Orange and black, bats and cats, images of Halloween are everywhere. The actual day is almost here. And for the past month, many have been celebrating it in some way or another by visiting haunted houses, fright farms or pumpkin patches. Halloween has grown darker over the years, and I’ve seen many articles on whether Christians should even participate in these October festivities.
For my part, I like and agree with an article I found years ago in The Pittsburgh Catholic titled “Halloween is a Complex Celebration.” Father Bober had this to say about the holiday, “Any casual observer knows that Halloween, like many other celebrations, has become a commercial ‘holiday.’ Wearing costumes of action figures and famous people, walking through neighborhoods and asking for treats can hardly be seen as offensive. As Catholics, we have long had a sense of cultural toleration. Admittedly, this has at times gotten us into trouble. But it has also enabled us to avoid a certain ‘puritanical’ sense that empties life of its vitality and excitement. Consequently, this benign aspect of Halloween would hardly be a problem for those of Catholic faith.”
We do celebrate Halloween. I have fond memories of trick-or-treating with my four siblings crammed into the back seat of a blue ford, driving to each location (we did not live in a subdivision), and in between the stops, flipping the smothering plastic masks up on top of our heads, the annoying elastic string snapping against our skin so we could breathe cool air. I wonder that we didn’t pass out from wearing those stifling plastic masks back then. Costumes have come a long way.
When my son was small, we lived in a subdivision. One Halloween, my sister and brother-in-law drove an hour and a half so our preschool-aged kids could trick-or-treat together in a neighborhood of townhouses. Prior to the fun event, my sister and I went costume shopping at The Disney Store (not particularly cheap). We were hugely excited.
Hook and Tinkerbell were not. Twelve houses and they were done. My sister and I were a bit shell-shocked. Did they not see how easy it was to get candy, compared to when we were young?
Halloween and Being Scared
Several Halloweens later, my son and his best friend became huge fans of horror movies. After a night of trick-or-treating, they would watch horror movies through the night, and the scarier, the better. They also have a tradition of attending Kennywood’s annual Phantom Fright Nights and the Cheeseman Fright Farm.
I wasn’t keen on horror movies, but I did find an article “Why Do We Like Watching Scary Movies” at Psychology Today that explains why people like to be scared. It helped me to understand because I’m not a fan of being scared at all. But having a teenage son can be tricky. Meg Meeker tells us in her book Strong Mothers, Strong Sons that while women bond through verbal communication, boys bond by just doing things together—yikes. Well, I decided to “bond” and go to the fright farm…twice…and inside, I hated every moment. Outside, I smiled. I have a vivid imagination, so I could not even remotely appreciate or relax while a chainsaw wielding masked man jumped onto our slow-moving, rickety wagon and revved his machine loudly over and over. But I did it to bond with my teenage son.
Let’s Go to the Movies!
Movies are also a way to bond, say Meg Meeker in the book mentioned above. Its’ now October 2013. We both had a day off, and I suggested we go a movie together. I love comedies! Especially, romantic comedies. And I love musicals! But I know that my son does not yet appreciate these particular genres. I decided that his future wife (if God’s will) can help him to one day appreciate these type of movies. After all, I was able to convert his dad to being a fan. He can easily recognize and sing along to any of the wonderful songs from The Sound of Music, South Pacific and Oklahoma.
What movie to see? I scanned the list, and, of course, there was a horror movie. My heart started racing. I didn’t really want to go to a horror movie. One of the last horror movies I saw was Friday the 13th…part 1! I can remember every single detail. To me going to a horror movie is the equivalent of getting on a roller coaster. I count every second until I can get back off. When I was younger, I tolerated them; now I dread them. But he’s a teenage boy, and he likes to be scared. And bonding is just being with him as Dr. Meeker says in her book…so horror it is.
The horror movie that year was The Conjuring. It’s reported that it was based on a true story. In an article in USA Today, one of the paranormal investigators insists that the movie’s harrowing moments actually happened. I read with interest that there were Catholic elements. So that was enough to intrigue me to go and at least learn about that part of the movie..and see it just once (because I will remember everything).
There we sat, in the last row, and I hunkered down. I fought the urge to cover my eyes and plug my ears. Basically, it was scary! Then to my surprise came an unexpected moment from my son (not from the movie, the unexpected was expected from the movie). It was a head-swiveling moment when my 13-year-old said with wide-eyed fear that he wanted to leave—now! A demon had just taken possession of the mother and she had begun spewing red.
What?!? Are you kidding? The king of Freddie and Jason movies wanted to leave? “We can’t leave! I have to see what happens,” I whispered.
Did I just say that? Here was my out, but I was emotionally invested and needed to know that the mother and her family would be okay. I probably should have left because there was a later scene that affected my 13-year-old enough that he had to sleep with the hallway light on for three full months.
The Conjuring—A Movie Review
I actually appreciated the movie for its Catholic contribution and am actually glad that I saw it for the very reasons that Deacon Steven Greydanus from Decentfilms.com points out below in his film review about The Conjuring that blends “a Catholic milieu beyond crucifixes and holy water.” Its strong points…
- Trust in God.
- The efficacy of baptism.
- The sanctity of family.
If you go to the review at Decentfilms.com, you will notice a statement by the famous movie reviewer Roger Egbert, who was a devoted Catholic: “Thirty years after The Exorcist, when it comes to fighting the powers of hell, the Catholic Church still has the heavy artillery.”
I have since learned that my son likes horror movies that are not “real.” And movies like The Exorcist and The Conjuring are very real. Bad guys in horror movie can be defeated by real men (even if it takes several movies), where demonic movies take the power of something beyond us, something supernatural—or as Roger Egbert says—the Church and God.
Let’s See Bewitched!
Enough of being scared. I can do it once in a while, but for me my Halloween go-to movie is Bewitched. My son watched it once. I guess we’re even.
What I love about Bewitched is that, despite many viewings, I still laugh out loud. By far, this is my favorite Nicole Kidman (raised Catholic) movie. I just adore her in this role, love the house she lives in, so charming, and love the clothes. All the characters, hysterically funny—Michael Cain, Kristin Chenoweth, Heather Burns—to name a few. And, of course, top it off with a very funny main lead, Will Ferrell. A very fun Halloween movie.
If you like to be scared and want the thrill of suspense and you are okay with the reality of demonic possession, watch The Conjuring. If you need loads of fun and laughter, and just pure fun, then it’s Samantha in Bewitched all the way!