Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Deconstruction: Night of the Living Dead Christian 17

Finally, an explanation of sorts...

Welcome to the detailed (and, unfortunately, spoiler-rich) review of Night of the Living Dead Christian. For a briefer review that doesn't give anything away, read the main review. If you're curious, here's a discussion of why I'm doing this.

This is a rather long bit of reaction, so I'm breaking it up into sections. Hopefully that will allow for more bite-sized discussions. So, now that you've all been fairly warned, we'll pick up the deconstruction after the jump:

So now we get to find out why Reverend Martin called in Borut. “I called the Hunter because he was coming for you anyway, and I thought I might be able to help you. I thought if you saw that death was coming for you, you might choose to cross the line from death into life.”

Yeah. That’s really his explanation. I wanted to scare you onto the right path, so I called in this guy who’s really trying to kill you. Because I love you that much! Up to this point, Reverend Martin has been presented as someone who knows what he’s doing. Apparently that’s not actually the case. Apparently he is every bit as crazy as Luther first said he was.

Reverend Martin then reveals that the wolf pelt behind his desk was his. It’s a reminder of when he used to be a werewolf. Which is interesting on a couple of levels. Does that mean lycanthropy is hereditary? Or was the Reverend still werewolf enough to infect Luther when Luther was a child? The latter possibility would certainly explain some of the guilt and ambivalence that seem to characterize Reverend Martin’s relationship with his son. It would also work well with the idea of lycanthropy as a metaphor for the sin of Rage, since abused children so often grow up to be abusers themselves. However, in Luther's (much earlier) account of his childhood, he doesn't mention that sort of abuse at all; so I really can't be sure. (Luther's anger with his father seems to be more a result of his father impossible-to-live-up-to expectations and inability to show love or affection in any recognizable fashion. But, of course, if there was abuse then Luther may simply have chosen not to talk about it.)

At this point Borut finds them again, and Reverend Martin steps in front of the crossbow bolt that was meant for his son. I’m sure this was meant to be a Meaningful Personal Sacrifice, but unfortunately under the circumstances it looks like a bad case of cold feet. (“Borut! My son the werewolf is coming to my church! Come quickly, so I can prevent you from killing him!”) By now the church is thoroughly on fire and starting to collapse, and Luther and Matt start to make for the exit, carrying the injured Reverend with them.

Their escape is foiled when someone calls Luther’s name from inside the burning building. At least, Luther thinks so; Narrator-Matt doesn’t hear or see anything of the sort. But Luther remains in the building while Matt carries Reverend Martin out.

And then the building collapses.

Now, a lot of this is necessary setup for the next scene - Author-Matt is creating a point of complete crisis to precede the inevitable (in Christian fiction) moment of redemption. But I wonder if it might not have made more sense to set it up another way. Borut needs to be present, but having Reverend Martin call the hunter in strains my ability to suspend disbelief. (Seriously, how do you even have that conversation? "Borut, I want you to kill my son. This will be a powerful lesson for him, and I hope he will profit by it.")

Clarissa, by contrast, could reasonably be presented as fearing that - after their last confrontation - her estranged husband might hurt or kill her. Plus, she's apparently convinced that the only cure for lycanthropy is death. So having her tell Borut where/how to find Luther would actually make more sense. It would also provide more support for Narrator-Matt's earlier impression that Clarissa was, in some sense, out to get Luther. Admittedly, that would change some elements of the epilogue, but not irreparably (I think).

Having the church on fire is also necessary (plot-wise), but the setup for that bothered me less. I mean, churches simply don't light their sanctuaries with hundreds and hundreds of candles, especially when there's no service taking place and the building is all but empty - but the idea of Narrator-Matt knocking over a candelabra and setting the place on fire is certainly in character (for both Narrator-Matt and the book overall). And in a book where monsters exist and Jesus will make a personal appearance, it's easy enough to see it as a Deus Ex Machina orchestrated by the supernatural elements within this setting.


  1. Delete scene:

    Secretary: Reverend Martin, why are you lighting all those candles?

    Martin: Because I want my son to come here, get attacked by a deranged killer and then for his idiot friend to catch the church on fire.

    Secretary: Ah. I see. Carry on, then.

    I'd be interested in some alternate interpretations of what you think Borut could represent and whether that would alter things at all in the way Rev Martin plays out here... not that he's a spectacular father, he's horrible.

  2. ::snerk:: Reverend Martin has a very understanding secretary.

    As for Borut... In a lot of ways, he's fairly peripheral right up until the church catches fire. He seems to serve mainly as an additional problem for Luther, and a prod to keep him searching for a cure when being estranged from his wife can't keep him searching.

    (Hey, random readers! This next bit is going to be a bit of a spoiler. The stuff I'm about to talk about happens in the next section, which is already posted, so you might want to read that first.)

    Once we get into the burning church, and particularly after Narrator-Matt and Reverend Martin are outside, Borut acts as a presumably-symbolic stand-in for Satan, or Death (or, since the wages of sin is death, both). A middling-deranged human monster hunter might conceivably be put out with the Almighty for robbing him of his prey, but the business of demanding the death of the beast as his right puts him pretty firmly in the Satan/Death role. (See, as another example, the White Witch Jadis from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, demanding the death of Edmund as her right from Aslan - not as any sort of justice, but as the result of a sort of legal fine print written into the nature of the world.)

    There's also that wonderful Nietzsche quote about why you should beware hunting monsters, but if Borut was meant to echo that, then it was too subtle for me to catch. Also, it doesn't seem to match with Borut letting Lara go when he killed her husband, which seems to show more mercy (or more honor) than I'd expect from a real monster.


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