularly lethal police detective, with an uncanny ability to “know” where the bad guys are—and they are always really bad—and shoot them down. The confession occurs on the same night that her twin sister Isabel, incarcerated since childhood, classified as insane for claiming to see the same angels and demons as Constantine, commits suicide by throwing herself off the roof of a hospital and crashing through the skylight above the hydrotherapy pool. We discover that Angelaʼs ability to find the bad guys is due to her possessing the same psychic gift as her supposed insane twin. Angela, wanting to be accepted as “normal,” suppresses and eventually forgot   53 her ability, betraying and dooming her twin in the process. Later in the film, when she convinces Constantine to prove to her that Isabel is in Hell, he reawakens her psychic abilities through a sexualized ritual that confirms masculine control over her body and soul. For all her ʻspecial” abilities, Angela is defined by the established order, and it is only when that order is renewed—through Constantineʼs “real” act of self sacrifice—that she can be freed from her monstrous transformation. During the filmʼs climax, and in keeping with the inversion of how religion is portrayed in eschato-horror, we discover that the force behind the death and mayhem on screen is the Archangel Gabriel. Gabrielʼs plans are thwarted when Lucifer appears to collect Constantineʼs soul (recall that Constantine, failing to get a response from God in this time of peril, slashes his wrists to get Luciferʼs attention). In the filmʼs final inversion, it is Lucifer who releases Isabel from damnation, grants Constantine life while sending Mammon back to Hell where he can keep an eye on him. Lucifer also dispatches Gabriel, reducing the former archangel to “human” status. With Mammon safely home—freeing Angelaʼs body from its monstrous form—and with Gabriel neutralized, Lucifer turns his attention back to the man whose soul heʼs come to collect: Constantine. Timeʼs Arrow re-established, Lucifer has only a few moments to ask what the dying Constantine wants in exchange for revealing Mammon and Gabrielʼs plot—part of maintaining The Balance. Instead of bargaining, Constantine is silent, prompting Lucifer to offer to extend his life. Instead of taking the chance to live himself, Constantine requests that Angelaʼs damned twin Isabel be “allowed to go home.” Lucifer scoffs, but grants the request, and frees Isabel from eternal damnation in exchange for Constantine. What Lucifer doesnʼt realize is that he has unintentionally set into motion the critical ritual of eschato-horror: the Skeptical Heroʼs willing and selfless sacrifice. Lucifer watches, seemingly helpless, as the soul of now heaven-bound Constantine flips him “the bird” as he ascends towards the ramparts of a distant   54 and beautiful celestial city. Constantine is transformed into a new state of being through ritual, leaving behind what he was, moving through liminality towards transformation: he is to be among what are called in American Christian eschatology “the Elect.” Lucifer (perhaps annoyed by the middle finger) interrupts the ritual and drags Constantine back to earth. In an act of horrific violence, Lucifer plunges his hands into Constantineʼs chest, ripping the cancer from his lungs. Lucifer then departs, whispering to Constantine, “you will live,” if only to prove he belongs in Hell. “The Balance” re-established—and along with it the social order Angela craves to be a part of—Constantineʼs eschato-narrative draws to a close, ending with a strange romantic scene set on the rooftop where Isabel killed herself. It is night, and as Constantine gets close to Angela, seemingly (for the nth time) for a kiss, he hands her instead the very phallic Spear of Destiny, entrusting her to conceal it from the forces of evil and from him. This action, which neutralizes the possibility of a relationship between the male and female protagonists, allows Constantine to return to his former outsider/skeptical status (without the smoking) and for Angela, phallic Christian icon in hand, to return to her duties killing the bad guys on behalf of the established order. This end also seals this example of eschato-horrorʼs particular narrative, with its imaginary version of Roman Catholicism and its endlessly arcane rules firmly in place, and the specific journeys of the male and female characters that belong to the genre satisfied. 4.2.2 Knowing: “Stealth” eschato-horror and hidden meaning Proyasʼ 2009 feature Knowing was marketed as a science fiction film, and the narrativeʼs mysterious aliens, their fantastical spaceships and desperate scientist trying to save the earth would seem to fit the genre. However, for all the trappings of science fiction, Knowing is at its core a part of the eschato-horror genre, albeit with significant differences that separate the film from Constantine and Legion, the other two films analyzed in this chapter. The most obvious differences are   55 Knowingʼs “realistic” dramatic treatment and visual style, which purposely avoids the “comic book” or “graphic novel” abject/transgressional imagery and excessive violence usually associated with the horror genre. Even the more fantastical aspects of the film (aliens who transform from human to energy being, gigantic spacecraft that travel faster than light) are all grounded in the “rationality” of the “science-based” conventions of the sci-fi genre. In Knowing, unlike Legion and Constantine, there is no quote from the Bible or a pseudo-authoritative message to situate the viewer. Rather, after a title sequence featuring numeric strings and the sound of incomprehensible/scary whispers, we see the sun breaking through dark clouds—the whispering voices increase in volume as we cut to the upturned face of Lucinda Embry (Lara Robinson), a serious looking 12 year-old standing in front of a newly built elementary school, its playground filled with happy children. A subtitle reads: Lexington, Massachusetts, 1959. Eschato-horrorʼs treatment of female characters as “vessels” for the unseen order finds its expression in young Lucinda, whose special “psychic” ability to receive and then transcribe a secret message that itself can only be read by a person with special abilities 50 years in the future, leaves her grievously injured both physically and psychically. On the day of the new schoolʼs dedication in 1959, while the other children in her class draw pictures of spaceships and futuristic cities to enclose in a time capsule to be opened in the year 2009, Lucinda writes with grim speed and precision a sequence of numbers dictated by other-worldly whispering only she can hear, almost filling both sides of the paper before it is snatched away by her teacher, Miss Taylor. The incomplete numeric sequence is placed into the time capsule as the school band plays the secular music “Jupiter” from Gustav Holstʼs “The Planets,” as Lucinda watches helplessly from the sidelines. Once the time capsule is sealed into the earth, unreachable for 50 years, Lucinda vanishes. Later that night, she is discovered in a locked closet deep in the schoolʼs basement by Miss Taylor. Nearly catatonic, Lucinda, her fingers bloody and tattered from scratching the final numbers of the sequence   56 into the doorʼs surface, stares wide-eyed into Miss Taylorʼs flashlight, whispering: “Make them stop! Please! Make them stop whispering!” The introductory scenes do more than situate us in time and space; they serve to establish the destabilizing and traumatic entry of the unseen order through the body of a female child into the “rational” world as represented by the secular and ordered elementary school with its authoritative teachers and planned activities. The disorder generated by Lucindaʼs presence (she is clearly an “outsider,” and is treated differently by Miss Taylor and the other children) and actions (her “vanishing” at the end of the secular sealing ceremony requires a disruptive search by uniformed officers as well as the teachers of the school), is brought to a temporary halt, when, as we later discover, she was “institutionalized” shortly after her discovery in the closet. With the unseen orderʼs message safely sealed away for 50 years and Lucindaʼs destabilizing presence “under control,” Knowing also “contains” its eschato-horror narrative, shifting subtly into the hybrid genre of science fiction/thriller. The reframing of Knowing as a sci-fi thriller allows its submerged eschato-horror narrative to explore alternative avenues for its skeptical hero to accept the unseen order, as will be examined below.  Constantine, with his direct knowledge of the unseen order, “knows,” so he canʼt believe. It is only when he sacrifices a “last chance” to live for anotherʼs salvation (Isabel is allowed to go to heaven), suspending the cynicism that tainted his knowledge of the unseen order, that Constantine gets a shot at salvation. Knowingʼs protagonist, MIT astrophysicist and atheist Koestler (Nicolas Cage), is struggling to keep faith with his own scientific and evidence based beliefs in the face of the recent and devastating loss of his wife Allison (Adrienne Pickering), the mother of his 11 year-old son Caleb (Chandler Canterbury). In the first scene where we meet Koestler and his son, it is an unusually hot October night in the forested suburbs of Boston. Koestler adjusts the focus of a small but powerful reflecting telescope at the same time as barbecuing hotdogs and drinking red wine. Koestler calls Caleb over from playing with his pet rabbit to take a look,   57 treating the lad to view of the planet Saturn and its delicate rings. As he peers through the telescope, Caleb asks his father “has anyone found life on other planets?” The following exchange between father and son prepares us for a series of scenes wherein Koestlerʼs supernatural-excluding belief in science is shown to be inadequate when confronted by the questions posed, first by his son, and then by himself. Caleb: Has anyone found life on other planets? Koestler: Not yet. Guess itʼs just us for now. Caleb: Okay, how many might have life? Koestler: Well, if you count the number of stars similar to our sun in the galaxy, and you factor in the probability they have earth-like planets orbiting them… Caleb: There are ten million possible worlds of which there are four million mature enough for life to have evolved. Koestler: Why do you even ask? Caleb: Just making sure youʼre listening. Koestler, in answering his sonʼs first question, “Has anyone found life on other planets” with a non-speculative, “facts as they are now,” contingent answer, establishes the rigidity of his evidenced-based world-view—you canʼt really know anything. Instead of answering Calebʼs follow-up question, “how many (planets) might have life,” with something playful or fantastic, he lectures instead, quoting the famous Drake Equation for estimating the number of extra-terrestrial civilizations there might be in our galaxy. Caleb has clearly already used the Drake Equation himself to answer his own question before he asked his father, which pleases and bemuses Koestler. What is missing from the exchange is any “wonder” and speculation on the unknown or a glimpse of beauty (Saturnʼs rings are for Calebʼs “approval” rather than any poetic response). The next scene takes place in Calebʼs room; itʼs bedtime, and Koestler wants his son to sleep so he can be focused for school the next day—the day a time   58 capsule placed 50 years earlier at the schoolʼs founding will be opened. Caleb is “testy,” resisting his fatherʼs order to go to sleep. Sensing that something might be bothering his son, Koestler sits on the edge of the bed and speaks: Koestler: When I said it “was just us” out there, you know I was talking about space, right? I didnʼt mean heaven or anything. Iʼm sure wherever mom is… Caleb: Dad, you donʼt even believe in heaven. Koestler: I never said that, Caleb. I just said, we canʼt know for sure, thatʼs all. If you want to believe, you go right ahead and believe, okay? Caleb nods unenthusiastically, and, taking out his hearing aid, prepares to sleep. Koestler then gets his son to perform a “ritual” with him—a short exchange that takes the place of a childʼs bedtime prayer—performed using “sign language” of their own creation (one of the many “codes” used throughout the film) and accompanying words: Koestler: You and me. Together. Koestler and Caleb: Forever. Distraught over his clumsy attempt to speak with his son about where his dead mother might be, Koestler retreats to his cluttered basement, where he drinks scotch and listens to the melancholy slow movement of Beethovenʼs Seventh Symphony. The basement looks like a decayed museum or study, surrounding Koestler with the cut-off narrative threads of his life with his dead wife Allison: photo-albums, unread books, a still-wrapped birthday present never given. This melancholic and theatrical setting is photographed using complementary, slow-moving dolly shots designed to slow the narrativeʼs pace and illustrate Koestlerʼs inability to move forward due to emotional and psychic trauma; the first starts as a wide shot of Koestler, seated in a throne-like living-room chair under the harsh illumination of an old standing lamp as, holding his scotch, he stares across the room at the unopened birthday present; the second dolly shot, is from Koestlerʼs point of view, and moves towards the birthday present; returning to the first set   59 up, the scene finishes with a close-up of Koestlerʼs sad and puzzled face, cutting after he takes a drink and we see he still wears his wedding ring. The three scenes described above illustrate Koestlerʼs scientific based system of beliefʼs failure to help him comfort Caleb (or himself) by offering a location for his dead mother to occupy. Unlike the Drake Equation, which can produce an answer as to how many places for life might be “out there,” Koestlerʼs science has no answer for where life goes once it has ended. Knowingʼs skeptical hero, like others in eschato-horror, has to find a solution for this failure to address the horrific reality of death (the element within Carseʼs primary category of religion) and the terror of the unseen order through willing self-sacrifice. However, unlike the majority of the films in the genre, Koestlerʼs sacrifice will not require a loss of his scientific reason in favour of unquestioning belief; rather, he will have to find a way of fusing the two systems. As we will see, the outcome still requires the skeptical heroʼs death, but a death he willingly accepts because he knows. Koestlerʼs inability to square the death of his wife with his scientific system of belief finds its clearest expression in an MIT classroom the next morning, when he prepares his students for their term paper in astrophysics by “posing a topic to get you thinking along the right lines.” The students, all in their early twenties, serve as foils for what is a clever way for Knowing to present Koestlerʼs “heroic” task: how to bridge the gap between two seemingly incompatible systems of thought: Determinism and Randomness. The session is presented as Koestler “getting the students to think along the right lines,” and, given the setting of the scene (an MIT science classroom) and its intensely mathematics driven subject (astrophysics), it is clear which system is correct according to his already established world view of not being able to know—ever:  The astrophysics classroom would seem sterile were it not for the colourful assortment of students and their slightly rumpled professor. Koestler stands at   60 the front of the class, a small, motorized model of the solar system is on a table next to him. Koestler: Weʼre going to pose a topic to get you thinking along the right lines for your term paper. Itʼs the subject of randomness verses determinism in the universe. Whoʼs jumping in? Jessica? Jessica: Determinism says that that occurrences in nature are causally decided by preceding events or natural laws, that everything happening up to this point has happened for a reason. Koestler: Thatʼs right, thatʼs what determinism says. Koestler takes the sun from a model solar system he has on the lectern – the class watches intrigued.  