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Resurgence of biblical subjects includes films that may offend

By Jeff Peterson

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, Feb. 10 2014 3:55 p.m. MST

This publicity image released by History shows Diogo Morcaldo as Jesus, center, being baptized by Daniel Percival, as John, in a scene from "The Bible."

Joe Alblas, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

One of the more unexpected movie trends of 2014 is the resurgence of the biblical epic. After a truncated, movie-length version of History Channel’s mega-hit miniseries “The Bible” makes its way to theaters in February, the trend begins in earnest with Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah” in March and Ridley Scott’s “Exodus” in December.

While the jury’s still out on whether Hollywood’s rekindled interest in religious subjects is good news or cash-grabbing cynicism at its finest, there are already a couple projects in the works for film and TV that seem calculated to offend.

Following their crack at adapting Christian scripture, reported Deadline in early December, History is eyeing a high-concept religious horror series titled “The Lost Years” from splatter director Eli Roth (“Cabin Fever,” “Hostel”), writer Scott Kosar (“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “The Amityville Horror”) and producer Eric Newman (“The Thing,” “The Last Exorcism”).

The series would follow Jesus Christ in the years between his family’s pilgrimage to Jerusalem (when he was 13) and the beginning of his ministry (when he was 30), and cast him as a wandering exorcist who does battle with demons.

Roth is largely responsible for a horror subgenre frequently called “torture porn,” and his cohorts have produced atrocious remakes of some of the most beloved horror classics in cinema history.

Another concept currently in the works is a religious horror-comedy from ‘90s darling Kevin Smith (of “Clerks” and “Red State” fame) titled “Helena Handbasket.” For anyone who’s seen Smith’s previous experiments with semi-religious subjects like 1999’s “Dogma,” it shouldn’t be hard to imagine how “Helena Handbasket” could ruffle some feathers among religious audiences.

Despite projects like these, though, there’s still hope that the glut of biblical/religious storylines could produce one or two gems. After all, after a dozen or so mediocre superhero movies in the 2000s, we got “The Dark Knight,” and the recent zombie craze has yielded… well, “World War Z” wasn't a complete trainwreck.

A native of Utah Valley and a devoted cinephile, Jeff Peterson is currently studying humanities and history at Brigham Young University.

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