Posts Tagged ‘Devil’

Reel List: Top 5 – Horror

Posted: October 30, 2014 by jperritt in Horror, Reel Lists
Tags: , , , ,

Just a few days ago, I made some comments about the change in seasons and how that’s connected to our pre-fall existence.  I also said that we like to capture these seasons by enjoying seasonal foods, as well as, flicks.  With that in mind, we at Reel Thinking thought we would compile another Reel List for you to enjoy (or, not enjoy).  Let us state up front that neither of us are huge fans of the horror genre.  Therefore, some of our horror films may seem a little less horror than your average horror film fan (I can only handle so much gore).  So, for those of you die-hard horror fans, please sound off in the comment section and compile your own list. [Blaine’s list will be posted tomorrow]

John’s Top 5:

daniel-danger-psycho-poster-redPsycho – For me, this is the all-time greatest horror film ever made.  Hitchcock was a master of suspense and I am still amazed that this film is creepy in 2014.  Anthony Perkins played the roll of Norman Bates in phenomenal fashion – it was Oscar worthy.  Killing off a notable lead in the beginning paved the way for many plots to follow suit.  Even though I still know the ending, I am amazed at the erie feel I still receive.

What Lies Beneath – Some of you may be scratching your heads on this one.  Robert what_lies_beneathZemeckis is an excellent director and a film like this shows his versatility.  Plus, almost anything with Harrison Ford is worth watching (almost! Crystal Skull was a horror film of different sorts).  Again, the acting by Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer was excellent and the story wasn’t sacrificed for the scare. If you can make it through this movie without jumping or being slightly scared of the water, it’s probably because you’ve watching one too many Saw movies.

signs-posterSigns – If you’ve followed this site at all, you know that I’m (still) an M. Knight Shyamalan fan.  This was one of the most fun theater experiences I’ve ever had.  Everyone was screaming, everyone was shouting, and most people were covering their eyes (Normally this kind of thing bothers me, but it was fun).  Again, the acting was great.  Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix worked well together and this was one of the few movies where the kids didn’t bother me.  Plus, there’s several notable scenes – the baby monitor, the corn field, the pantry, and the basement.  It’s also as funny as it is scary.

Jaws – Okay, some of you may have objections to Jaws being a horror movie.  Object all you want, but picturejawsposter yourself in the open water with a great white swimming under you…pretty horrific, right?  Jaws was the birth of the summer blockbuster and if you can watch this without being slightly scared of the water (sound familiar?), then you’re not human.  Steven Spielberg worked masterfully to create anticipation (John Williams helped with that, just a tad), by not showing audiences the shark until half-way through the film.  Although the film is tense throughout, Robert Shaw’s dialogue on the ship at night is the highlight.

devil-posterDevil – I wanted to put a more recent film on here.  Plus, not mentioning a film entitled DEVIL for top horror movies seems like it’s breaking a rule somehow.  For those of you who know anything about this film, Shyamalan is attached to it (he wrote the story).  However, not only is this movie pretty scary, the theology that runs throughout is impressive.  It begins with Scripture and has biblical themes until the credits roll.  It is a violent film, but it doesn’t relish in gore like so many (less-creative) horror films.  I’ve written more about it here.

Just so you know, I don’t think all of these are classics and I don’t think this is the definitive horror list.  I do, however, enjoy these films and think they offer some good scares if you’re ever in the mood.

Devil-Poster-Short-4-8-10-kcDevil was a movie that surprised me in many ways.  I was surprised that the gore was minimized.  I was surprised at its overall quality. And, I was surprised it was a movie which was ultimately about faith, repentance and forgiveness.

Being a youth director, I’m often on the lookout for movies that would be good to watch in a group setting.  I want to find films that are fun to watch, while containing some great biblical parallels.  Unfortunately, many of the movies that are explicitly Christian are heavy on the cheese factor.  However, there are also those films that go a bit too far and have content unsuitable for a youth group setting. Devil is one of those films that’s right on the fence.  While it definitely contains violence, it is minimized.  Each time a person is killed by the Devil, the lights go out so the viewer doesn’t see exactly what happens.  Even the aftermath isn’t maximized as some movies tend to do.

However, I think many Christians shutter that I would ever consider showing this film to students.  But, they don’t shutter because of the violence or language.  They shutter because I would consider showing a film called Devil to teenagers.  They shutter because many Christian don’t like to talk about the Devil.  They shutter because the Devil is just plain awful, so why watch a movie about him?

