The Horror of Horror Movies

Halloween often culminates with curling up on the couch with a bucket of popcorn and scaring ourselves silly. Horror movies are trending, bringing in more and more dollars each year. Just ask the makers of It who raked in more than $13 million dollars with their clown-based horror film last month, making it the top-selling pre-sale movie in history. (Heebie Jeebie Alert!) While a couple of hours of heart-pumping horror may seem harmless, it isn’t. Here are five reasons to avoid horror movies this Halloween (and the rest of the year).

1. Your body keeps the score.

When you watch a scary movie, your body involuntarily reacts.

  • Your heart rate increases.
  • You may start to sweat.
  • Your muscles contract.
  • Your brain receives an increase of cortisol, a.k.a. the stress hormone.

Researchers call this “primal brain,” meaning your instincts kick in and your rational brain is no longer sitting behind the steering wheel. God has given you these instincts for protection in the face of an actual threat. We may try to convince ourselves that we are unaffected by what we watch, read, and listen to, but our bodies call our bluff. Even if we know what we’re viewing is “only a movie,” our bodies and brains respond with very real fear.

2. We don’t celebrate fear.

Listen carefully to Romans 8:12–15:

So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

Let me break it down. Without Christ, we live according to the flesh. Another way to think of it is that our sin nature is calling the shots. This way of living always leads to death. But Jesus rescued us. He adopted us into His family and freed us to live by the Spirit. Instead of walking toward death and darkness, we are now walking toward life and light. Because of this, we run away from fear, which is a terrible taskmaster. We run away from dark themes. We run away from the celebration of darkness. That is not who we are anymore.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery (Gal. 5:1).

3. The heart is a terrible thing to waste.

You stand guard over your own heart. Don’t let fear past the gate.

As you make entertainment choices today (and every day), consider this the target you want to hit:

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life (Prov. 4:23).

It’s your job to guard your heart (with the Lord’s help).

  • It’s not Hollywood’s job.
  • It’s not the movie theater’s job.
  • It’s not your friends’ job.
  • It’s not the maker of movie ratings’ job.

You stand guard over your own heart. Don’t let fear past the gate.

4. Peace is our secret weapon.

I’m often troubled by how many young women I encounter who struggle with crippling anxiety. As someone who has battled panic attacks myself, I do understand how debilitating anxiety and fear can be. However, through the long process of healing that included asking for help from a wise, older Christian woman, memorizing Scripture, and making the choice to avoid those influences that induced panic in me (such as scary movies), I’ve learned that peace is possible because of Jesus. I am no longer terrorized by fear, anxiety, and panic.

Peace is possible because of Jesus.

There are so many verses about peace in God’s Word that we could never cram them in a single blog post. I’d suggest you look them up (use an online Bible search engine like, and post them everywhere you can: your phone lockscreen, your mirror, your car steering wheel. It’s been years since I struggled with panic attacks, but I still keep a stack of verses about peace in my wallet, just in case I need a dose of truth. Ephesians 2:14–18 is my favorite passage about peace:

For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Circle back. Read that first verse again. “For he himself is our peace.” Christ nailed our deepest fears to the cross. He took care of death. He defeated our greatest enemy. We are invited to trade in our deepest fears and receive back Christ instead.

5. Seize the opportunity.

Many may celebrate fear tonight, but we don’t have to be among them. Halloween hands us an opportunity to stand out and be different, to celebrate life and light instead of death and darkness.

Christ nailed our deepest fears to the cross.

You can still gather some friends and a giant tub of popcorn (extra butter here, please!), or enjoy your favorite candy (Reeses here!). But why not pick a movie that makes you laugh until your sides hurt instead of shaking with fear? Or makes you think instead of inducing panic? 

About the Author

Erin Davis

Erin Davis is married to her high school sweetheart, Jason, and together they parent four energetic boys on their small farm in the midwest. She is the author of more than a dozen books and Bible studies, the content manager for Revive Our Hearts, and a host of the Grounded videocast. You can hear her teach on The Deep Well with Erin Davis podcast.