Lurking Under the Surface

Horror, Religion, and the Questions That Haunt Us

Lurking Under the Surface

Horror, Religion, and the Questions That Haunt Us

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Horror can be a valuable conversation partner for the spiritual questions that animate so many of us.

Whether through a movie, television show, novel, or even myth, horror as a genre has always spoken to our deepest human fears and anxieties: fear of death, of the unknown, of knowing too much. Whether you're looking at classic narratives like Frankenstein, which shows us the consequences of stretching knowledge farther than it's safe to go, or contemporary films like Get Out, which explores racism and white guilt, horror provides a window into our culture and what makes us human. The same can be said of religion.

Horror movie buff and religion scholar Brandon Grafius finds common ground between these two seemingly disparate bedfellows--horror and religion--in Lurking under the Surface. What parallels can we draw between The Walking Dead and sacred texrts? How do the stories of Hebrew Christian scriptures and apocalyptic films like A Quiet Place and Bird Box help us find hope when it's in short supply? When we treat them both seriously, we see that horror movies and religion lead us through the same sets of questions. Both explore questions of justice, hope, and our relationship to the world and the cosmos. And both offer us ways to make meaning out of the contradictory pieces of our world--a world filled with so much hope and so many recognizable fears lurking just beneath the surface.


"Brandon Grafius combines biblical scholarship with a fanboy's love of horror to create a fun, fascinating book you won't be able to put down. I've never read a book quite like this."

Reza Aslan, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

"No matter how many times you've seen Night of the Living Dead, The Thing, or Sinister, this book will come to you as a revelation. Brandon Grafius not only knows horror--he understands the deeper questions dark fictions ask."

W. Scott Poole, author of Dark Carnivals: Modern Horror and the Origins of American Empire and Monsters in America

"What a tasty book! It dives deep into what terrifies us, entertains us, and awakens the awe inside us. With a scholar's knowledge of both theology and every kind of horror movie, Grafius takes us on a tour of our soul with thought-provoking analysis, personal reflection from his own journey, and a healthy helping of humor."

Owen Egerton, writer/director of Mercy Black and author of Hollow

"Lurking under the Surface rightly argues the hope of horror and the horror of hope within the overlapping and at times problematic circles of Western religion and the horror film. A thoroughly engaging read."

Paul Tremblay, author of A Head Full of Ghosts and The Cabin at the End of the World

"Lurking under the Surface is one of the most impactful, poignant, and thought-provoking books on film I've ever read. Grafius's book swept me along like high tide, as it reveals how the horror genre remains a source of faith, hope, and refuge, and why the horror film is the best medium for carrying creative and compelling stories about the deep fears and anxieties that dominate our daily lives."

Victoria McCollum, senior lecturer in cinematic arts at Ulster University, Coleraine, Northern Ireland

"Biblical scholar and encyclopedic horror fan Brandon R. Grafius leads the reader on a journey through meaning-making texts and experiences that show how looking at horror through eyes of faith opens up a universe of possibility. Lurking under the Surface lives up to its title--plumbing the depths of horror culture and Christian faith to find profundity, significance, and the possibilities of what the world can mean."

Kevin J. Wetmore Jr., professor of theatre arts, Loyola Marymount, Los Angeles

"Too often, believers approach horror movies as little more than the opportunity to reinforce cherished religious views. Grafius takes his subject much more seriously than that, exploring not only why these texts are important to believers, but how their importance lies precisely in that they raise the hard questions. If horror is the genre that takes religion at its word, Grafius takes horror the same way. Highly recommended."

Douglas E. Cowan, professor of religious studies and social development studies at the University of Waterloo and author of America's Dark Theologian: The Religious Imagination of Stephen King

"This generous personal account demonstrates what horror fans have always known: that in exploring, and sometimes wallowing in, the darkest recesses of the human condition, we can find resilience, understanding, and hope."

Aislinn Clarke, writer-director of The Devil's Doorway and lecturer in screenwriting and film, Queen's University, Belfast

"Grafius skillfully untangles the threads of belief, doubt, and the holy that give horror its enduring power, inviting us to reconsider both fear and faith. A book for horror fans, believers, skeptics, and everyone in between."

Rhiannon Graybill, associate professor of religious studies at Rhodes College and author of Texts after Terror: Rape, Sexual Violence, and the Hebrew Bible


"Grafius's surprising, and often insightful, eclectic intellectual enterprise in Lurking Under the Surface brings into stark focus Ligotti's understanding of unreal horror as being sublimated ruminations about real horror."

Los Angeles Review of Books

"Grafius teaches us how to welcome horror as a constant companion in a world plagued by real evil."


"Grafius' easy writing and gentle touch will lull the reader into an educational trance that makes diving into the slim book more like watching a movie than reading an informational text. Grab the popcorn."


Product Info

  • Publisher Broadleaf Books
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781506481623
  • eBook ISBN 9781506481630
  • Dimensions 5.5 x 7.5
  • Pages 194
  • Publication Date October 4, 2022