Well, not only do I want my students to watch Devil because it is ultimately about faith, repentance, and forgiveness, but I want them to be reminded that the Devil is very real.  I want them to have the reminder from Peter which says, “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” [1 Peter 5:8b]  Oh yeah, that verse is quoted at the beginning of the film – imagine that, quoting Scripture at the beginning of “secular” movie!?

You see, I’m afraid we may have swung the pendulum too far in the other direction.  Yes, Satan is the king of liars, he is the father of darkness, and yes he is pure evil, but abstaining from films with his depiction can make him seem mythical.  Tim Challies had a recent article (which was in reference to a sermon) entitled Do you have a personal relationship with Satan?  As the article states,

We need to believe that Satan exists, that he is powerful and that he will stop at nothing to hurt, hinder and destroy us. He is not an idea. He is not a theory or hypothesis or explanation. He is real, and it is crucial that we remember and believe it.

This is ultimately why I want to show this movie to our youth.  The Devil just seems like a fairy-tale to many of them.  Not only does this movie bring the realities of the Devil’s prowling home to us, but the realities of what hanging on to our hate does to us.  The movie communicates the power of forgiveness and the freedom that accompanies it.  So, this is why I wish I could show it to my students. I wish they could be scared by the realities of Satan.  I wish they could see the illustrations of repentance.  I wish they could see the power of faith that frees one from the Devil.  And, I wish they could see how a film can bring the realities of Scripture to bear in their hearts in a fresh way.

But, the movie is PG-13 and has violent and scary images, so it’s probably best to avoid such a film.

I saw The Devil Wears Prada years ago at the beach with my wife and actually enjoyed it. Just recently, it came on television and we watched it again and I was surprised at the theology behind it. I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised, look at the title, they tell you it’s a story about the Devil…and it is.

The devil is in the form of a woman, Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), who is a highly successful – by worldly standards – fashion model icon. She hires a “fat, smart girl” (her words) named Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway), to serve as a secretary in her company. Andy knows nothing of fashion, or who Priestly is for that matter, but applies for an opening and gets it. She learns the ropes and becomes a blossoming disciple of “the devil”, however, she makes sacrifices to do so.

As I mentioned, Miranda is referred to as the devil in this film, because she acts like Satan in high heels. People even use satanic lingo when referring to her – “You’ve sold your soul (to her)”, “You’ve gone over to the dark side” – speaking of those in Miranda’s service. Everyone is fearful of her and is serving her at all costs. It is said that Andy emails at 2 a.m, everyone is constantly on call, they give late hours, sacrificing time with friends and family, just to make the devil happy.

And this is exactly what we do. By nature, we are inclined to sin, which means we are repulsed by righteousness. Our flesh, the world, and the Devil are working against us, and we give in to those, because we are fallen. By God’s grace, he’s given us the Holy Spirit to fight the three stooges. However, we fail daily and go back to our sinful idol- worship, which is another way of saying we are serving the devil.

We are always worshipping. There is never a moment in time when we cease to worship. We are either worshipping God or a false god. We are either exercising faith, or placing our “faith” in an idol. Idols promise us what only God can give us, however, sometimes they seem like they will fulfill us. Just as we saw in the character of Andy.

Andy began to play the part to appease the devil. She began to know about clothing, dress differently, act differently, and serve Miranda at the cost of her friends. She was at her every beck and call, even though she could never please her. “If I do something right she doesn’t even acknowledge it, if I do something wrong she’s vicious.” she exclaims.

When Miranda asks for the impossible (the manuscript to the unreleased Harry Potter book) she quits. As she tells her boyfriend she quit serving the devil, he says “You’re free!”

As she’s talking with Nigel (Stanley Tucci) she says that her personal life is hanging by a thread, to which Nigel replies, “Let me know when your whole life goes up in smoke. That means it’s time for a promotion.” We kill ourselves serving the devil, false gods, functional saviors. Just as Miranda doesn’t keep her promise to take Emily (Emily Blunt) to Paris, the devil makes promises he can’t keep. He promises us joy and happiness, but those are fleeting.

Finally Andy sees the level of her depravity when Miranda says, “I see a great deal of myself in you.” Andy is disgusted by this statement, but then realizes she has become the devil. She has betrayed those she loved and sacrificed people to get ahead. She then repents, as we see her turn her back (literally) on the devil.

