Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Terence Fisher: Horror, Myth, and Religion by Paul Leggett

Terence Fisher: Horror, Myth, and ReligionTerence Fisher: Horror, Myth, and Religion by Paul Leggett

"Please - I never made horror films. They're fairy tales for adults." — Terence Fisher, London Daily Telegraph, Nov. 27, 1976

Fisher's spiritual orientation is a mixture of myth, fairy tale and Christian doctrine. ... [he] remains one of the few directors in cinema history with a clear, spiritual outlook.
This book is simply fantastic as well as being extremely easy to read. The author groups his considerations into different themes which illustrate Fisher's cinematic worldview. He doesn't ignore the negative in his subject. Even films that are praised highly may be less than perfect and the author is candid about this. But reading this discussion of Fisher's films soon brings to mind how uncritical many other directors and studios have been about their worldview.

I came away with a new list of films to watch and many specific ideas about what to look for in all horror films. How are good and evil defined? Are all supernatural influences considered equal or are some superior to others? Does science trump everything or is there an acknowledgment of other forces at work?

In fact, this book could be considered a primer in looking at all films with such a lens. That is, if one wants to read about horror, Christianity, and movies.


I first heard of Terence Fisher when Christopher Lee died. Several articles mentioned a passion project of Lee's called The Devil Rides Out, directed by Fisher. Looking for the movie, I became aware of this book in Steven D. Greydanus' article The Cross and the Vampire: Religious Themes in Terence Fisher’s Hammer Horrors, which I highly recommend. A kind and generous Happy Catholic reader gave me this book as a "tip" and I gratefully devoured it in less than a week.

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