Koestler: …Now, I want you to think about the perfect set of circumstances that put this celestial ball of fire… Koestler plucks the model Earth from the solar system and holds it up to the Sun. Koestler (continued): …at just the correct distance from our little blue planet for life to evolve. But thatʼs a nice thought, right? Everything has a purpose, an order to it, is Determined. But then thereʼs the other side of the argument, the Theory of Randomness, which says itʼs all simply coincidence… There is no grand meaning. Thereʼs no purpose. Koestler stops speaking, his gaze dropping to the floor. The silence extends, and the class watches Koestler with growing discomfort. Stacey breaks the silence: Stacey: What about you, Professor Koestler? Koestler: (snapping out of his revere) What? Stacey: Well, what do you believe? Koestler: I think shit just happens. But thatʼs me. Class dismissed. Eschato-horror as a genre usually depends on the annihilation of the skeptical heroʼs belief in science and rationality in favour of irrationality and belief. This “annihilation” generally takes place when the skeptical hero inserts himself into a   61 ritual meant to bring about the end of the world, interrupting that ritual in favour of the one that made possible by his transformation into an unquestioning believer. Knowingʼs skeptical heroʼs search for a bridge between two irreconcilable belief systems—Determinism and Randomness—has no way to succeed until he receives Lucindaʼs coded message from the unseen order; a message his scientific knowledge gives him the ability to comprehend and verify. Like the Drake Equation, Lucindaʼs prophetic message from the unseen order delivers a solution based on facts made verifiable due to their being situated in an established chronology and location, time, and space: Koestler, in response to his research confirming the accuracy of the information contained in the message starting with events that occurred 50 years before its receipt, is forced to accept a determinist cause-and-effect model for the universe that attaches meaning to existence and the potential for something else beyond. This forced acceptance of determinism occurs when Koestler realizes the messageʼs chronological sequence of “fulfilled” prophecies for the past is on the threshold of the present with only a limited number of future prophecies remaining until they abruptly end at a time and place he can access. The question for Koestler is not whether the universe has meaning any longer, but whether his insertion into the relentless calculus of the unseen orderʼs message/equation can prevent the end of the world.  Knowingʼs skeptical heroʼs struggle to fuse scientific reason with Christian belief is representative of the desire voiced by Richard Hughes, Steven Prothero and Mark A. Noll for contemporary American Evangelical Christians to push back against the wilful ignorance at the core of evangelical and fundamentalist thinking. In Hovenkampʼs Science and Religion in America 1800-1860 (1978), a potential path back towards intellectual engagement of the world of ideas by American Evangelical Christians is described, that being the one trod by 19th century American Protestants coming to terms with the ideas of the Enlightenment, which many of their fellows had credited with the “reasonable   62 thinking (that) had given America great statesmen and fine leadership during the Revolution,” (Hovenkamp 21)—and led to the creation of the United States. The Enlightenment, with its rational approach to the universe, was nearly as destabilizing to American Protestants (there were no “fundamentalists” as we understand the term today) as Darwin would be 70 years later, with, according to Hovenkamp, American evangelicals finding it “difficult to enter the 19th Century.” It was through what came to be known as “Baconian methodology,” that a solution for “thinking American evangelicals” was found, as summarized by Noll: as they began to develop their own defenses for Christianity, (early 19th-century) evangelicals drew evermore directly on the methods of the didactic Enlightenment. Examples of apologetics grounded on scientific rationality abounded in the early national period… scientific demonstration was (widespread)…it was the Presbyterians who excelled at what (was) called a Baconian approach to faith. In Divinity, rigorous empiricism became the standard for justifying belief in God, revelation, and the Trinity… It also provided a key for using physical science itself as a demonstration of religious truths… This kind of “supernatural rationalism” was also useful for counteracting the impious use of science, by making possible the harmonization of, first, the Bible and astronomy and, then, scripture and geology. (Noll 91-92) Koestlerʼs move to accept determinism (and therefore the Baconian method) over randomness begins with his decoding of Lucindaʼs message and his entry into the traumatic events it predicts. When the time capsule is unsealed after 50 years, its contents of “letters to the future” are distributed, by the now ancient Miss Taylor, to students the same age as those who sent them, among them Caleb, who receives Lucindaʼs. Standing away from his fellow students in an echo of Lucindaʼs separation from her 1959 fellows, Caleb opens Lucindaʼs message, and is at first disappointed it is not a picture of some fanciful future. But Caleb becomes intrigued by the dense sequence of numbers covering the page and begins to examine them closely until he is interrupted by the sound of many   63 voices whispering intensely to him through his hearing aid. Lowering the paper to look for the whisperingʼs source, Caleb sees a tall, blonde man in a dark coat staring at him from the forest that borderʼs the schoolyard. Interrupted momentarily by a classmate, Caleb looks away. When he looks back to the forestʼs edge, the blonde man is gone and the whispers begin to fade.  At home that evening, Caleb shows his father Lucindaʼs message, saying he kept it because the numbers might mean something. Instead of looking at the message, Koestler is upset with his son for not returning Lucindaʼs letter to the school as was required, and sends him to bed early as punishment. Later that night, Koestler freezes in the doorway of Calebʼs room when he sees his son, back to the door, watching a home video of his mother, Allison. Allisonʼs image turns to the camera, seeming to look directly at Koestler, telling him to “shush” as baby Caleb is about to fall asleep. Turning from the camera, Allison begins to sing “All Through the Night,” a childrenʼs lullaby filled with references to guardian angels, Godʼs love, and the Holy Spirit, though the verse being sung excludes those references. Overwhelmed with grief, Koestler retreats from Calebʼs room to the kitchen, where he pounds back some scotch in an attempt to dull his pain. Iʼll pause here to note that embedded throughout Knowing are “stealth Christian” elements, recognizable to viewers who are familiar in the general aspects of American Protestant Christianity. These stealth elements are composed of scene details that may otherwise escape notice, such as the singing of the Christian childrenʼs hymn “This Little Light of Mine” at the 2009 elementary school ceremony where the time capsule carrying Lucindaʼs message is opened (in contrast to the 1959 ceremony where Holstʼs secular music “Jupiter” is played). This particular reference slips by almost unnoticed as only the seemingly secular chorus, which makes no mention of Jesus or Satan as found in the songsʼ other verses, is sung. As noted above, this “stealthing” of overt Christian elements is repeated during Allisonʼs singing of “All Through the Night” to baby Caleb. While small, these and other Christian references accumulate throughout the narrative,   64 finally amplified (like the whispering voices in Calebʼs earpiece) in the filmʼs spectacular ending sequence of scenes. Koestler “discovers” a number sequence with “meaning” when he accidently sets his over-filled scotch glass on Lucindaʼs message. The “ring” left by the glass circles” the sequence 911012996, in which he spots the culturally over-determined number cluster “91101,” the date of the September 11th attacks on New Yorkʼs Twin World Trade Centre Towers in 2001, followed by a string of familiar, but lesser known numbers, 2,996—the number of those killed in the attacks. Koestler takes Lucindaʼs message down to his basement study, and using his computer and the internet, confirms the number string is “accurate” regarding the date of the attack and the number killed from a variety of sources. His curiosity ignited, Koestler begins to “find” number clusters embedded in Lucindaʼs message, all seeming to predict traumatic events by date and number of dead in chronological order since the time capsule was sealed 50 years previous—but there is a problem: each sequence of dates and the number of dead is separated by a string of eight numbers he cannot decode. Koestler becomes so obsessed with breaking the secret meaning of the additional number strings that he works relentlessly, but unsuccessfully, through the night, solving each date and death count number cluster in chronological sequence. Koestler stops when, scotch glass dropping from his hand and smashing on the floor, he discovers the date and number of dead for the fire that took his wifeʼs life a year ago. The next day, Koestler takes Lucindaʼs message to his friend Phil (Ben Mendelsohn), a cosmologist at MITʼs Haystack Observatory, where he presents his “discovery:” Koestler: I know how this sounds, but Iʼve matched these numbers to the dates of every major global disaster for the last 50 years in perfect sequence, except for three: these events havenʼt occurred yet, starting   65 with this one. So tomorrow, this number string predicts that somewhere on the planet, eighty-one people will die in some kind of tragedy. Phil: Whoa! I mean, have a listen to yourself. Koestler: I know. Koestler hands Phil a file folder containing a news report of a hotel fire that killed forty-eight people. Phil: What are you showing me this? Koestler: The day Allison died in the fire, itʼs on the list, too, from a piece of paper thatʼs been buried in the ground for five decades. Can you explain that, Phil? I was up all night going over this. I went through that list again and again, and I tried to fault it, and I couldnʼt. Phil: Maybe somebodyʼs playing a really shitty joke. Koestler: Right! Right! Except I saw them dig it up. I watch them pull the capsule out of the ground, and hand that sealed envelope to my kid. The “evidence” for the integrity of Lucindaʼs message – with or without the un-decoded numbers, does not convince Phil, who dismisses Koestler findings: Phil: Numerology, kabbalah, Pythagorean cults: These are systems that find meaning in numbers, theyʼre a dime-a-dozen, why? Because people see what they want to see in them.   Philʼs rejection of Lucindaʼs message, having any decipherable meaning, instead of dissuading Koestler, convinces the astrophysicist of two things: he needs to gather more evidence, and realize that the message was meant for him alone.  Lucindaʼs message and Koestlerʼs “scientific” decoding of it is a direct reference to one of the many conspiracy theories associated with American Christian eschatology: the so called “Bible Code,” which supposes there to be secret knowledge in the Bible that can be read by those gifted with special (scientific) abilities. The Christian Bible and most especially the book of Revelation has inspired countless believers for almost 2,000 years to look for clues, messages, and, hopefully/desperately, the answer to the greatest question of all: when will   66 Jesus return? Encouraging believers in trying to find and break the codes supposedly hidden in the Bible, are the dual realities of the human trait for seeing patterns, both real and imagined, and that there are actual elements of the Bible, such as alphabetic acrostic psalms in the Old Testament, and the consistent use of specific numbers, such as; Forty (days and night, days in the wilderness); Seven (Godʼs Number, perfection, the number of churches in Revelation); Six (Imperfection, number of the beast); Four (Angels is Ezekiel, the Horsemen of the Apocalypse) and many others to communicate “hidden” or symbolic meaning. Numbers in the Bible can communicate meanings to even the casual reader; however, given the anxiety produced by the delay in the Parousia and the human ability to see patterns, those meanings can be transformed. Baumgartner examines multiple instances of Protestant Christians attempting to calculate when the Parousia would occur (Sir Isaac Newton among them), with some of the predictions resulting in great excitement and violence. The search for a hidden code revealing the date of Christʼs return goes on today—Harold Campingʼs prediction made through well documented “scientific calculation” for May 21st, 2011 had considerable impact, with many believers selling their homes and gathering for the expected “rapture”—but, as has been the case with all previous calculations, have ended in failure. In eschato-horror, only the chosen or those gifted with special abilities can recognize and decipher the hidden meaning in the Bible or other sacred texts, which allows both skeptics and believers to access dangerous information. This narrative device is frequently used in all categories of eschato-horror, either as a critical element of a ritual sequence, or, more commonly, as an easily read intertextual narrative device, such as seeing 666 in any number of representations (the bowling alley in Constantine is an example). In Knowing, the traumatic creation of a text with hidden/secret meaning that can only be read by a person with special abilities, is the central narrative driver, and while other elements of eschato-horror are present, they are less obvious in their treatment.   