We all serve functional saviors, false gods, idols and it is Satan that is selling them. Whether they are our body image, money, joy, sex, fame, our children or spouse, family, anything can be an idol. Often times idols are good things. As Mark Driscoll says, “An idol is a good thing that becomes a god-thing, which is a bad thing.” Whenever we serve these false gods, we are ultimately serving the devil and that only promises us pain.

Thankfully we do have a Savior who walked this earth and lived a life of complete devotion to the Lord. Where we are prone to idol-worship, Jesus only worshiped his Father. Where we buy into the lies of the devil, Jesus met the devil face-to-face and defeated him. And by faith, we receive his righteous acts. Be cautious of the lies the devil feeds you and know there is only One who deserves our undivided service. The devil may wear Prada, but Christ’s heel is going to crush his head.

Although I am not sure that I can pronounce his name correctly, M. Knight Shyamalan has become one of my favorite filmmakers. The Village (2004) is part of my top 10 films of all time to be sure (yes, it is even better than The Sixth Sense). While Shyamalan’s skill as a director is noteworthy, it is his story writing that intrigues me the most. He tells some of the best stories – asking profound questions and offering interesting answers to those questions.

The highly underrated 2010 film, Devil, is one of those great stories. I must say at the outset, however, that the film is scary. While Devil does cause the heart to race at times and invoke sudden movement out of your seat, what makes it truly scary is the weight of the subject matter taken up in the movie. The film is after all about…the Devil. I know that I shouldn’t assume that everyone who may read this post believes that the Devil (or Satan) is real. Interestingly enough, Shyamalan begins his story by quoting 1 Peter 5:8, “…the Devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Let’s assume he is real.

I will refrain from a full recap of the film for two reasons. 1) Shyamalan’s movies are best left to be enjoyed with as little plot “pre-release” as possible. His classic “twist-endings” are better if you know nothing going in. 2) I want to keep this post as short as possible so that you have some time to see this film (remember the scary disclaimer, of course).

With that being said…

Devil is a story about repentance and forgiveness. The big question is whether there is any hope for those who deserve eternity with the Devil in Hell. The film presents the Devil as a being who occasionally takes human form in order to publicly torment those who are on their way to Hell. He makes this occasional appearance in order to make sure that people don’t forget his existence and to display his power over them. One character comments, “He always kills the last victim in front of the person who loves them most – to make cynics of them all.” The Devil wants people to be hopelessly cynical about the human condition.

That is just what Detective Bowden (Chris Messina) is – a cynic. When questioned whether he believes in the Devil, he says, “No…I don’t believe in him…people are bad enough by themselves.” As someone who recently lost his family in a hit and run accident, Bowden has every right to be cynical. People do bad things. It is that simple. As far as he is concerned, bad people deserve punishment. He is a man of justice after all.

Early in the film, Bowden is given this piece of advice, “Your ability to forgive is going to determine the course of your life more than anything else.’’ Although he is resistant to these words, as the story unfolds, he and the audience are forced to consider the power of true repentance and forgiveness. The big question = “Is their hope for the damned?”

I would love to have coffee with M. Knight. His films always include such powerful themes. I always want to know more. While I won’t give away his answer to the question above, I will make a few observations…(I would love to hear your comments too – this film provides a lot for discussion)

First, this film gives the Devil too much power. What makes Devil so scary is to witness the destructive abilities of the Evil One. While I do not want to minimize Satan’s ability to reek havoc, I want to remind you that God is in ultimate control. The biblical book of Job, helps to illustrate God’s sovereign power – even over Satan’s actions in Job’s life. We must remember that God is ultimately in charge. Satan cannot make a move without God’s permission and ultimately for God’s purposes.

