“We Are Legion”: Primal Dreams and Screams in the Satanic Screen

  • Author(s): Carrol L. Fry
  • When: 2015-10
  • Where: Journal of Religion & Film
  • Satan figures prominently in the Christian tradition as the ultimate Other, the enemy of our species, and he has been a central villain first in literature and now in horror films. Why viewers enjoy films that scare them is a conundrum of long standing. An explanation might come from the work of a new generation of Darwinists who have expanded on the master's findings to develop the field of evolutionary biology. Scholars in these fields believe that adaptation to the environment and survival of the fittest created not only physical forms for species but also behaviors that were adaptive for our primal ancestors and are now part of our genetic makeup as whispers within that nudge our actions and beliefs. Our response to film and literature is an important form of that behavior, and evolutionary biology would suggest that the whisperings would lead us to respond with pleasure to primal narratives inherited from adaptive experiences of our Paleolithic and Neolithic forebears. Evolutionary biology suggests that fear of the Other would have been part of adaptation, and the Satan from the Christian tradition is one of the most pervasive. These narratives imbedded in the Satanic film have led to their continuing power for film audiences.

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