67 Prophecy, particularly with regard to American Christian eschatology, is a central feature of End Time American Christian fundamentalist inspired cults, such as those documented by Howard in Digital Jesus. While ongoing reinterpretations of apocalyptic texts, including Ezekiel, occurring in response to contemporary events, are a central feature of these cults, they are not exclusive to them, with the language of the American version of the Christian Apocalypse finding its way into daily media coverage of the current conflicts and events in the Middle East. Through its use of prophecy, the filmʼs seemingly science fiction inspired plot concerning aliens sending secret messages in order to prepare a remnant of humanity to survive the earthʼs destruction, Knowing is exposed for what it is: an eschatology-infused narrative that attempts to resuscitate the 19th century American evangelical Baconian method, and bring it into the 21st-century. The prophecies that drive the eschato-horror narrative of Knowing are delivered to Koestler through Lucinda with her direct, and personally damaging, connection to the unseen order. Lucindaʼs prophetic experience, resulting in the numerically encoded message, is directly linked to those of the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel, whose apocalyptic book, after that of Revelation, is one central to American Christian eschatology. As described by Coogan in A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament: The Hebrew Bible in its Context, the Book of Ezekiel shares a great deal with the New Testamentʼs Book of Revelation: Unlike the other long prophetic books (in the Old Testament) that precede it, Isaiah and Jeremiah, the book of Ezekiel is mostly prose, not poetry. Also unlike those books, it is arranged in a strict chronological order, as the dates throughout the book indicate. (Coogan 321) The strict chronology of Ezekiel and Revelation, with their cause and effect formulas whose factors act as signs for believers in search of the hoped for “End of the World,” is echoed in Lucindaʼs “determinist” message and other such narrative drivers found in eschato-horror. However, unlike Revelation and other prophetic books, according to Coogan, “(Ezekiel) is also, in the end, an optimist,   68 who believes that the relationship between Yahweh and Israel will be restored,” and while Knowingʼs catastrophic ending might seem less than “optimistic,” it is hopeful, bringing it into line with that other Old Testament story of world destruction found in Genesis: Noah. Ezekielʼs centrality to Knowing is made clear beyond simple chronology and (potentially) optimistic outcome, when Koestler, the night before the last number sequenceʼs cryptic “EE” is to take place, is led through the forest by Diana Wayland (Rose Byrne), Lucindaʼs adult daughter, and mother of 12 year-old Abby, to her deceased motherʼs abandoned trailer-home. As Caleb and Abby wait in Koestlerʼs SUV, the two adults explore the trailerʼs interior; amongst the dust-covered debris of Lucindaʼs tragic life, Koestler discovers an engraving of Ezekielʼs vision of God on His throne, his flaming “wheel within a wheel” sky-chariot and four attending Angels. He also uncovers a “final” message from Lucinda scratched deeply and repeatedly into a sheet of plywood under her bed: “everyone else,” which makes clear the meaning of “EE.” Koestler and Dianaʼs shock at discovering that the last event of Lucindaʼs message spells the death of humanity is interrupted by frantic cries for help from Caleb and Abby. Outside, the Blonde Man and three companions of similar appearance have surrounded the SUV, their “whispering” thoughts filling the minds of the two children with invitations to “come with us.” Caleb refuses, and begins to slam on the SUVʼs horn, driving the four strangers away before Koestler and Diana arrive. Spotting the blonde man escaping into the dense and dark forest, Koestler, revolver and flashlight in hand, gives chase. An intense, hand-held sequence of him running through the undergrowth ends abruptly when Koestler finds the blonde man waiting for him in a small clearing. Flashlight and revolver pointed at the stranger, Koestler demands that the blonde man say what he wants with Caleb. Instead of speaking, the Blonde Man opens his mouth from which bursts a dazzling beam of light, which blinds Koestler with its intensity.   69 Later, his sight recovered, Koestler discovers that the blonde man has vanished, and makes his way back to the SUV. Knowing follows its Old Testament-inspired eschato-horror narrative with the same rigor as the New Testament-referencing Constantine does: but there is a significant difference in how Knowing uses the vocabulary of the genre in that there are no inversions in how religious institutions and symbols are portrayed; they are, for the most part, visually absent. Instead, Knowing inverts the rational order, demonstrating through its series of rhetorical scenes the emptiness that is at the core of Koestlerʼs secular life. In the face of this “emptiness” and his need to find meaning, Koestler is forced to accept that his own scientifically rigorous beliefs must admit to the existence of a determinist element to human existence. Germane to this narrative line is the discovery that Koestler is the estranged son of a Protestant pastor (Alan Hopgood), and that his sister Grace (Nadia Townsend), on whom he relies, is a deeply committed and practicing Christian. Koestlerʼs reconciliation (grudging as it is) with his father and his return to the bosom of his Christian family at the filmʼs end is genuine, suggesting, hopefully, that Knowingʼs sub-rosa messaging of a similar union of American Protestant Christianity and science is possible. Knowing ends with parallel and contrasting scenes: cataclysmic planetary destruction straight from a science fiction epic, as the earth and all life upon it (Koestler included) is erased by massive solar flares; and a Book of Genesis inspired Garden of Eden sequence with shimmering star-ships soaring over the new Adam (Caleb) and Eve (Abby) as they race (after they release the rabbits theyʼve brought with them from old Earth) through fields of golden alien grain, towards a distant, Towering Tree, signalling a new start for humanity. Both sequences find their beginnings in the scene where Koestlerʼs eschato-horror required “self-sacrifice” takes place, splitting Knowingʼs narrative in two, one for his (and humanityʼs) fate and that of Caleb and Abbyʼs.   70 The social chaos caused by the governmentʼs announcement that the earth will soon be scorched by massive solar flares, gives the blonde man an opportunity to abduct Caleb and Abby. Koestler, having cracked the code for the eight number strings separating the dates and number of dead in Lucindaʼs prophetic message, revealing them to be the longitude and latitude coordinates for those traumatic events, races through the night to the location of “the last” event, where “everyone else” will die, in hope of finding the two children. Koestler arrives at a mist shrouded clearing to discover the blonde man waiting for him. Pulling his revolverʼs trigger back with a loud “click,” Koestler screams at the blonde man to return his son, but the stranger doesnʼt speak, he only stares impassively at the desperate father. Koestler is about to shoot, when Caleb appears out of the mists, followed closely by Abby—both children carry large rabbits in their arms. Caleb calms his father, assuring him that he and Abby are unharmed. The Blonde Manʼs three companions join him, watching silently as Koestler, Caleb and Abby talk: Caleb: Theyʼve been protecting us all along, Dad. They sent a message ahead of them, to prepare the way, and now theyʼve come for us. Koestler turns to the four dimly, backlit strangers as a strong wind begins to pick up. Koestler: Who are you? The children seem to be able to hear a reply Koestler cannot, but that doesnʼt matter: a massive light begins to grow overhead, bathing them all in its radiance. The heavens split, and a crystalline star-ship composed of wheels within wheels, descends to the Earth, and Koestler drops to his knees in awe. As the star-ship lands, Abby collects Calebʼs rabbit and walks to the ship with three of the strangers, leaving father and son under the Blonde Manʼs watchful gaze.   71 To Koestlerʼs horror, the Blonde Man silently communicates to Caleb that “only the chosen, those who heard the call,” can board the star-ship “so everything can start over.” Koestler struggles to accept what he now, thanks to accepting the “truth” of Lucindaʼs prophetic message, knows. After a moment, holding back tears, he embraces Caleb: Koestler: They havenʼt chosen “us”, Caleb. Theyʼve chosen you, both of you… You have to take care of Abby now. You have to be strong for her. Caleb: …But you promised. You said that weʼd be “together forever.” Koestler: …Iʼm not leaving you. But youʼve got to go with them… Caleb, weʼre going to be together – weʼre all going to be together, and Momʼs gonna be with us, too! I know it! I know that now. I know it! Father and son embrace one last time, then Caleb, with a gentle push from Koestler, walks towards the waiting strangers and Abby. Suddenly, the strangers reveal their true forms: their human “skins” burn away, exposing the winged, angelic energy beings beneath, and they gently lead Caleb and Abby to the star-shipʼs entrance. Turning back, Caleb points at Koestler and begins their bedtime “ritual,” and, for the last time, father and son use their secret sign language to say: “You and me, together, forever.” The ritual complete, the four winged-energy beings join hands while encircling the children, and they all levitate skyward, into the revolving crystalline wheels of the star-ship. Koestler watches in silence as the massive star-ship soars into the night sky. From a high orbit view, we see the star-ship leave Earthʼs atmosphere to be joined by hundreds of similar vessels. The star-ships gather briefly in a shimmering constellation, and then streak away faster than the speed of light toward a distant point in the universe.   72 The star-ship and his son gone, Koestler collapses to the ground, sobbing in grief at his loss and with the certainty of his knowledge of the future as foretold. In keeping with the demands of eschato-horror, Koestler finds a way of sacrificing his belief in the “certainty” of science by accepting Lucindaʼs prophecy to assure his sonʼs, and humanityʼs, survival. With his act of willing self-sacrifice—which he commits to while performing the ritual that bonds him forever to his son—Koestler also guarantees that the patriarchal order will be re-re-established, with Caleb being “strong” for Abby in the New World. Noticeably absent from the narrative is Jesus and Christian eschatologyʼs cosmic battle between good and evil followed by the end of time: time and history will continue, as will the unseen orderʼs “influence” over humanity, in an act of cleansing and renewal that resonates with the story of Noah, with solar flares replacing the flood and Koestler taking on the mantle of another Old Testament prophet, Moses, who can see, but never enter, the “Promised Land.” Knowingʼs unusual eschato-horror narrative, which draws its inspiration from the Old Testamentʼs apocalyptic texts, permits its sub-rosa messaging that a union between secular science and American Protestant Christianity is possible, through heroic self-sacrifice by adherents of both sets of belief, but only if they engage each other intellectually. This hope for mutual self-sacrifice finds its final expression in Knowing when, as the earth is incinerated by massive solar flares, Koestler returns to his childhood home to embrace his Christian family. As death descends, the family patriarch and Protestant Pastor holds his prodigal son close, whispering, “this isnʼt the end.” Koestler, now in possession of a different but compatible kind of belief from that of father, sadly replies “I know.” The flames consume them the instant the filmʼs skeptical heroʼs accepts, despite his rational knowledge, his irrational fate.   73 4.2.3 Legion: End Time Fantasy Pastiche The contemporary intertextual nature of Christian eschatology, with its presence in multiple languages, cultural and political discourse, underground and alternative fiction, graphic novels, and any number of motion pictures and other screen media, allows for its images and rituals to be severed entirely from its Biblical context, with discrete elements being repurposed for non-Christian narratives. While individual elements emblematic of Christianity retain some of their meaning when transported into another genre, they can lose their specificity in favour of the narrativeʼs requirements. Examples of this phenomena can be seen when a Catholic priestʼs cassock or a nunʼs habit are used as disguises in crime dramas or comedies with their attendant potential for transgression. Taken to an extreme, the images and rituals associated with Christianity can be transformed into a cultural pastiche, and be repurposed in a narrative framework that takes advantage of their surface familiarity while creating new, transgressional meanings, unrecognizable to those invested in their “original” context. Such is the case with Legion, an eschato-horror film so excessive in its repurposing and reinvention of Christian eschatologyʼs narrative that it deserves its own subcategory of the genre. Legion makes use of eschato-horrorʼs most obvious narrative formula: the impending birth of a child—but instead of Satan forcing a traumatic birth on an unwilling female protagonist, this time it is the birth of a Holy Child who “is the only hope humanity has of surviving,” and may well be Jesus, thus heralding the Parousia. This narrative keeps Legion on track in a mechanical way, with the implications of the childʼs status never being fully articulated. The unwilling mother of the presumptive saviour is redeemed, in keeping with both the hagiopic and eschato-horrorʼs narrative requirements, acquiring a “Joseph” along the way, but even this adherence to “the rules,” as it were, fails to connect at any great depth with the Christian narrative. Such is the case with other eschato-horror and hagiopic elements that appear in Legion: angels, crucifixes and crucifixions,   74 quotes—and misquotes—from Scripture, heroic skeptics, terrifying imagery suggesting the cosmic war of Revelation… itʼs all here, but none of it works towards a coherent interpretation of American Christian eschatology. Legion is about a horrific war being waged to destroy mankind, but its story takes place within an eschatology all its own. This extra-Biblical eschatology makes use of a wide range of fragments from the Christian narrative in general and an imaginary Catholicism in particular, to service a variation on a sub-genre of horror that is usually secular nature: the zombie apocalypse. In its use of excessive violence and the depiction of abjectly transformed humans, Legion stays within the confines associated with those found in other graphic novel and comic book based films such as Constantine: insect-like Ice Cream Men, Little Old Ladies who spew obscenities and eat human flesh, cannibalistic children, and other variations on the abject, fling themselves endlessly at the filmʼs protagonists. What is different with Legionʼs zombie inspired antagonists is their non-secular origin: instead of being infected by some unknown virus or other zombie producing agent, they have been possessed–but not by demons: The horrific “legion” attempting to destroy the Holy Child before its birth are possessed by Godʼs angels. This inversion of possession from demonic to angelic is interesting, as it suggests that in either case the result is the same: the host is monstrously transformed and performs perverse acts of violence in the service of its master. This equivalency in the manifestations of the classically oppositional forces of good and evil as generated from the unseen order, is made possible by the premise behind Legionʼs extra biblical eschatology: unwilling to wait for His pre-ordained Apocalypse along with the associated cause-and-effect formulas detailed in Revelation, God has decided to destroy humanity using his angelic army to do the dirty work. This contradiction of the usually clear dualism of eschato-horror has the unintended effect of aligning Legionʼs use of religion in the horror genre, with Cowanʼs,  “(in) that it avoids the “good, moral and decent   75 fallacy,” the popular misconception that religion is always (or should always be) a force for good in society” (Cowan 17)—further confusing which “genre rules” the filmʼs narrative should follow (eschato-horror, Action, or Zombie Apocalypse), enhancing the dislocation from a reading within a “stable” American Christian eschatology. The angels depicted in Legion are unlike those presented in Constantine and Knowing. Instead of an androgynous Archangel Gabriel or a science fiction/Ezekiel inspired Winged Energy Being, the angels of Legion are hyper-masculine, with rune-tattooed, hairless muscular bodies from which protrude massive wings. These “Dogs of Heaven” wear little, save for black leather pants and massive metallic collars when taking ease on the ramparts of Godʼs celestial city, but when itʼs time for action they don bronze breastplates that exaggerate their already powerful chests, brandish massive war clubs and wickedly sharp rune-inscribed swords. In Legion, unlike other examples of eschato-horror films, it is the male body that undergoes transformation rather than the female, in this case through self-mutilation by an angel, or the conscious mimicking of the angelic body by the (ineffective) human hero.  