Dark-themed entertainment is wildly popular. Yet most never consider the source of this fascination.
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A “slasher” film is revived 25 years after its first installment. The filmmakers hoped to capitalize on the $740 million grossed on the franchise’s four previous films. Another streaming network series about siblings forced back to the haunted house where they grew up to confront ghosts of the past is ranked among the top 10 “Creepiest Shows in TV History.”
Movie titles such as Halloween Kills, Army of the Dead, and Demonic leave no doubt as to their gruesome plotlines.
It does not stop with adults. Several movies and series target teens, incorporating clowns, babysitting, “truth or dare,” social media, and other youthful themes. In Sweet Home, teens heroically battle humans-turned-monsters, betraying the series’ innocent-sounding title.
Another macabre series resurrects classic literary characters, retelling their stories with severed limbs, blood and gore—all to the delight of a frightened audience. Undoubtedly, dark-themed entertainment in the form of movies, books, television shows, and video games, is here to stay.
Publishing houses and film studios have turned this pop-culture phenomenon into a multibillion-dollar industry. Take vampires, for example. DailyFinance estimates that movies, television series, books, magazines and costumes for fanged “creatures of the night” constitute at least a $10 billion industry in the United States. Enough vampire movies have been filmed over the decades to fill several “best and worst movies of all time” lists. For audiences worldwide, this sort of entertainment has an unmistakable draw.
A common reason for the interest in dark storylines appears innocent on its face: “It’s entertaining.” Other factors include the pull of romance, endearing characters, or the thrill of the chase.
Yet the draw for the horror genre is more difficult to explain. McGraw-Hill Education’s AccessScience attempted to bring a psychological answer to why audiences enjoy watching gruesome events unfold: “Researchers have identified various motives for viewing horror films, including the need for excitement, the desire to feel intense emotions, and distraction from everyday concerns. Although dramatic films can fulfill some of these needs, movies depicting violence and horror have features that other forms of drama do not, including the violation of social norms and the portrayal of events seldom seen in real life.
“People rarely view horror films alone…For many young people and adults, horror films are a topic of conversation, a source of shared experience, and a means of self-presentation. Not everyone will like the blood and gore, but many may continue to watch because of other goals, such as demonstrating their ability to tolerate it, or the desire to master the threatening images.”
Scientists call this the “horror paradox”: While fear and disgust are negative emotions, moviegoers flock to theaters for the latest slasher flick, skin-crawling ghost story, or paranormal monster tale.
Stop and think. Why do so many willingly watch grotesque killings? Why are vampires and zombies so interesting? What motivates the desire to sit through 90-plus minutes of grisly images?
A connection runs through these plot lines—the occult. Collins English Dictionary defines it as “characteristic of magical, mystical, or supernatural arts, phenomena, or influences,” “beyond ordinary human understanding,” and “secret or esoteric.”
The few stories that do not involve mysticism or the supernatural exhibit the darkest sides of human nature, such as the inner workings of a psychopathic killer’s mind.
This sort of entertainment demonstrates an innate human attraction to the mysterious, secret and unknown. It reveals a deep desire to have knowledge “beyond ordinary human understanding.” But why?
Looking through history, this is not a passing fad. The Brothers Grimm recorded extremely dark folk tales in the 1800s. Edgar Allan Poe penned paranormal short stories and poems around the same time.
These themes often have ties to religion. Greek mythology is chock-full of magical beasts such as centaurs, the Minotaur, and the snake-haired Medusa. In Japan, a shape-shifting fox-like trickster known as kitsune permeates folklore, as do stories of ghosts and demons. The voodoo religion also claims interaction with supernatural powers.
Many other ancient pagan religions went to great lengths to connect with the “spirit realm.” For example, classic-era Maya royalty used bloodletting, drugs and human sacrifice to attempt to commune with the universe. Similar accounts of going to extremes can be found in nearly every ancient culture: Rome, Babylon, Egypt, etc.
This desire to understand the unknown can be found throughout the historical record of the Bible as well. The prophets of Baal attempted to reach their god through bloodletting (I Kgs. 18:28). Israel’s King Saul visited a witch at Endor in an attempt to summon the dead (I Sam. 28:7). King Manasseh of Judah sacrificed his son to the god Molech (II Kgs. 21:6). Also, Pharaoh’s court magicians used sorcery during the 10 plagues of Egypt (Ex. 7).
The early apostles ran into a man who was involved with witchcraft in the New Testament book of Acts: “But there was a certain man, called Simon, which before time in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries” (Acts 8:9-11).
All of the above practices had roots in an ancient Babylonish mystery religion described in Revelation 17:5. And this same belief system was practiced by Simon the sorcerer. Adherents to it claimed that they had secret knowledge and spiritual power—often brought about by dark practices.
In the West today, actual bloodletting and human sacrifice seem to be barbaric acts. Yet many eagerly enjoy watching such practices in the form of motion pictures and fiction books.
Mind Versus Brain
The innate human desire to understand the unknown not only manifests itself through modern religions, but also through occult- and paranormal-themed entertainment.
The Bible provides a meticulously detailed map of human nature and explains exactly why mankind has an intense interest in spiritual things. The beginnings of an answer come from the book of Job: “But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty gives them understanding” (32:8).
Many jump on this passage as a proof text for their argument of the immortal soul belief. Yet this is not the case. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word translated “soul” is nephesh, which simply denotes a living, breathing being. Every animal labeled a “living creature” in Genesis 1 uses the same Hebrew word.
Man does not have a soul—he is one. It is due to this “spirit in man” that the human mind is so vastly superior to animals in intellect and ingenuity, and possesses near-limitless creative power.
