People often forget how much horror there is in the Bible.
The Old Testament, in particular, spends a considerable amount of time describing the worst things human beings do to each other in full awareness: child sacrifice, rape, torture, incest and murder.
As a Catholic making “Deliver Us,” I wanted themes that wrestle with “the problem of evil.” Why would an all good and all powerful God allow evil to flourish in the world?
My favorite film professor at USC, Drew Casper, was an ex-Jesuit priest. He said to us, “Horror is the only genre of film that mainstream audiences will accept where you can make God and Divinity the subject of your film.”
Too many horror films glorify evil. They seem to celebrate it and treat it with friendly amusement. We open our film with something profoundly evil. It is humanity at its lowest, treating other humans like animals and using religion to justify their unjustifiable acts.
This sets the stage to end the film on a hopeful note with themes of redemption, forgiveness and the belief that only love can heal the world. A Catholic mystic writer, nun and saint in the Anglican Church, Julian of Norwich, is featured in our film; her work “Revelations of Divine Love” was a major influence.
She is famous for her visions and beliefs: that all will be made right, that even the devil would ultimately be redeemed in the fullness of time and that hell was a choice—that only in continually choosing to reject God would one languish there.
Hell isn’t a place; it’s the absence of God.
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We wanted to make a film that comments on the polarization of our times and culture, the dehumanization of people you don’t agree with, when in fact, we are all children of God. I know some hardline Catholics and Christians are, and will be, upset by our film. If you have heard of horseshoe politics, I can tell you it also pertains to religion.
The far-right and the new religions of the far-left agree on one thing: they are both offended by our film and for the same reasons: the nudity, the violence and that we are blasphemous to each side’s sacred creed.
As far as the Catholic intellectuals go, we have received gracious support. After all, the Catholic Church is the greatest patron of the arts in world history.
As far as accuracy goes, we used the Bible for inspiration and literary devices, symbols and themes to try to express the inexpressible through a shared cultural language and heritage. It is not to be taken literally. Something we try to portray accurately are angels, such as in the prophecy and the painting in Laura’s apartment.
Angels in the Bible are terrifying and often described as monsters. Whenever they appear to anyone, they always start off by saying, “Do not be afraid.”
— Magnolia Pictures (@MagnoliaPics) September 30, 2023
As far as how “immaculate conception” is used in our film…
The backstory of Sister Yulia is that she was taken from her real mother at a young age, and has had visions that she was immaculately conceived in her mothers womb. We know the theologically speaking it is in reference to Mary in the womb of Saint Anne. However, 99.9 percent of the audience thinks this term means something else.
I speak on this because it is a good example of the difficulty in making a Catholic film with terms that are accurate but will also still be easily understood by mass audiences, especially in the marketing.
This is a film that we hope the non-religious, and even people with a negative view of Christianity, will feel comfortable enough to engage and consider Christian themes and philosophy in a new light. We wanted to explore how dark and evil the world can be, how easy it is to fall into despair and how one can lose faith in the good of the world.
We tried to amplify this feeling by suffocating our characters with horror, disappointment and tragedy—testing their resolve, inspired by The Book of Job. We chose to meet people in the dark, both literally and metaphorically. Ultimately, we hope our message is one of hope and not to be confused by the duality in our film.
There is a popular Sophist idea that is gaining ground in the culture that there is no such thing as good and evil—that it is merely a matter of interpretation.
There is good. There is evil.
Lee Roy Kunz is the co-writer, co-director and star of “Deliver Us,” a spiritual horror film now playing in theaters nationwide as well as VOD platforms.