The extra biblical eschatology behind Legionʼs narrative is explained several times during the course of the film, with the clearest articulation occurring when the filmsʼ protagonist, the Archangel Michael (Paul Bettany) recalls his last conversation with his brother, the warlike Archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) on the eve of Godʼs war on humanity: As the sun rises, Michael stands on the battlements of Heaven, his massive wings folded tight to his body. The suns golden light washes over Michaelʼs face as Gabriel speaks from the shadows behind: Gabriel: You question. Michael: I question myself, and so should you. Since the Creation, He has taught us only to love them. I cannot stop.   76 Gabriel: They brought this judgment upon themselves Michael: They are just lost. It is our place to guide them. Gabriel: It is our place to obey. Michael: Gabriel if you want to be His son this is not the way to ask what He needs. Gabriel: This is not a test, Michael. How dare you try to know His heart? Michael: Because He made us love them He tells me that we shouldnʼt lose faith in them now. Gabriel: Itʼs too late, the order has been given: the Weak will turn against the Strong, and we will undo what has been done. And if you defy Him, youʼll anger Him for the last time. Michael: Only if I fail. Gabriel: War is coming to Man whether you wish it or not. The Dogs of Heaven will be unleashed. Swarms of angels soar above, then suddenly turn downward, screaming close overhead in a terrifying river of wings, holy flesh and divine steel. The War has indeed begun. This narrative-establishing dialogue between the Archangels is delivered in overwrought and polished tones: Bettanyʼs polished upper-class English is beautifully complemented by Durandʼs deep-voiced mid-Atlantic rumble, and the hodgepodge of pseudo-religious/Shakespearean sounding phrases (“the Weak will turn against the Strong,” and “The Dogs of Heaven will be unleashed”) appeals to a scriptural authority that is disconnected from any original. This set up, delivered from Godʼs massive CGI fortress with its numberless warrior-angels wheeling above, combines the language of the serious hagiopic with the transgressional imagery of eschato-horror, and succeeds in reassigning the rules of American Christian eschatologyʼs dualist “good verses evil” exclusively to the side of what has formerly always been “good.” This conflation of good and evil is one of the principle narrative forces in Legion dislodging any deeper intertextual associations usually found in eschato-horrorʼs use of Christian iconography. The   77 foundational extra-Biblical eschatology in place, along with its conflicted internal logic and intertextual dislocation, sets the scene for the narrative free-for-all that follows—an eschato-horror that is only possible to understand due to the universality of the American Christian eschatology that produced it. Legion, like Constantine, starts with a textual appeal to authority in an attempt to situate the viewer. Golden letters appear over a black background as the opening musicʼs urgent strings and scary choral voices set the mood; the letters solidify into a Biblical quote:   “Come ye children, listen to me. I will teach you The fear of the Lord” Psalm 34: 11 The quote from Psalm 34, while accurate, is used wildly out of context, ignoring the surrounding text that encourages the reader/listener to “seek peace, and pursue it” along with other positive directives. As it was in Quentin Tarantinoʼs Pulp Fiction (1994) when gangster Jules Winnfield (Samuel Jackson) uses a rewrite of Ezekiel 25 as a ritual he performs before shooting his helpless victims, because “I just thought it was a cold-blooded thing to say to a motherfucker before I popped a cap in his ass,” the quote in Legion is divorced from its context and intertextual connections—only the provocative final words, “I will teach you The Fear of The Lord” matter as they, along with the crescendo-reaching musical score, function only to set the mood for the introductory scene that follows. A montage of a day on a dusty, water-starved plain populated by the decaying fragments of a shattered family (piled kitchen chairs, an empty swing-set swaying in harsh wind, broken toys), starts with the rising sun climbing the troubled, big sky of New Mexico. Over the montage, we hear the world-weary voice of Charlie (Adrianne Palicki), mother of the unborn Holy Child, as she relates the sad story of her own exhausted motherʼs loss of faith and a “prophecy” that attempts to set out the rules of the filmʼs universe for the first of several times: God has stopped loving humanity because of “all the bullshit.” The opening montage ends with a massive, time-lapse close up of the setting sun as it plunges through a sepia sky.   78 Fast on the heels of this melancholy beginning we meet our “hero,” the newly fallen Archangel Michael: Michael tumbles out of a troubled night sky, crashing to the rain-soaked pavement of an empty alley in Los Angeles. A subtitle informs us it is December 23rd, 1:02 AM—a signal for those in the know that something bad is going to happen by December 25th. The dramatic visuals and sound of the Archangel Michaelʼs arrival are quickly exceeded by what follows. After revealing his bloody, but beautiful, rune tattoo-covered body to the viewer, Michael spreads his powerful and very impressive wings—but only for a moment. Pulling a long, sharp, rune-inscribed knife from his waistband, Michael severs his wings at their roots! To the sound of meat being cut, ringing steel and his moans of pain, we see the site of the self-inflicted mutilation in a close-up that mimics horrific medial photography.  On first impression, this hyper-masculine, sadomasochistic representation of archangels would seem transgressive, leading one to suppose Legionʼs narrative might follow a path exposing the hidden, violent face that is so much a part of the American Christian narrative along with its aversion to homosexuality. But this depiction of the “beautiful” male body being tortured and disfigured (as it was in Mel Gibsonʼs 2004 film, The Passion of the Christ) is set aside quickly in favour of less spectacular mortal bodies, both male and female, being assaulted. This is largely due to the supernatural being offset from Legionʼs narrative at the same time that Michael severs his wings: while Michael himself originates in the Unseen Order, he has chosen to enter the mundane World of the Living, and in so doing (aside from miraculous self-healing powers) has lost any supernatural abilities he possessed. Instead, he and the other human protagonists must fight the forces arraigned against them using mundane weapons. This pulls Legionʼs eschato-horror narrative, already a hybrid genre, into the hyper-excessive realm of secular action films. Moreover, Legion will add the usually secular Zombie Apocalypse to its already over-burdened hybridity. This addition assists in grounding the film in a narrative that involves a small group of survivors facing   79 extinction at the hands of overwhelming irrational forces with only machine guns, explosives, arrows, and bladed weapons, giving them a chance for survival. Michael enters a nearby warehouse for toys and, after dispatching a designer clothes-wearing night watchman, sews his wing-wounds up using a cruelly curved needle taken from a first-aid kit, anaesthetic be damned. This masochistic scene of self-mutilation ends with a close up of Michaelʼs feet as a last spurt of blood splashes to the floor. His wounds and tattooed body hidden by the Watchmanʼs grey-leather designer trench coat and other cool clothes, Michael reveals that the “toy” warehouse is actually a front for illegal arms dealers, and he rapidly collects enough advanced weaponry for a small army. Then, in a gesture that makes little narrative sense given the importance of his self-appointed mission (but a great deal of sense in a narrative that is interested in spectacle), Michael exits the warehouse by blowing a cross-shaped hole in a wall that faces onto the street. The explosion and resulting burning cross/hole is spotted by a pair of police officers, who leap from their squad car and, guns drawn, confront the weapons-laden Michael. The supernatural re-enters the narrative when one of the police officers is suddenly and violently “possessed.” His eyes now jet-black and his teeth filed to points, the officer has been “occupied” by the Archangel Gabriel. Using the officerʼs body and voice, Gabriel informs Michael he will “die along with the child,” and attacks—only to be shot down by Michael. Gabriel flees the dead officerʼs body as Michael steals the police car and drives away with his weapons into the night. The burning cross/hole of the scene described above is empty of meaning beyond the “pleasure” it gives the viewer on recognizing its form in the transgressional context of its use. Our attention shifts swiftly to Michaelʼs confrontation with the officers and his display of Action Hero gun expertise and physical dexterity. This fast shift in focus from the sudden appearance of Christian iconography to violent act is repeated throughout the film, disallowing intertextual connections in favour of the transgressional pleasure of the event and   80 the spectacular violence that follows. This continual shifting to spectacular violence also minimizes the supernatural in the film, as the “angel-possessed” monstrous-humans exhibit no special abilities beyond their abject physical presence, and are easily (and spectacularly) dispatched by the machine guns and other weapons Michael has acquired. Leaving Los Angeles, Michael arrives in New Mexico and the extremely isolated “Paradise Falls Diner” to discover that the people stranded there have already felt the effects of Godʼs war to eliminate humanity. That particular scene is used to establish the majority of the filmʼs characters: a dysfunctional “modern family,” with a wife obsessed with appearances, a rebellious, sexualized teenage daughter and a loving, if ineffective, father; a fit, attractive and (seemingly) dangerous black man; the dinerʼs cook, another black man—heʼs an old veteran and “religious”; the cantankerous, formerly “potent,” owner of the diner, and troubled father; the impotent and love-sick son of the owner; and the bad girl he adores, soon to be mother of an unwanted (Holy) child, waitress. These are “stock” characters that can be found in any number of “B Movies,” but they do perform their recognizable roles effectively, several of them taking on eschato-horrorʼs required narrative elements—especially that of “willing self-sacrifice.”  Before Michaelʼs arrival, Gladys Foster (Jeanette Miller), an angelically possessed old woman, using a walker to support her frail body, enters the diner. As maggots and flies spontaneously appear out of the steak she ordered, Gladys tells Charlie, the unwed and pregnant waitress, that her “baby is going to fucking burn.” The white-haired granny then turns her attention to the dysfunctional family, directing a stream of obscenities at wife and mother Sandra. Howard (John Tenney), confronts Gladys in defense of his wife, but before he can finish dressing her down, Gladys, her eyes now jet-black and her teeth a row of needle sharp fangs, bites his throat, ripping out a large chunk of flesh. Blood gushing from his hideous wound, Howard collapses as the other patrons scream in horror.     81 Gladys continues her monstrous transformation, crawling insect-like up the walls and onto the ceiling, a position she uses to attack Bob (Denis Quaid), the dinerʼs owner and father to Jeep (Lucas Black). Bob has a shotgun heʼs grabbed from behind the counter, but heʼs knocked down by Gladys before he can shoot her. The shotgun skids across the diner floor, where Jeep picks it up, cocking the weapon and taking dead-aim at the monstrous old woman. As Percy, the old cook, screams at him to shoot, Jeep is rendered helpless by Gladysʼ appearance and voice. Gladys levitates off the floor, and races towards Jeep at high speed, fangs bared and claws extended, but is shot down by Kyle (Tyrese Gibson), the attractive (and now definitely dangerous) black man, who had been carrying a concealed automatic pistol. The shocked patrons of the Paradise Falls Diner stare at Gladysʼ bullet-riddled corpse as Howard, attended by his daughter Audrey (Willa Holland), writhes on the floor, groaning in agony from his bloody neck wound. The scene described above serves to reinforce the stock identities of the characters presented and their expected narrative trajectories for resolution in any number of genres. The injection of shockingly obscene language, monstrous transformation and hideous violence through Gladysʼ old woman body, followed by her unexpected/expected demise at the hands of Kyle, prepares the audience to accept similar, excessively violent, spectacular deaths that dehumanize the angelically possessed subjects, reducing them to a simple, if grotesque, manifestation of “evil,” that can be conveniently done away with by conventional weapons. The viewer is also guided to forget or put aside their knowledge that the supposed manifestations of evil are in fact “angels,” servants of God who are by definition good, thus allowing the growing body count of these nonhuman humans, which will come to include adults of every description, and most disturbingly children. The hyper-violent deaths of these angelically possessed “non-characters” (they have no identities beyond what their bodies signal to the viewer) become so numerous that they become entirely meaningless as does   82 their association with the supernatural, further dislodging Legion from any stable narrative, even the flexible requirements of eschato-horror. While still functioning within some of the narrative requirements for eschato-horror, Legion rejects the all-important concept of the Skeptical Heroʼs—or anyoneʼs for that matter—willing and ritually transformative self-sacrifice. None of the sacrificial human deaths portrayed have any meaning whatsoever, save for creating opportunities for transgressional representations of Christian iconography followed by distracting hyper-violence and spectacular death. A particularly obscene example of this occurs when Howard is discovered, in a grotesque parody of St. Paulʼs martyrdom, to have been crucified upside down outside of the diner.  His body covered with putrid, pulsating boils, Howard screams in pain for his wife Sandra to help him. Desperate to rescue Howard, Sandra frees herself from those holding her back inside the diner, and rushes to his side. Sandra is saved from certain death when the religious cook, Percy (Charles S. Dutton), pulls her away from Howard, shielding her as the tortured manʼs body explodes, spraying deadly flesh eating acid into Percyʼs back, exposing his backbone and melting his internal organs. As with the burning crucifix/hole and violent deaths closely associated with it, any substantive meaning associated with Howardʼs savage crucifixion is neutralized by the spectacular hyper-violence that follows it.   