LOS ANGELES (Christian Examiner) – Christians have supported multiple movie genres over the years, including comedies, dramas and even science fiction.
And while horror movies generally don't make the list, film writers Carey and Chad Hayes are trying to change that.
Their latest film, "The Conjuring 2" (R), opens this weekend, telling what they say is the true story of a 1977 demonic possession in London and focusing once again on the work of Ed and Lorraine Warren, the real-life investigators who also were spotlighted in 2013's "The Conjuring" – which the Hayes brothers co-wrote.
The Hayes are outspoken Christians, and they acknowledge that their movies aren't for everyone. But they also believe that the films fit within the larger framework of movies that reflect a Christian worldview.
"This movie is not about glorifying evil, but it's about the triumph of good over evil," Carey told the Christian Examiner.
To be clear: "The Conjuring 2" is not a film for the entire family - at least not ones with children. Audiences may be scared silly – PluggedIn's Paul Asay called the first film perhaps the scariest film he had ever reviewed — but in the end, the Hayes brother say, moviegoers will experience a happy ending ... and perhaps walk out talking about spiritual matters, too.
"People [in Hollywood] have started to recognize that Carey and I write [faith] into a lot of films, because we believe it's incredibly powerful, and we believe the world is ready to see it – for such a time as this," Chad said.
The Christian Examiner spoke this week with the Hayes brothers. Following is a transcript, edited for clarity:
Christian Examiner: Christian are often skeptical of horror films or thriller films. Why do you think Christians should be more open to this genre – specifically, the types you are involved in?
Carey: Ed and Lorraine Warren were very strong Christians and were using their God-given gifts to help thy neighbor. And no matter what that is – whether it's somebody has fallen on the street or somebody needs assistance or somebody is being haunted – if you as a Christian can help them out in any way, you should do it and not run from it, because good and evil exist. Read the Bible.
Chad: Lorraine will tell you that when they were on their cases, they really didn't worry about what other people thought or said of them, because the truth existed between them and God, and they weren't worried. What we've tried to do is create films with redemption. They have happy endings. There's no sex. There's no violence. There's no swearing. It's rated R because it's a very scary story that happened to real people.
Carey: It's a true story.
Chad: Yes, a true story. So the idea of going and supporting these films and having one person come to the Lord or a dozen people come to the Lord ...
Carey: I also believe that Conjuring 2 is a love story. And it's a really strong love story between Ed and Lorraine, who respect each other, who stick with each other's wishes, who work together, who want to help other people.
Chad: It's an opportunity, we feel, to open up the world to, "Wow, does this really exist?" For the first "Conjuring" we did a private screening for some family and friends, and we got a call from a dad the next day who had the most amazing conversation with His son who was having some bouts with the demonic and hadn't really shared it with his dad, and it came out while driving home with his dad that some of that was stuff was happening. His dad was really blown away, and the kid was really scared that it could get worse instead of better. The kid is a Christian to this day.
Carey: This movie is not about glorifying evil, but it's about the triumph of good over evil.
CE: Historically, people have viewed horror and thriller movies as films that are intended to scare – and even intended to make the person walk out feeling scared. How do you make such a movie without it appearing that evil has won the day?
Carey: Well, because evil doesn't win the day in our movies. I'll give you an example. When we did "The Conjuring" opening, we went to different movie theaters and stood in the back and watched people's reaction to the movie. We were at this one theater, and this girl gets up and she's very upset, and she's walking away with her boyfriend. I followed them out to the lobby. She wanted to go, and I said, "Hey, for what it's worth, I'm the writer. Are you super scared right now?" She said, "Yeah," and I said, "Trust me, this movie has such a happy ending. You will love it." And she went back in, and she came out afterwards and she said, "Oh my, I can't believe I almost walked out of that" – because it was such a happy ending at the end. They are terrifying to experience, but when you go to a horror movie, it's like getting on a roller coaster – I know what I've signed up for, but I'm safe.
Chad: Carey and I were approached a number of times after the first film by priests and by ministers, and a couple of times by youth pastors who showed parts of "The Conjuring" to open a discussion within their teen groups – to discuss certain aspects of what certain people in the world might be going through and how we can help them. [They examined] whether this could be true – "let's look it up in the Bible." We found this niche to write these films that are redemptive – like you said, in most horror genre films, evil has won and it's a set-up for the next movie: The demon is going to get someone in the next move. That isn't what we set out to write. These all have happy endings. We're calling this one a love story that happens to be in a scary setting. There is a notion out there of: "Why am I going to watch a scary movie that's just going to leave me scared and not feeling good?" Well, if you leave "The Conjuring 2" feeling that way, we haven't done a good job.
CE: Tell me about your faith journey.
Chad: Carey and I have been believers most of our lives. Our parents are strong Christians. We went to church every Sunday – grew up very nuclear in the sense that we had dinner every night as a family. Sundays were family day. We would go to church and then we would do something fun as a family. So our parents led by really great example. They are still married and are in their mid-80s. Lots of our uncles and cousins are missionaries and pastors and ministers.
CE: Is there one verse that summaries your belief system, your theology, when you write these?
Chad: Yes. It's Ephesians 6:12 – "for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil, in the heavenly realms." And 6:16 as well: "Take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one." That's in our office.
"The Conjuring 2" is rated R for terror and horror violence.
Michael Foust has covered the film industry for more than a decade. Follow him on Twitter: @MichaelFoust