When one understands that the human brain contains a spirit, mankind’s intense desire to seek out and understand the supernatural begins to make sense.
Genesis, the first book of the Bible, further explains the spiritual component of the human mind. Adam and Eve were given a choice between two trees (Gen. 2:9): “the tree of life,” representing access to the Spirit of God—and “the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”
Most consider this story the stuff of Hebrew myth and folklore. But it helps provide the only full explanation for the attraction to dark-themed entertainment.
The first man and woman did not choose the tree of life: “Now the serpent [Satan] was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yes, has God said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
“And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.
“And the serpent said unto the woman, You shall not surely die: for God does know that in the day you eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (Gen. 3:1-6).
Due to this choice, Adam and Eve were cut off from God’s Spirit working with the “spirit in man” (vs. 24).
By reading I Corinthians 2, this fact takes on further significance for all of mankind: “For what man knows the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him?”—the spirit of man allows for self-awareness and creative genius—“even so the things of God knows no man, but the Spirit of God” (vs. 11).
Take this verse at face value: Man cannot know godly spiritual knowledge without “the Spirit of God.” The human mind was created to have a grander spiritual connection. The Creator intended each individual to have the Holy Spirit working with the spirit of man in order to achieve his fullest potential.
When God’s Spirit works within the human mind, it brings forth the fruit of good character listed in Galatians: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (5:22-23).
Yet remember the decision in the Garden of Eden. There was a choice between two paths. If Adam and Eve rejected one spiritual connection, they would have necessarily had to choose a different wavelength—a different spirit—since there were only two options: “Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air [Satan], the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2).
The spirit of man is either influenced by the Holy Spirit or Satan’s “spirit that now works in the children of disobedience.”
Being tuned into Satan’s wavelength has a profound effect on human nature: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envying, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like” (Gal. 5:19-21).
This is a list of characteristics that are part of human nature—“the works of the flesh.” This means people are naturally drawn to these works, including witchcraft and murder. This is what makes horror novels, movies about serial killers, and occult-heavy video games so attractive.
Human nature also tends toward extremes. Look at the horror genre. What used to be based almost solely on suspense and the thrill of the chase now includes graphic depictions of madmen methodically torturing their victims. Of course, this is always brimming with extreme close-ups of each tear of flesh and squirt of blood. Many of these titles feature scenes that are unspeakable (Eph. 5:12). As time goes on, these titles must necessarily become increasingly explicit and more depraved. Each subsequent movie must outdo the one before it in scares and gore.
In addition, the nature of man exchanges darkness for light. Over the past decade there has been a substantial push by the entertainment industry to depict villains with fringe mindsets in normal, everyday situations. The audience is put in the shoes of a likable serial killer. Vampires are no longer evil—they are the “good kind” that only drink animal blood. Witches and wizards are now just awkward teenagers growing up. The intent is to turn the paranormal into normal. The villain into the hero. Darkness into light. The Bible condemns this thinking: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isa. 5:20).
Lastly, man’s nature seeks after the twisted and bizarre. This fact can be seen throughout dark-themed entertainment, in which authors and filmmakers push themselves to come up with the most macabre and warped images imaginable.
Satan counterfeits all Bible truths, including how God intends to work with the spirit in man. Humans were created in the “image and likeness” of a Creator who deemed everything He made as “very good” (Gen. 1:26, 31). Unlike any animal, mankind has taken on this trait—the ability to create.
God wants all of mankind to be endowed with His Holy Spirit, build His character, and use the human mind to invent, build and construct things that are “very good”—including right forms of entertainment. He always pushes for excellence and the highest quality.
Satan, on the other hand, instigates artists to always push the envelope, to be more extreme, and delve deeply into chaos, disorder, twisted spiritism—and all things “dark.”
God also designed man to have a connection with His Spirit and to be taught right knowledge through it. References to His “mysteries” are found throughout the Bible. Matthew 13:11 and Luke 8:10 mention the “mysteries of the kingdom.” Romans 16 states, “Now to Him that is of power to establish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began” (vs. 25).
In contrast, the devil has counterfeited this interest in a mysterious spirit realm through occult-themed entertainment and mystery religions that demand blind faith.
There is a huge difference between Satan’s counterfeits and God’s truth. The Creator always explains His truths in clear and logical language. In the end, His spiritual knowledge is both incredibly exciting and plainly understood. Not one doctrine within the Bible’s pages is inexplicable or needs to be irrationally believed. Notice Daniel 2: “He [God] reveals the deep and secret things: He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him” (vs. 22).
The pinnacle of God’s “mysteries” is the purpose for mankind. Real Truth editor-in-chief David C. Pack sets up this topic in the introduction to his book The Awesome Potential of Man: “The very greatest question is ‘Does God have a master plan?’ and, if so, what is it? The answer is that He does, and it carries many exciting details—all of which you can know. You will learn that God’s purpose is immutable, that it cannot be overthrown or defeated.
“You can also know of your place within it. In fact, if you read this entire book, you soon will.
“This volume answers every one of the most important questions that should be on your mind, including many others you would not know to ask—but need to understand. None of the answers are what you expect. Neither are they what ‘educated’ so-called ‘scholars and theologians’ teach, because none can teach what they were never taught—what they never learned.
“You were put on Earth to fulfill an astonishing purpose—you hold a potential far surpassing your very greatest expectations. Prepare now to be shocked at what it is—and inspired beyond your wildest imagination!”
Read the rest of The Awesome Potential of Man to understand your incredible human purpose. Within its pages, it shows how God “reveals the deep and secret things” throughout the Bible, and proves He wants “the light that dwells with Him” to also dwell within you.