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Some Christians believe that believers shouldn’t even watch horror films, much less write them. Too scary, they say. Too gross. The occult themes in many can even be dangerous.

Screenwriters Chad and Carey Hayes, twin brothers who penned The Conjuring and, now, The Conjuring 2 (in theaters June 10) have heard it all—sometimes from their own family and friends. But they have a different take. They see a dark world out there—not the world they create through their work, but the world they write for. Like Ed and Lorraine Warren, the real demonologists they’ve written about in The Conjuring movies, they see themselves as agents of hope spreading a little light in some pretty dark spaces. For them, it’s the darkened space of a movie theater.

“Imagine writing a horror film that has no sex, no blood, no language and talks about God,” Carey says. And in a way, he and Chad have indeed made a pair of Christian horror flicks.

conjuring 1

OK, so that’s a bit of an exaggeration. The Conjuring movies won’t be screened in many churches. They’re made for secular audiences, and both have some problematic content. But Carey’s right—they’re remarkably clean for the genre, and they talk more about God and the power of faith than many Christian flicks (I’ll talk more about The Conjuring 2 early next week). They don’t rely on buckets of blood to freak out the audience, no gratuitous makeout scenes to titillate them. The movies earn their R-rating, as far as I can tell, for one reason: They’re dang scary.

And if you talk with Chad and Carey, they’ll tell you there’s no sin in being scary.

“Some people [who go to horror films] are in deep, deep trouble,” Chad says. “This is reinventing the type of film that people like. [And we’re saying] it’s OK for believers to go to these types of films.”

The twins didn’t grow up watching a ton of horror films growing up. But they did watch a lot of Alfred Hitchcock flicks. They voraciously read Stephen King novels too, carefully tracking how he crafted his stories. Still, they didn’t set out to become horror screenplay specialists: When they were given the chance to pen 2005’s The House of Wax remake, Carey says they took it on as a “challenge of writing something different.”

But they discovered the genre—a genre so despised on principle by many Christians—ironically allows them to talk about matters of faith in a way that feels pretty realistic. Secular moviegoers might roll their eyes if a character just bursts into prayer … unless, of course, that character is facing a demon seeking to pull her down to hell. In situations like those, prayer seems wholly appropriate.

These movies are loaded with faith content, but they’re not preachy. Chad and Carey say that they’re really following the example of a missionary aunt of theirs. “She would never preach to you at all,” Carey said. “She would live by example.”

Conjuring protagonists Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, respectively) are a strange sort of missionary team themselves. Armed with only their faith, they dive into some seriously creepy places to save a few lives and, in the process, a few souls. “When people don’t get involved, that’s where Satan prevails,” Carey says. “They go to people that need help, and everybody needs help in different ways. … Like Ed says to Lorraine early, early on in the movie [The Conjuring 2], ‘God brought us together for a reason.’”

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