Derrickson On Religion, Evil & Dark Cinema

Scott Derrickson recently did a pretty cool interview over on the Film School Rejects website. He talks about “religion, evil and dark cinematography” Derrickson directed the religious-themed The Exorcism of Emily Rose and the fifth chapter in the Hellraiser franchise, Inferno. Some horror fans found Inferno to be a bit preachy and not as good as the other Hellraiser films, including Pinhead actor Doug Bradley. He also directed the remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still. He has also been working on a film version of John Milton’s Paradise Lost. That would be interesting to see. After the jump you can see some excerpts from the interview and then get the link to the whole interview.

Film School Rejects (FSR): Both of your films have dealt heavily with morals, good and evil. With Exorcism of Emily Rose it went into the idea that evil is in all of us and we have to confront it. The Day the Earth Stood Still also dealt heavily with that. What is it about that theme that keeps you wanting to delve into it?

Scott Derrickson (SD): I honestly don’t understand why everybody isn’t obsessed with good and evil. I think the single most important, fascinating, and complex aspect of human nature is that we all know, deep down, that we are not what we ought to be — or as John Doe says in Seven,”we are not what was intended.” I return to that theme creatively because it’s what I think about and care about the most personally. What I desire most in my life is to become a better person. I genuinely want to be good. I am by nature remarkably selfish and destructive, but I have also seen some genuine transformation in myself toward selflessness, and that matters a great deal to me. If you look at life with any honestly and intelligence, it’s clear that human nature is dark, vile, selfish, and despondent. But I also see a force in human nature, namely grace, that sometimes works against our natural moral entropy. The drama that interests me the most often deals with this.

FSR: Religion played a big part in Emily Rose, but there’s also some religious undertones in The Day the Earth Stood Still. Klaatu could be interpreted as Jesus, which is somewhat ironic consider Keanu had already played a Christ-like figure in The Matrix. I don’t think I’m looking too deep into that considering the sacrifice Klaatu makes at the end and a few other details that symbolize that. With all that said, religion seems to play a large role in your films.

SD: It does, yes. I think religion is as flawed an enterprise as any other human endeavor, but the interests and ambitions of religion are the right interests and ambitions. I think my attraction to science fiction and horror is that they invite religious exploration in ways that other genres don’t, and when religion is paired with horror or sci-fi, a lot of typical religious baggage falls away. It’s also important for me to not feel that my thoughts and feelings about spirituality must be compartmentalized creatively. I want that part of my life and interest to be a part of my creative process.

FSR: While you’ve obviously dealt with darker themes, you still always interject a message of hope. It’s not always bleak, is that something you aspire to do?

SD: I don’t so much aspire to it as I believe in it. I struggle to have hope sometimes; it’s not always easy for me. I think the world is a complicated, confounding, and often terrifying place — but again, I see grace in it too. In the end, I am not a fatalist or a nihilist, so I guess my work will naturally reflect that.

To read more of the interview go here.

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