Blending Faith and Fear

The director of 'The Exorcism of Emily Rose' is a devout Christian for whom creating horror films is an expression of faith

Growing up as a fundamentalist Christian, Scott Derrickson says he developed an intimate understanding of fear. Now a filmmaker, Derrickson hopes to instill some of that terror in his audience with horror movies like "The Exorcism of Emily Rose."

A graduate of USC film school, Derrickson co-wrote and directed "Emily Rose," which opens nationally Friday. Though he is no longer a fundamentalist, Derrickson remains a devout Christian whose faith infuses his work.

"I think that fundamentalists instruct their children and their converts to be afraid of the world and to be afraid of those who are different from them,'' Derrickson said in a recent interview with Beliefnet at a sidewalk table outside a popular café in Glendale, Calif. "I'm talking about the kind of fear that is paralyzing."

Derrickson has parlayed that fear into a career that also includes "Hellraiser: Inferno" (2000), the latest installment in the Clive Barker franchise, which in Derrickson's hands has a moral (albeit violent) sensibility. He says "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" is the result of his efforts to fuse his faith with his artistic goals.


"I'm trying to portray human life in its totality," Derrickson said. "I'm trying to get at moral and spiritual subjects from a different point of view than most Christians usually take creatively."

According to the talking points of the culture wars, Hollywood should be enemy territory for someone like Derrickson. There's a perception that Christians and the film industry don't mix. But the alleged polarization is not so black and white within the industry, where Christian filmmakers have been responsible for some of the highest grossing movies in recent years, including "Elf," "Bruce Almighty," and the "X-Men" series.

Derrickson, who sports a ponytail, square-framed black glasses, and a wispy goatee, became a Christian when he attended a children's program at a local church. He later attended a strict fundamentalist Christian school. His family also became Christians, though not fundamentalists. Mostly though, they were a family of film lovers who sometimes attended three movies a day.

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