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

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Derrickson attended Biola University-a Christian school where students commit to abstain from alcohol, tobacco, and even immodest attire. When Derrickson arrived at the La Mirada, Calif., campus, he considered it liberal.

At Biola, Derrickson began scrutinizing his fundamentalist beliefs, which led to an almost complete abandonment of his faith. In the end, Christianity withstood the interrogation, though fundamentalism did not. His freedom from fundamentalism, he said, caused his creativity to blossom. It's like his brain began to expand, he said.

"The momentum of my creative life and intellectual growth is still the momentum of breaking out of fundamentalism," Derrickson said. "Because of that I'm very grateful for it. But I'm also grateful that at the center of it was something that I still believe to be true-those fundamentals of faith."

Derrickson now attends Hollywood Presbyterian Church and describes himself as an orthodox Christian who adheres to the teachings in the Apostle's Creed.

When they're done well, Derrickson said, horror films blend terror and beauty and can enlighten viewers about themselves and God.

"The Exorcism of Emily Rose" features the mainstays of horror movies-guttural demonic threats, religious symbolism, and prolonged suspense that magnifies shocking revelations. But Derrickson also aimed to make it the thinking person's scare fest. Based on a true story, the movie is a hybrid, a horror flick crossed with a courtroom drama. It uses disquieting demonic activity as a foundation to provoke viewers to examine their assumptions about belief and unbelief, faith and doubt, and God and the devil. The movie received a standing ovation at the prestigious Venice Film Festival.


"The most rational conclusion is to believe that the demonic is real."

_Related Features
  • An Interview With Scott Derrickson
  • Glimpses of Demons
  • "The Devil Is Real"
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