Spooky season is my favorite season. The fall months (aka Spooky season) are, to me, the best months of the year. The weather changes become a welcome relief; everything from our food and our clothes to our house decorations and thermostat, turns cozy. The air takes a different tone. Everything around us, for these months, becomes crisper. As our senses shift to the changes, the barren trees and tight air seem eerie.
Some of my favorite Spooky season movies are those that came from Alfred Hitchcock. The first Hitchcock film I ever saw, when I was 10 years old, was his 1963 hit "The Birds." Hitchcock, while a troubled figure, famously produced some of the most iconic scary movies. Though what made Hitchcock so famous (or infamous) wasn’t the nature of his films so much as the way he filmed. One of my seminary professors, Dr. Clifton Black, is a Hitchcock scholar. In his classes he would talk about Hitchcock’s storytelling methods and how they might apply to preaching.
In what is known today as the “Hitchcockian” style, Hitchcock shifted how audiences participated in films. Most film watching met audiences as viewers watching the scenes unfold before them as distant observers. Hitchcock made the audience a participant. He used different techniques to make the audience feel like they were eating at a character’s table with them, walking down the street with a character, looking out a window to see a character. It changed visual storytelling from observant to immersive. That, in itself, made Hitchcock’s films as eerie as Spooky season. What happened as a result is that his characters with scary traits became more personalized. Any character that exhibited some kind of evil, found redemption that personified in the audience’s personal connection.
What I remember from learning about this “Hitchcockian” storytelling from Dr. Black is that our moments of storytelling, whether that's preaching or writing or sharing a story with a friend, becomes closer to us when we let someone feel like they’ve sat at the table with us, or walked with us, or looked out our windows. When we feel connected to that person, we care about their redemption. We long for our favorite characters to be redeemed, to be forgiven, to be loved, to find a way to goodness.
There’s something about the story arches of redemption we often find in Spooky season, that reminds me of some important “Hitchcockian” lessons: Do I let people into my story and let them walk alongside me? Do I see all others as people worthy of redemption, forgiveness, and love? I hope you reflect on these questions with me, whether Spooky season is your favorite, too, or not. As the days get crisper, let's cozy up.