Second, this film presents a false dualism – God and Satan are two equal but, opposite powers. This is simply not true. One character in the film notes, “If the Devil is real, then God must be real too.” While this makes sense, the film does not say how this is good news. The existence of God is only good if we know that he has power over the Devil. According to the Scriptures, Jesus Christ has already defeated Satan in his work on the cross and his resurrection from the dead. Hebrews 2:14-15 says that “…through death he (Jesus) might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”

Third, true repentance is powerful. Because of Jesus Christ there is hope for the damned! All people deserve eternity in the unpleasant company of the Devil, but the good news is that Jesus has closed the door of Hell for people who confess their sins and lean wholly on his work alone for their salvation. The reason the gospel is “good news” is that followers of Christ are enabled to freely admit their sinfulness – we need not fear condemnation! Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

According the film, people meet the Devil because they refuse to admit their sin. One character says, “They won’t see themselves as they really are…The lies that we tell ourselves introduce us to him.” This is too true. Satan wants us to think, “I’m not that bad” or “It’s not my fault I did that.” The truth is that everyone is a sinner and deserves Hell. 1 John 1:8-9 says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” True repentance brings real forgiveness!

I am grateful for films like Devil. That may sound strange, but it is true. Stories like this provide opportunities to discuss the essential questions of human life. The questions asked by writers and filmmakers like M. Knight Shyamalan are questions that the God of the Bible has answers for. What can be more essential than answering, “Is there any hope for those destined for Hell?” In Jesus Christ we can say – Yes!! Jesus is our only hope!

Coming Soon

Posted: March 17, 2012 by jperritt in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

Here’s what you can look forward to this week at Reel Thinking:

Monday – Snapshots
Tuesday – Devil
Wednesday – Wednesday’s Weekend Poll
Thursday & Friday – The Hunger Games

Ghost Rider 2: Fighting the Devil

Posted: February 17, 2012 by John C. Kwasny, Ph.D. in Action, Drama, Sci-Fi
Tags: , , ,

Spoiler alert!! At the end of the first installment of Ghost Rider, Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) is actually released from his curse of bringing evildoers to hell as the devil’s bounty hunter. But Blaze angers the devil (also known as Mephistopheles) by taking full ownership of the demonic curse, committing himself to use it instead to fight the devil! Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance continues his crusade against the devil, as Blaze attempts to protect a young boy from being made into the anti-christ by Mephistopheles. If successful, Blaze may be able to be free from his Ghost Rider curse forever!

So, Christian, what do we do with stories like this? Much of the general population only reaffirms their belief that the devil is totally make-believe when they watch these sorts of movies. Unfortunately, even many Christians can hold a cognitive belief in Satan, but really not think much about his very real work in this world. In order to hold the right view of Satan, we don’t need a movie like Ghost Rider at all–we need the Word of God. Scripture tells us that the devil schemes against God’s people (Eph. 6:11); that he is a roaring lion, our adversary, seeking to destroy us (I Peter 5:8); and, that he has been sinning from the beginning (I John 3:8). The devil is a real being that has always hated God’s people!

What the Ghost Rider movies remind us is that there really is such a thing as a devil and spiritual warfare. People are regularly attacked by the devil and his minions. The name Mephistopheles (used in German Faustian lore for centuries as another name for the devil) is actually a combination of two words which mean “destroyer” and “liar.” But the question is, what does spiritual warfare look like? It clearly doesn’t involve being turned into some fiery skeleton who fights demons with fire and brimstone. And, unlike Johnny Blaze, none of us are on an individual crusade to save the world from the anti-christ.

The truth about spiritual warfare begins with the gospel reality spoken of in I John 3:8, “Christ has come to destroy the works of the devil.” The perfect life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ brought the true death blow to the devil. As was prophesied in Genesis 3:15, the devil bruised the “heel” of Christ, but Jesus has crushed the serpent’s head. For all of His life on earth, Jesus resisted the temptations of the devil, freed people from demonic possession and oppression, and regularly demonstrated His lordship over demonic powers. Our success in battling the devil begins with the finished work of Christ!

The second essential truth related to fighting the devil is God’s perfect sovereignty over all creation. As we learn so concretely in the Book of Job, the LORD has Satan on a “divine leash.” The devil cannot do anything against God’s people unless God allows it. Movies like Ghost Rider and Ghost Rider 2 typically have no reference to God–it’s just humans fighting alone against the demonic. God doesn’t really figure into the formula. So it makes the devil look to be much more powerful than he really is, ruling and terrorizing a God-less world. But the good news is that God is in total control of His entire universe, including the activities of the devil.

Finally, according to Ephesians 6, the Christian is equipped with the armor of God to do battle against the devil’s schemes. We have spiritual weapons at our disposal–faith, truth, righteousness, the gospel, the Word of God, prayer, etc. Johnny Blaze has none of these weapons to fight the devil. He is totally on his own with his fiery motorcycle and chain. The Christian is never alone; he has the weaponry of the Spirit. The Christian has the strength of Christ Jesus. As we depend more and more on the grace of God, our strength is renewed each day to deal with the attacks of the devil. And, as our mind is renewed by the Spirit, we can defend our minds against his lies and schemes.