Dislodged or not from a coherent place in American Christian eschatology, visual and other narrative elements inspired by Revelation do appear in the film, including an ominous mile-high dust storm composed of innumerable blackflies; the plunging of the earth into what would seem perpetual night; and the appearance of the militant-warrior Archangel Gabriel to the sound of heavenly trumpets. But, as explained by Michael after the birth of the Holy Child: “The future is unwritten”—much in the same way that Legion has rewritten American Christian eschatology. As confusing and incoherent as the filmsʼ pastiche of genre and narrative is, Legion can still be classified within the scope of eschato-  83 horror even as its narrative repurposes, and to some degree redefines, the vocabulary of American Christian eschatology, in order to construct a pseudo-eschatology of its own.     84 5 Reception This chapter will examine the reception of the three American studio produced and distributed eschato-horror feature films analyzed in the previous chapter by self-identifying fans of horror films and Christian viewers. The term “reception” in this part of the thesis will be used in two ways, the first being simply how the genre-specific product is judged as “successful” by American Hollywood Majors, the second being concerned more with the acceptance and navigation of content by identifiable groups of viewers. In the case of reception by viewers, I will avoid classifying any as belonging to “cults,” either film or religious, while still making use of research specific to cults of both kinds. This is due to the preliminary nature of my research into the reception of eschato-horror films by viewers who can be confidently identified as being both adherents to American Christianity and participants in an eschato-film cult focused on one or more examples of the genre. In both cases, whether industry or viewer, the capability of being able to effectively understand the American Christian eschatology infused narratives of the films are central to their success or failure.  5.1 Profiting from eschato-horror the American way The industry perspective on eschato-horror films is of importance for three reasons: first, if films of the genre were not financially reliable, they would not be produced or distributed on a regular basis; second, “major” American distribution companies are as deeply committed to integrated (meaning “all media”) international sales as they are to domestic, a market approach permitting a production that performs poorly in its USA theatrical release, to still be considered a financial success due to their profitability overseas or in other delivery formats; third, and of special relevance to this thesis, international box office success of Hollywood Major produced eschato-horror films suggest that American Christian eschatology is an established and recognizable narrative outside of the United States.   85 If a given filmʼs financial success can be calculated by subtracting its production and marketing costs from its domestic and international sales figures, then a very interesting picture emerges regarding all three films considered in this thesis. All of the films performed relatively weakly during their domestic theatrical release, making them unlikely candidates for the development, production, and distribution of sequels based directly on the theatrical releases, cast and other creative elements. However, all three films made up for their relatively poor domestic theatrical performance through strong international theatrical box office, and domestic DVD and other media sales. This “after domestic theatrical” success has led, in the case of Constantine, to an American television network series based on the original graphic novel that will debut in the fall of 2014 on NBC, and of the continuing financial support for the director and actor team behind Legion. While there was no “after market” life for Knowing, its strong international financial performance despite poor critical reviews, re-enforces eschato-horrorʼs place among film genres of continuing interest to the Hollywood Majors. I mention sequels in this context due to the frequency of their production should a given horror film enjoy a particularly strong domestic theatrical performance. Examples of supernatural and eschato-horror films with studio-backed sequels include Paranormal Activity, Insidious and The Last Exorcism, with the now multiple sequels to Insidious and Paranormal Activity performing spectacularly in all aspects of distribution. A sequel to The Conjuring, which also performed strongly in its domestic theatrical release, is scheduled for release in 2015, further demonstrating the financial reliability of the supernatural and eschato-horror genres when produced for distribution in the American market. The historically established financial reliability of all genres of horror also suggests that films of this supposedly “marginalized” type are granted market place validated “permission” to push their representation of mutilation, monstrous transformation and obscene abjection of the human body ever further, with their   86 equally excessive profits driving companies such as Warner Brothers and Lionsgate to encourage production of similar films. 5.2 Worldwide profits through American eschato-horror prophesy A brief analysis of Constantine, Knowing, and Legionʼs domestic and international box office performance will demonstrate both the financial reliability of eschato-horror films (even those that do not perform especially well domestically) and the success of their exportation of American Christian eschatologyʼs narrative. The information cited below are provided by two independently owned online box office reporting websites, “The Numbers” (http://www.the-numbers.com/) and “Box Office Mojo,” (http://www.boxofficemojo.com/) both of which have been aggregating screen industry financial performance information for over 15 years. While each site is known for the reliability of their analytics, and are cited frequently by screen industry and news outlets, there are small differences between them. Where discrepancies exist, I have either taken an average between the two siteʼs information, or made an independent estimate of my own based on budget information for similar feature films. These estimates are indicated by an asterisk (*).  CONSTANTINE (2005): Distributed by Warner Brothers Production Budget: $ 75,000,000 Marketing Budget*: $ 25,000,000 Total Recoverable Cost before Profit: $100,000,000 Domestic Box Office: $ 75,976,178 International Box Office: $ 154,908,550 Domestic DVD*: $ 20,000,000 Total Worldwide Sales: $ 250,884,728 Recoverable Costs – Worldwide Sales = Total Profit: $ 150,884,728 KNOWING (2009): Distributed by Summit Entertainment   87 Production Budget: $ 50,000,000 Marketing Budget*: $ 8,000,000 Total Recoverable Cost before Profit: $ 58,000,000 Domestic Box Office: $ 79,957,634 International Box Office: $ 107,901,008 Domestic DVD Sales: $19,09,235 Total Worldwide Sales: $ 211,994,669 Recoverable Costs – Worldwide Sales = Total Profit: $ 153,944,669 LEGION (2010): Distributed by Sony Pictures Production Budget: $ 26,000,000 Marketing Budget*: $ 8,000,000 Total Recoverable Cost before Profit: $ 34,000,000 Domestic Box  Office: $ 40,168,080 International Box Office: $ 28,686,017 Domestic DVD Sales: $ 19,09,235 Worldwide Sales: $ 87,944,332 Recoverable Costs – Worldwide Sales = Total Profit: $ 53,944,332 While not box office juggernauts the likes of Paranormal Activity and The Conjuring, all three films returned more than double their estimated production and marketing budgets, thus contributing to eschato-horrorʼs continued presence in the financial planning of Hollywood Majors. Of particular interest to this study is the poor international box office numbers for Legion as compared to both Constantine and Knowing, with Legionʼs “End Time fantasy pastiche” delivering less than a third of Knowingʼs $ 108 million, and one-fifth of Constantineʼs $ 157 million. This poor performance may be due to Knowingʼs confused portrayal of American Christian eschatology to international audiences already familiar with its particular narrative conventions. However, before I can attribute any part of   88 the filmʼs relatively poor international performance to its narrativeʼs confused Christian pastiche, further research will be required. What can be said the cases of Constantine and Knowing is that the two filmsʼ financial success of largely due to their performance internationally, particularly when the total sales for European and South American countries, with cultures and populations that are historically Christian, are isolated: over $90 million of Constantineʼs $154 million in international box office were generated in Europe and South America, with Knowing following a near identical sales pattern. Both films did make sales in predominantly non-Christian countries, but the figures are very low relative to those for American studio films of different genres. It will require further research to determine if the success of these two examples of eschato-horror confirms my assertion that they (and other films of the genre) represent a successful international exportation of the American version of Christian eschatology, but the preliminary results are intriguing: at the time of writing, I have initiated a comparative study of contemporary eschato-horror films produced in Europe as a resource for future study. 5.3 American population demographics: Christians are “US - A” Who exactly – at least in the United States – are the “fans” of eschato-horror? Or more generally, what do we know about the population from which any American fan culture draws its members and their myriad ways of demonstrating their identification with the subject of their interest/obsession? As noted above, information compiled by the US Census Bureau and the Pew Research Center for the years 2008 to 2010 indicate that 78% of Americans self-identify as being Christian. It is not my intention to use this provocative information to oversimplify the complex web of Christian faith and practice in the United States, I will leave that foolishness to the segment of cultural studies Hills identifies as being “embarrassed” by religion (Hills 119) and the intellectual limitations created by such an approach. Instead, recognizing that religion “plays a very important role”   89 in the lives of a majority of Americans—more so according to Pew than any other “wealthy nation”—it can be assumed that a majority of eschato-horror film fans are self-identifying Christians, an assumption that can be extended into the majority of fan groups that do not explicitly self-limit themselves to a “non Christian” constituency. By establishing that a majority of American fans or followers of eschato-horror are self-identifying Christians, assumptions can also be made regarding their low-level of Biblical literacy. As discussed in Chapter 2, the flexibility and inventiveness typical of American eschato-horror films owes a great deal to the ability of the audience to understand and enjoy their highly encoded, Biblically inspired narratives despite their lack of “actual knowledge” regarding Christian eschatology. I have suggested that the American (and probably European) fanʼs pre-existing knowledge of Christian eschatology may largely be based on its fragmented and decontextualized presence in popular culture. When the American eschato-horror fanʼs experience of a film such as Constantine or Legion are the subject of deliberation by online discussion groups with other fans of the genre, there is a potential for the individual and group understanding of Christian eschatology to be increased according to the discursive pathway associated with the discussion group; Bloody Disgustingʼs horror fans may share their knowledge of esoteric, intertextual, or extra-Biblical eschatology, while those participating in an exchange on Christian Spotlight on Entertainment may attempt to use Biblical scripture in order to defend, attack, or negotiate the filmʼs content. 5.4 Religion, cults, fans, and ignorance None of the three examples of eschato-horror films discussed and analyzed in this thesis have achieved “cult film” status or have self-identifying groups or individual “fans” (at least that I am aware of) of the kind usually associated with those, as Hills puts it, “inevitably contested terms.” But the filmsʼ eschato-horror narratives do represent an opportunity to broaden the “hesitant” discussion   90 regarding the resonance that exists between film fan cultures and religious cults. I say “hesitant” due to Hillsʼ previously cited caution that we ”run the risk of seeming absurdly insensitive to cultural and historical contexts” when linking fan cultures to religious devotion. I would suggest that, given its exploitation of contemporary American Christian eschatology, eschato-horror requires us to consider links between fan cultures and religious discourse without the fear of seeming “insensitive.”   Hillsʼ observation that, “fandom both is and is not like religion, existing between ʻcultʼ and ʻculture.ʼ yet “neither do these (cult) discourses quite ʻfitʼ fan cultures,” (Hills 118) leads us to wonder the reason why they do not ʻfitʼ or match each other. That they do not is easily confirmed, especially in the extreme example of self-destructing Christian millennial cults whose adherents are willing to die for their beliefs—sometimes doing so. The seriousness and commitment of the religious cultist goes far beyond that of the film cultist, no matter how similar their discourses might be. This is due to a very important difference: the religious cult promises the adherent eternal life after death so long as they truly believe, utterly excluding the possibility that they are wrong or that there is another avenue to escape the horror of death and evil in the world. As to what the film cultist receives in exchange for their “belief,” I would suggest that the benefits, no matter how important they seem, are purposely limited by the category of “higher ignorance”—as identified by Carse—that informs the film cultist. Carseʼs categories of ignorance as detailed in The Religious Case Against Belief, and his already cited definition for religion, suggests a framework within which the resonant discourses of film cults and religious cults can be compared effectively without running the risk of “seeming to be absurdly insensitive,” To begin unpacking what I hope will be a useful methodology, I will address what Hills identifies as “one of the major problems with linking film cultures either to religion or religiosity… identifying what is actually meant by religion in the first place.” I will also identify the two categories of belief systems that Religion   91 generates. I will then examine Carseʼs categories of knowledge in the context of cults—religious and film—and uncommitted bystanders.   