"So while it may seem a strange concept for some readers, there is often a parallel between experiences with the numinous, the transcendent, and the divine, and experiences with the realms of horror, and also science fiction, and fantasy." - John Morehead, "Theofantastique"
The inextricable link between the fantastic - horror, science fiction, and fantasy - and religion is one not often discussed within the realm of pop culture. While any connection between religion and the fantastic in entertainment is touched upon, it lacks the level of depth necessary to give the reader or viewer the greatest possible understanding of the connection between the two. Enter John Morehead and Theofantastique, a "meeting place for myth, imagination, and mystery in pop culture."
John's goal is, ostensibly, to bring a greater understanding of the "social, cultural, and religious aspects of of the fantastic," while simultaneously introducing to the reader the academic literature that deals with the fantastic. Although certainly esoteric in nature, he brings a special kind of accessibility to his work, capable of drawing the interest of both the informed academic and the ignorant layman. The appeal thus lies not just in his ability to weave the fantastic with the academic, but in his ability to do it in an entertaining, engaging, and most of all informative manner. Perhaps it's the recovering academic in me talking, but a bibliography and recommended reading accompanying an article decrying the modern Christian interpretation and bastardization of vampires is like Christmas to me.
As an old school horror fan, citing The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Horror of Dracula and King Kong among his favorite films, John's opinion of the current state of horror cinema is highly apropos of the niche in which he writes, and a reflection of the era in which he grew up:
"I think we develop our preferences for such things based upon inculturation. We grow up within a certain cultural context and develop our likes and dislikes accordingly. When the situation changes over time, as it inevitably does, we will react and contrast what we "grew up with" with the current state of affairs. With that qualification I must say that as a child of the 1970s who first encountered the fantastic through the 1950s sci-fi/horror films, and later encountered the fantasy films of Ray Harryhausen, and then the horror of Hammer Films and Universal, the current state of horror cinema is not very appealing to me. For me the fascination with violence, blood, gore, and body horror or "torture porn" isn't frightening. That doesn't mean that a few gems don't rise to the surface in horror cinema from time to time, but for me in general I am not a fan of the current horror cycle in cinema. But this is a fluid situation so it will be interesting to see how our cultural preferences for horror change and how this is expressed in the theaters."
Beyond Theofantastique John is a highly prolific writer, having collaborated with CineFantastique, the long-running magazine honoring the fantastic in cinema, and contributed to the anthology Butcher Knives and Body Counts: Essays on the Formula, Frights and Fun of the Slasher Film, as well as John Kenneth Muir's Horror Film's of the 1990s.
If you harbor a love for the fantastic, the esoteric, or simply want to exercise your academic muscles, visit Theofantastique and give it a read.