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Podcast Episode 133: Horror Movies As Spiritual Practice

What horror movies and ‘Star Wars’ can teach us about life

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Photo credit: Warner Brothers

Horror movies, both funny and serious, can be viewed as inspiration for spiritual practice according to Katherine Buffington. Here, in the lighter end of the horror spectrum, Michael Keaton stars as "Beetlejuice."

Episode 133: Horror Movies As Spiritual Practice

For some, cinemas are churches and for Katherine Buffington movies can provide a foundation for spiritual practice. She looks to "Star Wars" and more fully to horror movies as spiritual practice. Find out what horror movies from "Beetlejuice" to "Alien" to "It Follows" can tell us about how to live our lives. And don't worry, no spoilers about "The Last Jedi."

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The holidays are upon us so what better time to think about spirituality. For some, movie theaters are like churches and the movies they screen can teach about how to live life.

Cinephiles and film geeks often see cinemas as places of worship, holy shines where we sometimes have transcendent experiences.

The new "Star Wars" film "The Last Jedi" just opened and restored my faith in the Force as something spiritual that anyone can tap into. No need for those ridiculous midi-chlorians George Lucas described in his prequels. Those prequels tested our faith. They represented the Dark Times that "Star Wars" fans had to suffer through. We had to deal with questions about why we still believed. But most of us remained true to the Force even if we questioned the wisdom of its creator.

But our reward has been a new trilogy and a new stand alone film that have brought us out of the Dark Times and into the light. Yet "Star Wars" movies are not the only source of spirituality in the movies.

I was raised Catholic but must confess that I had not been in a church for decades so when a friend forwarded me information about a sermon at a Unitarian Church and suggested I go, I hesitated. But then I saw the topic of the sermon: "Horror movies as spiritual practice." And the woman giving the sermon, Katherine Buffington was a geek like me. But one with a lot more impressive credentials.

In addition to making geeky craft projects and engaging in role playing games — things you might leave off a resume — she has a master's degree in women's studies, where she did research centered around the Japanese feminist movement and modern manga, she’s written an interactive fiction novel that combines classic ninja manga and movie tropes; she teaches popular culture criticism as part of her composition classes at Palomar College. She is also a worship associate at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of San Dieguito.

On this podcast, we start by addressing spirituality and "Star Wars" (no spoilers about the new film) and then focus on what horror movies can teach us about spiritual practice.


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Beth Accomando
Arts & Culture Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover arts and culture, from Comic-Con to opera, from pop entertainment to fine art, from zombies to Shakespeare. I am interested in going behind the scenes to explore the creative process; seeing how pop culture reflects social issues; and providing a context for art and entertainment.

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