Skip to content ↓

The Most Grotesque Ugliness Imaginable

Articles Collection cover image

There are many who consider Janet Leigh’s murder in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho to be the most terrifying scene in the history of film. The setting, the mood, the music and the camera work combine to create a scene of absolute terror. Her screams were impressed upon the memories of many who watched her macabre death on the silver screen. Since 1960, when the film was produced there have been tens of thousands of horror films made, but in the minds of many who enjoy such films, few of them have begun to approach the brutal genius of Hitchcock’s film.

The horror genre delights in the scream. Bloodcurdling screams are common in horror films, and filmmakers are constantly looking for ways of making them seem more genuine, more heartfelt, more terrifying. I remember reading of a film in which the director had the actors sprayed with the remains of a slaughtered pig during a particular scene in order to be able to capture real disgust and surprise. He wanted to evoke in his actors a pure terror and hoped that would translate to horror in the hearts of those who later watched.

The makers of horror and suspense films are always looking for the ultimate scream. So I wonder, what would the ultimate scream sound like? If we were to create the most horrifying setting, the most horrifying villain–if we were to make the situation just right, what would that scream sound like? Would it be a wordless scream, or a scream that would express the reason or meaning behind the horror?

I’ve found the ultimate scream. It is a scream that I am sure represents the most agonizing, terrifying, painful scream in the history of humanity. And that is no small statement for many people have suffered terribly and brutally. The ultimate scream, according to the Bible, sounds like this: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

It is probably not what you would say, is it? I don’t know of too many people who would die with the words of Psalm 22 upon their lips. It doesn’t sound too terrifying, does it? Yet it represents the low point of humanity. It was Jesus who uttered those words, and he did so in the midst of pain, torture and forsakenness such as no one else in the world can know or ever will know. R.C. Sproul says, “This cry represents the most agonizing protest ever uttered on this planet. It burst forth in a moment of unparalleled pain. It is the scream of the damned–for us.” The scream of the damned. Jesus Christ gave a cry from the midst of unspeakable agony. He gave the very cry of the damned.

God the Father looked down on his Son, hanging on the cross, and saw not his beloved Son, but “the most grotesque ugliness imaginable.” He saw the sins of all who would be saved resting on that one Man. He saw all the sins that I have committed. He saw all the sins that you committed. He saw all of these sins resting upon one man. Jesus Christ, bearing our sin was removed totally and completed from the presence of the Father at that moment, for God cannot allow sin to remain unpunished. He turned his back on his Son. He completely, utterly forsook Jesus Christ. That is horror unspeakable.

And so Jesus cried out in his forsakenness. He cried out in his pain and his agony, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.” He was alone and rejected. He willingly took this upon himself for you and for me. He cried out with the ultimate expression of pain– the scream of the damned– so that we could have life.

I hate horror films. I have seen only a handful of them in my life, and have not seen one since my teenage years. I despise them. And perhaps this is why. The filmmaker may attempt to capture terror in its purest form. He may attempt to create a death that is more horrible than any that has been captured on any film. He may attempt to capture a scream that will remain in people’s memories for many, many years. He may succeed. But he will never be able to capture, or even approach capturing, the horror of the cross – the greatest horror humanity will ever know.


  • Redeeming Sex in Marriage

    Redeeming Sex in Marriage

    Surely few things in this world are more mysterious than sex. Surely few things give such clear evidence that there must be more to them than the sum of their parts. On the one level, sex is a simple biological function that exists to populate the earth with human beings. On the other level, it…

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (May 22)

    A La Carte: What should we think about paedocommunion? / Ten questions for readers of erotica / You are an influencer / Do you believe your pasture’s green? / Adam poisoned me / Kindle and Logos deals / and more.

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (May 21)

    A La Carte: A theology of immigration / Christian catholicity in an online age / Violent pornography’s assault on the marriage bed / Heresy that warrants no apology / Franchising church / With each passing moment / Kindle deals / and more.

  • Why Do I Feel Such Profound Loneliness?

    This week the blog is sponsored by Moody Publishers and is written by Steve DeWitt. The story of human loneliness has its roots in the character of God and God’s purpose in creating us.  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created…

  • Stop Swiping Start Serving

    Stop Swiping, Start Serving

    I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that in the past few weeks, you have probably not gotten rip-roaring drunk nor participated in a debauched drinking party. You have probably not given yourself over to rampant sexual immorality or a life obsessed with sensuality. At least, I hope not

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (May 20)

    A La Carte: What media got wrong about supposed Christian self-immolation / We are walking on holy ground / “His Glory and My Good” / How pop Nietzscheanism masquerades as Christianity / Why a full calendar doesn’t necessarily produce mature church members / Thinking biblically about social justice / John Piper Kindle deals / and…