Hills asks the question “what is actually meant by religion in the first place” in reaction to Gilesʼ forceful assertion in Illusions of Immorality: a Psychology of Fame and Celebrity that  There is nothing intrinsically pathologizing about comparing media fans to religious devotees, since in both instances the roots of devotion are remarkably similar. (Giles 135) prompting Hills to propose that Fan cultures, especially those self-identifying as ʻcultʼ fandoms, cannot usefully be thought of as religions. I will argue that neoreligiosity, not religion is what we must consider when thinking about cult fandoms. (Hills 117) Hillsʼ definition of neoreligiosity, which allows for the use of “the retained elements of ʻreligiosityʼ while examining fan cultures despite their occurrence in a “secularized and commodified context,” is more than just Hillsʼ attempt to be “sensitive” to religionʼs cultural and historic contexts. Neoreligiosity permits Hills and the fan the use of the same devotional or metaphoric constructs as religion “to seek to explain their fandom…” without therefore running the risk of either fan or academic analysis being considered “religious.” Hills continues along the same road of self-consciously constructing contradiction-filled and contingent explanations with his attempt to define religion. Hills may be employing this strategy in order to avoid the limitations inherent in a definitive meaning. Appealing to Jacques Derrida, Hills rejects a definition that might provide “a stable reference point or referent” in favour of a “discourse that liberates words and meaning from all archaic and all supposed origins” (Hills 118). There may be benefits to an ʻunstable definition of religion—for example, it might allow specific elements of a given religious belief to be open to interpretation through intertextual association rather than a specific definition   92 favoured by that belief. However, such unstable definition project an instability into other areas where comparisons between film cults and religious cults would benefit from stability. This is particularly true with regard to understanding the most basic differences between fan cults and religious cults as noted above: Why, as Hills asserts, do neither “cult” discourses quite fit or match each other? Why is it that the grave and serious religious adherent can ultimately surrender any need for “proof” of their beliefs no matter how seemingly irrational or potentially dangerous/damaging it might be to themselves or others, while, when pressed, the film fan or cultist cannot? By replacing Hills relativistic approach with Carseʼs ʻstripped downʼ definition of religion as a mechanism through which we can address the reality of death and evil in the world, a stable foundation from which these questions may be examined more effectively can be established. Carseʼs foundational category of religion gives rise to two sub-categories of religious belief systems: stable belief systems and cult belief systems. Both of these provide explanations for death and evil in the world, but they differ on how they respond to ʻproofsʼ that challenge the veracity of their highly structured systems of belief. Stable belief systems—among which Carse includes Judaism, Catholicism, and “Mainline” Protestantism—with their well-established rituals, eschatologies, and sacred texts, are distinctive due to their longevity. They are all capable of addressing ʻproofsʼ that would seem to threaten their systems of belief. Stable belief systems also reach out to include new members, whose ideas could be considered threatening, even if the process of negotiating new ideas is traumatic and drawn out over time. Their longevity may be due to the inherent flexibility that a symbolic approach to their sacred texts, rituals, and associated eschatology allows. Cult belief systems—many of which share the same rituals, eschatologies, and sacred texts as those of Stable Belief Systems—have short time durations. This may be due to their inflexible, often literal, interpretation of sacred texts, performance of rituals, and insular/exclusionary membership requirements (if you disagree, you are out).   93 Exacerbating their condition, as in the case of the American Christian fundamentalist end timers studied by Howard, is the conviction that the events described in their eschatology are occurring in real time and that Parousia and cosmic war are imminent. Carse attributes the long-term success and short-term failure of these two related systems of belief to how they embrace “ignorance” rather than knowledge. Carse distinguishes between ordinary ignorance, which Indicates a lack of knowledge of one kind or another, all of us are ignorant in this way. Indeed, thereʼs no end to things that we do not and will never know, but could understand where we appraised of them. In one respect ordinary ignorance is a trivial phenomenon. It does, however, have larger consequences when the object of our ignorance is a danger to ourselves or others: an undetected virus, faulty automobile brakes, hidden behavioral motives. (Carse 12-13) Willful ignorance, which he characterizes as A paradoxical condition in which we are aware there is something we do not know, but choose not to know it. It is assuming an ignorance when there is no ignorance… Creationists act as if they are oblivious to the huge and tumultuous field of evolutionary theory. In its more menacing form, we can expect to find it in political oppression, the making of war, the recruitment of suicide bombers, the uneven distribution of wealth, inasmuch as we cannot be involved in any of these activities and be unaware of what we are doing– then act as if we are. (Carse 13) And higher ignorance, which he argues  is at the heart of the philosophical and religious traditions from their earliest appearance… our ignorance of what things truly are… “Higher ignorance requires that we recognize no matter how many truths we may accumulate, our knowledge falls infinitely short of the truth. Higher ignorance can only be learned, as a result of long reflection, combining a   94 deeper reading of the thinkers who have gone before us with the continuing process of self-examination…We must be taught to be ignorant. (Carse 14-16) Carseʼs categories of belief and ignorance can be used to enrich our approach to the resonant discourses of film and religious cults by examining how stable belief and cult belief systems differ in their internal organization with regard to knowledge. Both Stable Belief Systems and Cult Belief Systems are organized around a core that represents what is known. This refers to knowledge that has developed along with the associated system of belief and that supports the system of beliefs solutions for Religionʼs problems of death and evil. At the boundary of a belief systemʼs knowledge lies a horizon beyond which may be new information that may well challenge its beliefs. For a belief system to sustain over time it must be open to new information while maintaining its boundary, or it will suffocate: Some boundaries are necessary; the issue is the degree to which they are permeable. If they are perfectly sealed, belief systems will choke on their own breath. Like the skin of the body, there must be some commerce between what is contained and what is excluded. Boundary must therefore be balanced with horizon. A horizon is the outer edge of our vision. Beyond that we see nothing. However, to move toward it in any direction is to bring something new into sight. What this will be cannot be known beforehand. (Carse 107) For example, according to Carseʼs model, Roman Catholicismʼs longevity is the result of its ability to incorporate new ideas—e.g., the Theory of Evolution—and new peoples with markedly different cultures, even though the process of incorporation may be traumatic and require decades or centuries to achieve.  In doing so, Roman Catholicism transforms elements of its system of belief in order to accommodate what might have otherwise made it culturally irrelevant over time. The boundary surrounding Roman Catholicismʼs system of belief is   95 permeable, with higher ignorance allowing for change over time through the negotiating of the meaning of its defining elements. Equivalent examples of longevity due to the ability to accept and incorporate new information can be seen in long-lived Star Trek or Star Wars fan cultures, where new fans are welcomed as they discover the communities associated with the films or series. If one considers the fan cultures associated with Star Wars and Star Trek is having beliefs systems based on the narratives of the films and television episodes created for the original iterations of each franchise, their belief systems have adjusted to include the addition of the new films and episodes that have since been created. The fan cultures of Star Trek and Star Wars are permeable to new, often disruptive additions to their belief systems, and the new members that come with those ideas. However, as can be observed at conventions and events organized for either fan cultures, clashes can occur between adherents of differing factions (“Han shot first” or “Human-like Klingons”), indicating that time is still required in order to attain stability. Examples of belief systems that are not permeable can be found in the tragic cases of millennially-inspired American Protestant Christian cults whose “self-sealing ideologies” are immune to influence from outside sources or counter narratives. Falling into Carseʼs category of wilful ignorance, these cults combine their literal reading of Christian eschatological texts with an inward-looking, radical certainty: If radical certainty fuels those views with a self-sealing ideology, people may cling to them even when doing so does them (or others) harm. (Howard 147) This “boundary impermeability” is illustrated by the FBIʼs 1993 confrontation with the Branch Davidianʼs in Waco, Texas—a sect that repurposed, with horrific consequences, the outside forces threatening their apocalyptic belief system:   The Branch Davidianʼs leader, David Koresh, was luring FBI agents into playing roles he had assigned to them in an end game of his own   96 imagining – an endgame whose logic derived not so much from FBI profiles and SWAT team tactics as from Koreshʼs own idiosyncratic interpretation of the biblical book of Revelation. “Itʼs going to burn,” I told myself. (Prothero Introduction 3-4/49) Less tragic, and with similarities to what Russ Hunter identifies as “cult insulation trajectory” around the person and work of Italian horror film director Dario Argento, is the example of evangelical preacher Harold Camping and his calculation of “Godʼs timetable” (McFadden) for the apocalypse. Camping used the over 150 radio stations he owned through Family Radio Inc. to broadcast to thousands of listening believers his message that Jesus would return and the Rapture would take place on May 21, 2011. Thousands did believe, and were soon disappointed when the world did not end. What resonates with Hunterʼs cult insulation trajectory is that, despite Camping having made a similar prediction based on Biblical calculations for September 1994 that failed to occur, hundreds of thousands believed in his revised calculation for May 21, 2011. Even when the promised “rapture” did not occur as predicted on May 21st, Campingʼs followers persisted in their belief in him, and accepted his revised calculation of October 21, 2011 for the worldʼs end. Only when Camping publicly abandoned his project for predicting the end of the world, did his followers abandon him. In his essay “Didnʼt you used to be Dario Argento? The Cult Reception of Dario Argento,” published in Italian Film Directors in the New Millennium (Hope (ed)), Hunter discusses the slow asphyxiation of the Susperia directorʼs cult status in the United Kingdom. Tracing Argentoʼs career over the forty plus years he has been producing films of declining critical and audience interest, Hunter suggests the directorʼs earlier work, such as Susperia and Deep Red “has somehow acted to insulate him from being ʻdroppedʼ as an object of critical attention and fascination” (Hope 71). However, the almost exclusive focus on Argentoʼs early “masterworks,” especially Susperia, requires fans to suppress discussions of the later, weaker works—together with the charges of misogyny that haunt the   97 remaining corpus. In the end, as Hunter observes, “unless he [Argento] creates a critically successful film soon, the love affair may lose its lustre.” (Hunter 72) Another example of insular cult fan cultures is the “child star cults” that had their clearest presence in Hollywood cinema during the period from the 1920s through the 1940s. As described by Ernest Mathijs and Jamie Sexton in Cult Cinema: an introduction: Child actors have always been a point of fascination for film audiences. There is nothing more universally adored than a child star. At the same time, there is a sense that they are out of place, their physical and mental well-being endangered by the machinery of Hollywood… perceptions associated with children (pure, naïve, innocent, playful, cute, sexual, impulsive, cruel, etc.) put child acting outside of normality and open films with such acting up wide-ranging interpretations and comments, leading to unstable receptions. (Mathijs, and Sexton 187) Child star cults can still be seen in contemporary fan cultures such as those focused on Miley Cyrus and Dakota Fanning before their unfortunate “transformation” into adults. Moreover, like the cults associated with the dead film stars James Dean and Marylyn Monroe, child star cults have the same insular nature as extreme Christian eschatology-driven cults, and the same short life expectancy. For example, the fan cultures associated with Dean and Monroe are dwindling as one generation fades into the next, as was the case with the child stars of the 1920s and 1940s. I have purposely used extreme examples of Carseʼs wilful ignorance category as it is associated with American Christian fundamentalist apocalyptic cults in order to contrast their belief systemʼs radical certainty, which requires an adherentʼs refusal to acknowledge information that in many cases they are fully aware of (for example, the consistent failure of all attempts up to the present to predict or cause the Parousia), often at great cost, with fans and fan cultureʼs ability to disengage from radical certainty or other wilfully ignorant behaviour when   98 circumstances require it. The film cultist might experience a “whiff of immortality” during their shared experience either at screenings or during online deliberation, and display a “pseudo-radical certainty” with regard to the specifics of the object/subject of their fandom that resonates with the religious cultistʼs. However, the “performance” of their fandom does not require the actual radical certainty or potentially death requiring seriousness of the religious cultist: the fan or film cultistʼs capacity for higher ignorance allows them to pivot away from full engagement of their fandom without fear of annihilation. Film cults and religious cults may share systems of social organization, group dynamics, and, to a degree, radical certainty regarding their beliefs, making comparisons between the two discourses useful. However, the religious cult frequently demands its adherent that they occupy its system of belief fully, a requirement that, while granting membership in a special community along with a promise of immortality, is fuelled by wilful ignorance. This deprives the extreme religious cultʼs system of belief longevity, thus leading in extreme cases to its self-destruction. Film fans and film cultists, while seeking a resonant experience of radical certainty and group identification, do not require the wilful ignorance and impermeable system of belief the religious cultist requires. This is because each fan occupies more than one system of belief. This occupation of two belief systems – one for their “real lives,” the other as a fan - requires the film fan or film cultist to function within Carseʼs category of higher ignorance, thus enabling them to disengage should their fandom approach a limit that would negatively impact their other coexisting belief system. By occupying two systems of belief simultaneously, with the one associated with the “real world” overriding that of even the most insular cult fan belief as required, the film fan or cultist can still, as Mathijs and Sexton suggest, “(break) free of social constraints by imagining a life unbounded” —at least for a while: The closest one can come, it seems, is through the adoption of discourses on cultism and religion that suggests that film cults, like other forms of   99 cultism, try to celebrate the breaking free of social constraints by imagining a life unbounded, untamed, and untimed that would provide direct knowledge of all existence. Thus, cult receptions set themselves up in opposition to society in ways that are similar to historical forms of cultism. (Mathijs, and Stern 140)  Figure one represents two Venn diagrams I have created to illustrate the relationship between Carseʼs category of religion and its sub-categories of stable belief systems and cult belief and my construct of how long term fan cultures and insular fan cultures are sub-categories of “culture.” For the purpose of this essay, I have defined the category of culture as a means to create symbolic representations for a given time and place; and for a culture to be considered relevant it must be “actively occupied” by groups or individual participants engaged in producing and reading its symbolic representations.  