In The Brothers Karamazov, after the atheist Ivan has talked for two full chapters—“Rebellion,” the greatest statement of the problem of evil, and “The Grand Inquisitor”—he gives his Christian brother Alyosha a chance to respond. Here we’ve heard the prosecution speak. What’s the case for God?
And Alyosha leans over and kisses him.
Scott Derrickson’s new, sincere horror film Deliver Us From Evil should have listened to how much the wordless Alyosha was saying. Human arguments can only be as big as the arguers. So much of God is left over: outside, eldritch, Other.
Horror should be the genre which best captures this inexpressibility of God, the wrongness of Him compared to the tidy, familiar, practical mental apparatus by which we make sense of the world. The Exorcist is admirably incomplete: tragic, broken, ferocious in the face of evil but submissive in the face of suffering. It convinces by never trying to convince.