Academic journal article Journal of Religion and Popular Culture

The Horror, the Horror: What Kind of (Horror) Movie Is the Apocalypse?

Academic journal article Journal of Religion and Popular Culture

The Horror, the Horror: What Kind of (Horror) Movie Is the Apocalypse?

Article excerpt

A Double Feature

[1] The simple answer to this article's titular question is that the Apocalypse is a double feature, hence "the horror, the horror," (1) but that simple answer requires explication. The most memorable and popular features of the Apocalypse are the woes of the final days, including the spectacle of monstrous beasts, and the violent end of the "world," but the following article tries to demonstrate that apostasy/failure and the overwhelming, divine Empire are two deeper horrors. The article does so by joining the Book of Revelation with apocalyptic and horror cinema. Like the Apocalypse, apocalyptic film often exhorts its audience to avoid catastrophic internal weaknesses. The second sometimes explores supernatural possessions, which are in individualistic versions of Revelation's overwhelming divine Empire. Thus, film casts light upon the apocalyptic horror of apostasy and the horror in the Apocalypse's imagination of the absorbing divine. Thereby, film raises questions about the wisdom of conforming to such infinite scripts.

Apocalypse as Community Maintenance, From Final Catastrophe and Revelation 12-14 to Revelation 2-3

[2] In common parlance and in popular film, the apocalypse signifies "the mother of all catastrophes," the world's tragic finale. However, in the Greek in which the New Testament was written, an apocalypse is a revelation; therefore, the last book in the New Testament is The Revelation or Apocalypse. While that book forecasts the calamitous end of the kingdoms of the earth, those kingdoms are no friends to the communities of the Apocalypse. (2) More importantly, the Apocalypse also predicts the arrival of the New Jerusalem as the imminent replacement of the kingdoms of the earth. In contrast to apocalyptic films, the Apocalypse does not fear this end (see Walsh forthcoming). It is the text's glorious hope.

[3] The Apocalypse's present is another matter. Most historical-critical scholars situate the Apocalypse in cities and kingdoms in first-century Roman Asia Minor whose elites were trying to advance emperor worship to win political and economic favour with the Roman Empire. Most of these critics also see the dragon and the monstrous beasts of Revelation 12-13 as an imaginative, allegorical extension of this situation. While no Christians have died because of their refusal to participate in emperor worship (except possibly for Ananias; see Rev 2:13), the Apocalypse imagines that possibility and exhorts its readers to become martyrs, if need be, to avoid such idolatry (e.g., Maier 2002, 1-39; Frilingos 2004, 117-18).

[4] The Apocalypse's revelation of the divine kingdom's imminent replacement of this evil empire supports this call for perseverance, for costly loyalty to the community's (religious) traditions. This ethic is most evident in the warnings to the communities in Revelation 2-3 (cf. Rev 14:12; 16:15; 22:11). While most popular and cinematic interpretations ignore that section in favour of apocalyptic woes, monsters, and catastrophe, the "perseverance of the saints" is a major concern of the Apocalypse. If the thrill of apocalyptic lies in knowing that one is among the elect few in the right in the instant before the end (Derrida 1982, 84), the horror of apocalyptic is the fear that one may be lost at the very last moment or that one may not be special and/or messianic. Surely, then, one of the reasons that apocalyptic imagines martyrdom, woes, monsters, and catastrophe is to enjoin its readers to avoid losing their place among those finally chosen and to warrant its ethical call for steadfastness. (3) Any external threat, which is, not incidentally, clearly limited by the larger divine sovereignty, is incidental to this ethical concern.

[5] If Revelation imagines the empire and its lackeys watching to see and then to dispense with those who will not worship the emperor, it also imagines heavenly characters who oversee this empire's crimes. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.