Both diagrams indicate that, while partly bounded by the greater categories of religion and culture, stable belief systems and long term fan cultures have contact with new information provided by “the outside.” This contact makes possible their longevity as active sites that provide meaning to their adherents. In contrast, Cult Belief Systems and Insular Cult Fan Cultures are bonded within their larger categories of religion and culture, with limited access  to information originating “Outside” of their self-sealed belief systems. This condition limits the time within which they can provide meaning to their adherents. I hope to make possible a clearer and less “self-conscious” approach to examining the discourse of film fans and their cultures through the lens of religious discourse by suggesting the replacement of Hillsʼ purposely unclear and relativistic definition of religion with Carseʼs radically clear and simplified one. Also, by including Carseʼs categories of ignorance as part of this approach, we can better understand the limits of the resonances between religious cultism and film fan cultures. The discourses may be similar, but the “stakes” are not. The grave seriousness of a religious system of belief—especially as embraced by   100 religious cultists—is fraught with sharp tensions. These tensions are created by the short-term cultʼs willful ignorance and stable belief systemʼs attenuated embrace of higher ignorance. As demonstrated above, willful ignorance can lead to a conclusion for the religious cultist that would be unthinkable for the film cultist. 5.5 “Christian” reviews of eschato-horror While Constantine, Legion, and Knowing may not have achieved “cult” status or have specifically dedicated followers, all three examples of eschato-horror were screened and discussed by fans of the genre. Online reactions by viewers of Legion and Knowing as posted to the major horror fan website Bloody-Disgusting.com, during the years associated with each filmʼs release, were general in nature, concerned mainly with star packaging and the quality of visual effects (bloody or otherwise).  Comments made in 2005 to the same site in response to Constantine were more focused, concentrating on the filmʼs adaptation from the very popular Hellbrazer comic series, The language used by fans in their deliberations over the three films demonstrated an intertextual understanding of eschato-horror (without naming it as such). Fans identified all three films as being “apocalyptic” and referring to titles using exorcisms, angels and aliens. Bloody-Disgusting, according to web traffic estimating companies Statshow.com and Trafficestimates.com, is ranked number 13,339 of the top 100,000 websites world-wide, with over 1 million registered users and more than 2 million individual page views per month. Of interest to this study were the responses by self-identifying American Protestant Christians to the films and to other Christians on the film review and discussion pages for Christian Spotlight on Entertainment, the movie review section of the much larger and religiously-purposed evangelical website Christiananswers.net. Founded in 1995, the Christian Answers website is ranked in the top 100,000 websites worldwide for 2012 by Statshow.com and   101 Trafficestimates.com, with over 400,000 registered users and over 1 million individual monthly page views during 2013, the majority of which originate in the United States. While receiving roughly half the traffic of the secular Bloody-Disgusting website, Christian Answersʼ clear religious demographic focus allows me to infer that those responding to the films under study are both interested in their content as well as being self-identifying American Protestant Christians. However, I do acknowledge that, given the anonymity afforded to users by the Internet, there is no way for me to verify either the identity or the religious association of any of those responding to the reviews posted on Christian Spotlight on Entertainment. Having said this, I will briefly examine the viewer/reader responses to Christian Spotlight on Entertainmentʼs review of Knowing, which was the subject of a great deal more discussion than either Constantine or Legion. I attribute the respondentʼs greater interest in Knowing to the filmʼs “stealth Christianity” as noted in Chapter 3, in tandem with its attempt to find a bridge between secular science and American Protestant Christianity. It is important to note that Christian Spotlight on Entertainment reviews all major Hollywood theatrical feature releases regardless of genre or “intended” audience. This mainstream approach to media allows the websitesʼ reviewers to frame their assessment and the responses to any given film within the context of a distinctly American evangelical Christian paradigm with its associated eschatology. Knowing was reviewed by David Criswell, a regular contributor to the website since 2006, whose notices cover a wide range of genres. Criswellʼs reviews (and other reviewers contributing to the site) read much as those appearing on mainstream entertainment sites or in newspapers save for the addition of a “Moral Rating.” The “Moral Rating” of a movie is based on a filmʼs use of profanity, portrayal of sex acts, and violence (Knowing received an “offensive” rating). Along with reviews of story, performance, and other standard “secular” subjects, special attention is paid to a filmʼs religious attitude. Criswell points out to readers that Knowingʼs director “Alex Proyas is known for making spiritual   102 movies. This should not be confused with making Christian movies.” (http://christiananswers.net/spotlight/movies/2009/knowing2009.html)  Consistent with other articles on the site is the presence of hyperlinks to the definition for words of particular importance to evangelical Christianity as they appear in the body of the reviewʼs text; links to explanations for “Prophecies” and “faith,” as well as a list of “Relevant Issues” with prepared questions and answers for the reader are provided. Criswellʼs review also features a section dedicated to Knowingʼs “misuse” of the Biblical prophecies found in Book of Ezekiel, by linking the film to other science fiction narratives that are, according to his analysis, pantheistic rather than Christian. Interestingly, Criswell recommends the film (he assigns it a 3.5 out of 5 for “Movie Making quality”), but warns, “Christian parents should educate their children… and ensure that the spiritual message of the film is not confused with Biblical Christianity,” an admonishment that engendered a variety of responses from his readers.  5.6 “Christian” responses to eschato-horrorʼs Knowing As noted above, there is no way of confirming the accuracy of the information associated with the reader/viewer responses to the Christian Spotlight on Entertainment review of Knowing, or any film critiqued on the website. While the respondents posting comments were required to identify themselves by first name and age (a rather unusual requirement for contemporary websites) allowed for a considerable volume of inferred demographic data, there is no way to confirm that multiple comments were not posted by one person or that any identifying information is true. However, given the siteʼs evangelical Christian focus and successful web presence, we can at the very least infer the general accuracy of the information presented. As for the context of the review and comments, they were first viewed and collected by me in March 2012, and confirmed as being unchanged in August of 2014. The original date of the reviewʼs posting, while not noted on the website, can be inferred as being   103 sometime shortly after August 7, 2009. There were 76 readers/viewer comments in response to Criswellʼs review of Knowing, which the website categorized as follows: Positive: 31 Negative: 25 Neutral: 10 Comments were never in direct response to another reader/viewer, as can frequently be the case on horror fan forums; several comments feature language that infers a general reply to those either in agreement or with views counter to the contributor. While only four postings directly cited a Biblical passage, all framed their comments within an identifiable Christian context. I have not corrected any spelling or grammar errors, reproducing portions of the postings as they appear on the website. I have not included the name or age of the person making the post. 5.6.1 Positive comments 1) This movie is one of the most in your face “Christian” movies I have seen yet… This movie does everything in its power to force people to come to the realization that the ends times are coming and you should be ready for the return… This movie pulls know punches with letting the audience know that “only the ones who answer the call may go to Heaven,” they use the Bible, they talk about the Holy Spirit revealing prophecy, they talk about the facts that there will be signs and wonders…I highly recommend this movie, itʼs a lot better than a lot of the “Christian” garbage that is out there today.  2) I canʼt get over all the negative reviews stating that this film detracts glory from the Lord…I saw others mention that the ending is completely unbiblical, however if you watch the symbolism ONLY, it becomes quite biblical. The Word says that the earth would never   104 be destroyed by water again, but by fire. It also says that the elect are not appointed to wrath, but would be “harpazo” or taken into protective custody, and would return to a “new heaven and a new earth…” They take it to mean that the fallen angels will be appearing in the last days, as they did prior to the flood (See Genesis 6 and the pseudo-epigraphical book of Enoch). These Christians believe that the fallen angels will show up, not as angels, but as Extra-Terrestrials.  3) The idea of a superflare is a very old one, and very realistic. Science acknowledges things called “Gamma Ray Bursts” these are incredibly intense bursts of radiation, that are more than capable of bathing planets in deadly heat and radiation. About the actual destruction, doesnʼt the Word say that God will destroy the world with fire? (Matthew 13:40, Luke 3:17. Luke 12:49, Hebrews 10:27, Hebrews 12:29, 2 Peter 3:7, 2 Peter 3:10, Revelation 8:5) 4) …great teaching tools… for biblical themes… Doubt, Struggling with faith—The scene where Caleb challenges his father, “you donʼt even believe in heaven.” The father replies, “I only said we canʼt know for sure.” Reminds me of Mark 9:24. “Help me overcome my unbelief” Saved by grace—There was nothing that Caleb or Abby did that seemed to merit their selection… They were simply chosen by the will of the “savior.” Ephesians 2:8 says you were saved by grace, not by works. John 15:15 Jesus says, “You did not choose me, I chose you…” Sharing the faith—Nickʼs sister played the part of the relentless, yet patient, Christian sharing her faith and praying for her skeptical brother. What would you do if you were in the sisterʼs shoes? What would you say? 1 Peter 3:15.   105 5.6.2 Negative comments 1) Wow, I REALLY wish I would have listened to the people who said not to go see this movie. This was truly a dark, blasphemous, ungodly movie. Why do I say this? Because the movie gives Godʼs glory to others. It tramples on the shed blood of Jesus by using other beings as “Savior” figures. It is unscriptural in its depiction of the end of the world and in how it tries to depict that it is possible to “know” the future (where Godʼs Word says that no man knows or will know the precise day or the hour when the end is going to happen). 2) The film has demonic overtones and significantly elevates the work of Satan above the LORD. It actually was quite depressing… Some people actually applauded at the end of the movie. This reaction and response truly saddened my heart. However, people are ripe for deception, and are so ready to follow and ignorantly follow the prince of this world. May it not be said of those who know and follow Jesus Christ as their Savior. Thank you and GOD bless you friend. 3) People, this movie is an insult to intelligence. Itʼs one more example of how modern secularism is making its attack on the Christian mind by undermining the very foundations of what we believe; that a sovereign God exists, that we have a purpose in our relationship with Him, that ultimately all things glorify God in the end instead of s--- just happening. The symbolism in this movie told a story in itself; that prophecies are NOT supernatural, that miracles can be explained by a higher science, that all Christians are rooted in “blind faith” and have no valid reasons that back up their theological claims, that angels are actually aliens with wings, and that Adam and Eve were space travelers planted to ensure the continuum of human life.    106 4) There are several good comments, so this wonʼt be long… according to the movie, in the end, the Bible is “correct,” just misinterpreted: The earth being destroyed by fire (2 Peter 3:9) is just a solar flare, angels in “shining clothes” (Acts 10:30) are aliens, The “wheel within a wheel” described by Ezekiel (Ch 1) is a spaceship, and we learn that the progenitors of the human race (Adam and Eve) were placed on the planet like lab rats… I guess believing in an eternal God seems silly, but higher, intelligent, eternal beings from a far away planet, now thatʼs plausible! I do not recommend this movie for Christians! 5.7 The “Usefulness” of Eschato-Horror The most striking aspect of the reader/viewer comments to Criswellʼs review of Knowing on the Christian Spotlight on Entertainment website is the clear “back and forth” between those who contended the film is, at the very least, “…one of the most in your face “Christian” movies I have seen yet…” or “The film has demonic overtones and significantly elevates the work of Satan above the LORD.” The majority of positive comments took issue with Criswellʼs position that Knowing “should not be confused with Biblical Christianity,” with one reader/viewer going so far as using the film as a tool for teaching Biblical themes. Negative comments were consistent in rejecting Knowing for its symbolic interpretation of Christian themes, rejecting the film as “demonic” or simply laughable. Despite their rejection of the filmʼs premise and content, it is clear the negative reader/viewers watched the film and recognized its eschato-horror narrative sufficiently to respond both in general disgust as well as by citing appropriate Biblical quotations. Christian Spotlight on Entertainment and Criswellʼs combination of a “secular” media approach, with a focused, knowledgeable and accessible American evangelical Christian content analysis, is the first indication of eschato-horrorʼs   107 cultural value, as evidenced by the readersʼ comments. Knowing, Constantine and Legion all, to one degree or another, engaged their Christian viewers in their transgressional eschato-horror narratives sufficiently to require at least some of their presumably Biblically illiterate audience to read their beliefʼs sacred text as part of their online deliberation - perhaps making a small contribution to Noll, Prothero and Hughesʼ greater project of engaging American Christians in the study of their belief.     108  Figure 5.1 Religion, long term and cult systems of belief as defined by Carse vs. culture, established fan cultures and cult fandom     Religion