So as exciting as it may seem to be the Ghost Rider, and spit fire at the devil–our spiritual warfare is much more effective. Thanks to the completed work of Jesus, our adversary the devil is already doomed. As the people of God, our warfare against Satan is under the command of Jesus Christ, the lover of our soul. We have nothing to fear and we will never be ultimately defeated. As soldiers of the army of God, we rest in the fact of our everlasting victory and Satan’s complete and utter destruction!

Ghost Rider 2: Who owns your soul?

Posted: February 16, 2012 by John C. Kwasny, Ph.D. in Action, Drama, Sci-Fi
Tags: , , ,

Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way: Yes, it’s true, I am a huge Nicolas Cage fan.  I will pretty much see any movie he stars in, no matter how terrible it is.  And, yes, I know that Cage has probably never turned down a screenplay he’s read! Even more pathetic is the fact that I will watch many of his movies over and over again (especially National Treasure, Con-Air, and The Rock, to name just a few). To me, Cage’s films epitomize the old-school mindless “popcorn” matinee genre.

So, yes, I even saw the first Ghost Rider movie (several times, actually).  It also helped that the movie was based on a comic book–hard to turn that down! As you can guess, it received terrible reviews as corny, silly, and downright idiotic. That may be fairly accurate; but that movie, and it’s sequel, certainly provide great discussion fodder for Christians. How can it not, since the whole plot of the series centers on a deal with the devil!

In case you missed the original Ghost Rider, let me summarize it for you (warning: spoilers from here on out). Johnny Blaze (Cage) is the son of motorcycle stuntman Barton Blaze. When Barton finds out he has terminal cancer, Johnny chooses to sell his soul to Mephistopheles (the devil) to save his dad. But the devil deceives Johnny and Barton dies in a motorcycle stunt.  In his grief, Johnny leaves the carnival, his family, and his girlfriend, pursuing a death-defying career of stuntriding.  Later, the devil meets Johnny again, proposing to release his soul if he will become his “Ghost Rider” and defeat his demonic son, Blackheart, who wants to produce all hell on earth. In the new Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Johnny continues to battle the devil who is now trying to take human form. Blaze still carries the “curse” of the Ghost Rider, but he attempts to use it against the devil instead of for him (more on this subject in the next post).

Stories about people selling their souls to the devil have been a part of Christian folklore for centuries. Faust, in the 16th century, most famously developed the idea of a person’s ability to exchange his soul for power, youth, wealth, or knowledge.  This plotline has become known in literature as a “Faustian bargain.”  In many of the stories, including Ghost Rider, the person who sells his soul finds a way to trick the devil and get out of the pact (typically on a technicality!).

Now you may scoff at the whole idea of selling one’s soul to the devil. But think with me for a moment about the real problem with this fantastical idea: the humanistic premise that WE own our souls in the first place!  Where the devil has deceived people throughout the ages is with the lie that we own ourselves.  Grounded in that lie, we end up believing that life is just a matter of whom WE choose to GIVE our soul to!  We are just free agents, dealing our souls to whomever makes us the best offer. So, if the devil offers more, we take it!

But the truth according to God’s Word is that our souls are condemned to hell from birth, due to Adam’s sin. We have souls that are absolutely dead to God–by nature we are “children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). Our souls are enslaved to sin, held captive in darkness, and subject to God’s holy anger.  So to think that people are just “neutral” players who are free to either give their soul to Satan or to God totally ignores the Biblical view of humanity.

So the real devil’s goal is not to make a deal with you for your soul.  Instead, he thinks he is powerful enough to keep you from having your soul freed by the grace of God!  The devil seeks to keep you dead in your sins, entrapped in the world of darkness. And, yes, he does this by tempting and seducing people by the false promises of power, pleasure, wealth, and knowledge.  He strives to convince people that the only way to profit is to let him “keep” their souls.

These silly movies can and should force us back to the Bible to learn the truth of God, Satan, and our souls.  Jesus Himself  gives us a strong dose of reality in Matthew 16:26, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”  If only Johnny Blaze knew the immense worth of Jesue Christ!