The “Outside”   109 6 Conclusion The primary goal of this thesis was establishing eschato-horror and especially its American manifestation with its evangelical Christian apocalypse-infused narratives as an identifiable subgenre of horror and supernatural horror. Films of the genre can be found throughout cinemaʼs history. They are different from other explorations of the realm of religiously inspired fear identified by Cowan as originating in the “unseen order” with its familiar and frightening population of vampires, werewolves, witches, warlocks, and other demons straining to enter our supposed rational world; in addition to demons in eschato-horror, there is also an “American” Revelation and the Word of the Christian God. Inspired by Protestant Christian eschatology as it developed in the United States, American eschato-horror is exported to the world through Hollywoodʼs major distribution companies. Identifying the narrative elements peculiar to American eschato-horror required research into what makes the American interpretation of Christian eschatology different from its “Old World” predecessors. In order to identify these differences, consideration of the development of Judeo-Christianity from its origin as a small, marginalized Judaic millennial cult and its transformation to state religion of the Roman Empire, and ultimately to its present American Protestant manifestation was required. The importance of Protestant Christianity to the culture and history of the United Stares cannot be understated—as noted in Chapter 2, Pew research and the U.S. Census Bureau report that over 78% of Americans profess to believe and model their lives on the Christian faith, yet additional research conducted by Pew demonstrates few actually understand its most basic tenets. Sources for this historical overview were chosen for their focus on the centrality of its eschatology to Christianityʼs success as well as the need for the state to control the destructive energies that eschatology releases in times of historic trauma and unrest. In addition, this research was enhanced by other sources, such as on the origins of religion, the state of contemporary American Protestant   110 Christianity, and the expression of its eschatology through the Hollywood studio system. The historical research into the development of contemporary American Protestant Christianity led to the identification of a variety of narrative elements particular to eschato-horror as it is produced for domestic and international distribution by major Hollywood studios. This research also allowed for an analysis of three contemporary American examples of the genre and their subsequent reception by horror film fans and self-identifying Christian viewers. By examining comments posted online on websites dedicated to either horror fans or Christian filmgoers as they deliberated the eschato-horror films under study, an area of potential research into the resonances known to exist between film fans and religious adherents was identified. This area of research is especially interesting given the established overlap between these two seemingly separate groups as suggested by US Census and Pew Research  data on religious belief in America as noted above. Of particular interest was the “back and forth” deliberation over eschato-horror films by self-identifying Christians as evidenced by their on-line comments, suggesting the cultural “usefulness” of the genre with regard to Biblical literacy and intellectual engagement. However, as intriguing as this preliminary research is, the data is impossible to verify given the uncontrolled nature of comment submission associated with the websites. This points to the future development of a properly designed and ethically overseen research project on the subject of eschato-horror reception.  The confluence of film fans and religious believers through eschato-horror afforded the opportunity to consider the resonance between film fan cultures and religious cults. By importing observations made by religious scholars on religion and its sub-categories of stable, long term belief systems and short term cult belief systems, it may be possible to establish an effective method of comparing the grave and serious commitment of the religious cultist to the committed film cultist. I have suggested that a critical difference between the two categories can   111 be attributed to the film cultistʼs simultaneous occupation of two separate belief systems and the “higher ignorance”—a category of intellectual engagement identified by Carse—that results. This intellectual condition allows the film fan to separate themselves from their cult with little difficulty. The religious cultistʼs total commitment to one rigid and exclusionary system of belief, an intellectual state only possible through engaging what Carse identifies as “willful ignorance,” prevents separation, creating the potential for actual tragedy. The potential for further research into eschato-horror as a genre, along with its reception by viewers who self-identify as Christian or fans of cinema horror, is promising, particularly when the resurgence of Biblically inspired feature films produced by Hollywood Major studios is taken into consideration. What was once a genre that had vanished from the American film production scene in the 1960s, has returned with high-profile and high-budgeted productions the like of Darren Aronofskyʼs Noah and Ridley Scottʼs soon to be released version of Exodus, Gods and Kings. American network, cable and Internet companies are also moving swiftly into producing programs that fall within all of the subsets of Pamela Graceʼs hagiopic (religious Saint pictures), “serious” religious programs, and American Christian eschatology “inspired” series such as HBOʼs The Leftovers, based on evangelical/fundamentalist belief in the Rapture, or straight-up eschato-horror with NBCʼs  adaptation of DC Comics and Vertigoʼs Hellbrazer—Constantine, the series, premieres in the fall of 2014. All of the productions noted above represent a massive investment by major Hollywood and other American media companies in what they consider a sure and excessive return. This level of production also means an increase in the exportation of what has been identified in this thesis as an American version of Christianity and its eschatology. The domestic and international reception of these productions may have cultural impacts worthy of critical study in the near future.   112 The current high volume of production based on American Protestant Christian inspired narratives for consumption by domestic and international audiences, centered or not on its troubling eschatology, may simply be in response to the apparent exhaustion of recognizable and marketable franchises drawn from the American comic book industry, or recycled from ancient television programs and feature films. As discussed in the introduction to this thesis, the narratives of the Christian Bible—which include, of course, the Old Testament—are, according to Jung, “in our blood,” and therefore familiar, making them a natural choice for a culture looking for a means of expression and profit: the literary rights are free!  But all is not commerce—there may be an unintended benefit for America and itʼs predominantly self-identifying, but Biblically illiterate, Christian population: an increase in informed political and cultural dialogue due to the need to understand and discuss the Christian narratives being consumed. The potential for an increase in an understanding of the religion so central to the American identity, as well as an expansion of knowledge into the sciences and other intellectual fields so devalued by American culture, was perhaps glimpsed in the course of our preliminary research into the reception of eschato-horror. This is an exciting time, but fraught with a peril that can only be made worse by a lack of understanding of the historical and cultural forces at play.     113 Works Cited Baumgartner, Frederic J. Longing for the End: A History of Millennialism in Western Civilization. New York: St. Martins Press, 1999. Print.  Box Office Mojo. n.p., n.d. Web. 15 Aug. 2014. <http://www.boxofficemojo.com>. Bloody-Disgusting. n.p., n.d. Web. 15 Aug. 2014. <http://bloody-disgusting.com>. Carse, James P. The Religious Case Against Belief. New York: Penguin, 2008. Print. Champlin, John Denison (1913) "The Tragedy of Anne Hutchinson". Journal of American History Vol.5 (3):1-11. Print. Coogan, Michael David. A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament: The Hebrew Bible in its Context. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. Print. Cowan, Douglas E. Sacred Terror: Religion and Horror on the Silver Screen. Waco: Baylor University Press, 2008. Print. Creed, Barbara. “Horror and the Monstrous– Feminine: An Imaginary Abjection.” The Dread of Difference: Gender and the Horror Film. Ed. Barry Keith Grant. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996. 35-65. Print. Ehrman, Bart D. Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. New York: HarperCollins, 2005. Print.  “Faith.” Oxford Concise Dictionary of World Religions. Ed. John Bowker. Oxford: 2005. Print. Giles, David. Illusions of Immorality: A Psychology of Fame and Celebrity. New York: Macmillan Press, 2000. Print. Grace, Pamela. The Religious Film: Christianity and Hagiopic. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2009. Print. Hills, Matt. Fan Cultures. New York: Routledge, 2002. Print. Holy Bible: King James Version. New York: Thomas Nelson, 1990. Print.   114 Hovenkamp, Herbert. Science and Religion in America, 1800-1860. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania press, 1978. Print. Howard, Robert Glenn. Digital Jesus: The Making of a New Christian Fundamentalist Community on the Internet. New York: New York University press, 2011. Print. Hughes, Richard T. Christian America and the Kingdom of God. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2009. Print. Hunter, Jeff. “ʻDidnʼt you used to be Dario Argento?ʼ: The Cult Reception of Dario Argento.” Italian Film Directors in the New Millennium. Ed. William Hope. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2010. 63-74.Print. Jung, Carl, and Campbell, John. The Portable Jung: A Compilation. Ed. John Campbell. New York: Penguin Books, 1976. Print. "Knowing.” The Oxford English Dictionary. 11th ed. 2008. Print. Lilla, Mark. The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics, and the Modern West. New York: Knopf, 2007. Print. Martens, John. The End of the World: The Apocalyptic Imagination in Film and Television. Winnipeg: J. Gordon Shillingford, 2003. Print. Mathijs, Ernest, and Sexton, Jamie. Cult Cinema: An Introduction. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011. Print. McFadden, Robert D. "Harold Camping, Dogged Forecaster of the End of the World, Dies at 92." nytimes.com. New York Times, 17 Dec. 2003. Web. 14 Aug. 2014. “Movie Review: Knowing.” Christian Spotlight on Entertainment. Christian Answers Network, n.d. Web. 15 Aug. 2014. <http://www.christiananswers.net/spotlight/movies/2009/knowing2009.html>.   115 Noll, Mark A. The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1994. Print. Pagels, Elaine. Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation. New York: Penguin, 2012. Print. Price, Robert M. The Paperback Apocalypse: How the Christian Church was Left Behind. New York: Prometheus Books, 2007. Print. Prothero, Stephen. Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know and Doesnʼt. New York: Harper Collins, 2007. Kobo file. “Religious Affiliation in the U.S.A.” Pew Research Center. n.p., 2007. Web. 15 Aug. 2014. <http://religions.pewforum.org/reports>.  Sagan, Carl. The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God. Ed. Druyan, Ann. New York: Penguin, 2006. Print. Sharret, Christopher. “Sacrificial Violence and Postmodern Ideology.” Mythologies of Violence in Postmodern Media. Ed. Christopher Sharret. Detroit: Wayne State University press, 1999. 413-35. Print. Stat Show - The Traffic Estimator. n.p., n.d. Web. 15 Aug. 2014. <http://www.statshow.com>. “Table 75. Self-Described Religious Identification of Adult Population: 1990, 2001, and 2008.” U.S. Census Bureau. U.S. Department of Commerce, n.d. Web. 15 Aug. 2014. <http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s0075.pdf>. “Theatrical Market Statistics, 2013.” Motion Picture Association of America. Motion Picture Association of America, Inc., n.d. Web. 15 Aug. 2014. <http://www.mpaa.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/MPAA-Theatrical-Market-Statistics-2013_032514-v2.pdf>. The Numbers. n.p., n.d. Web. 15 Aug. 2014. <http://www.the-numbers.com>. Traffic Estimate. n.p., n.d. Web. 15 Aug. 2014. <http://www.trafficestimate.com>.   116 Weber, Eugen. Apocalypses: Prophecies, Cults and Millennial Beliefs Through the Ages. Toronto: Random House, 1999. Print. Williams, Rowan. The Truce of God. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2005. Print. Žižek, Slavoj. The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003. Print. ---. Welcome to the Desert of the Real. New York: Verso, 2002. Print.    117 Appendices Appendix A: Filmography DVDʼs and BluRays of films analysed Constantine. Dir. Francis Laurence. Warner Brothers, 2005. DVD. Knowing. Dir. Alex Proyas. Warner Brothers, 2009. DVD. Legion. Dir. Scott Stewart. Sony, 2010. BluRay. Films cited An Officer and a Gentleman. Dir. Taylor Hackford. Paramount Pictures, 1982. DVD. The Avengers. Dir. Joss Whedon. Walt Disney Studios, 2012. DVD. The Conjuring. Dir. James Wan. Warner Brothers, 2013. DVD. Constantine. Dir. Francis Laurence. Warner Brothers, 2005. DVD. Devil. Dir. John Dowdle. Universal Studios, 2010. DVD. Dominion: Prequel to The Exorcist. Dir. Paul Schrader. Warner Brothers, 2005. DVD. End of Days. Dir. Peter Hyams. Universal Pictures, 1999. Film. The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Dir. Scott Derrickson. Sony Pictures, 2005. DVD. The Exorcist. Dir. William Friedkin. Warner Brothers, 1973. Film. Insidious. Dir. James Wan. Sony Pictures, 2011. DVD. Knowing. Dir. Alex Proyas. Warner Brothers, 2009. DVD. The Last Exorcism. Dir. Daniel Stamm. Alliance Films, 2010. Film. Legion. Dir. Scott Stewart. Sony, 2010. BluRay. Lost Souls. Dir. Janusz Kaminski. New Line Cinema, 2000. Film. Noah. Dir. Darren Aronofsky. Paramount, 2014. DVD.   118 The Passion of the Christ. Dir. Mel Gibson. 20th Century Fox, 2004. DVD. Paranormal Activity. Dir. Oren Peli. Paramount, 2007. DVD. Possession. Dir. Andrzej Żuławski. Gaumont, 1981. Film. Pulp Fiction. Dir. Quentin Tarantino. Alliance Films, 1994. Film. The Rite. Dir. Mikael Håfström. Warner Brothers, 2011. DVD. Saving Private Ryan. Dir. Steven Spielberg. DreamWorks Distribution, 1998. Film. Top Gun. Dir. Tony Scott. Paramount, 1986. Film.  


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