Religious Storm over Hollywood

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Horror script stirs up religious storm - makes Exorcist look like Bambi

An innocent-looking script called "The Presence" is at the center of a new religious storm, proving that religion is still one of the most prickly of all subjects when it comes to the big screen.

After the recent controversy over Mel Gibson's "The Passion of Christ," religious leaders are predicting a much bigger storm over "The Presence."

One movie industry insider, who asked to remain anonymous, said: "This is going to make The Exorcist look like Bambi."

A spokesman for the Catholic Church said the script "undermines some very fundamental Christian concepts. I think people will find this film very disturbing. I have no doubt that it will get banned."

A Hollywood literary agent had a different view - "this is an intelligent and well-written screenplay. No good movie about death and evil is going to be bland. I expect "The Presence" will ruffle a few feathers, especially in the Christian camp, but, hey, look at Passion's box office!"

A religious community leader described the script as "blasphemous pornography." He continued: "this is exactly the kind of trash that Hollywood puts out in the hope that a few cheap thrills will swell their coffers without any responsibility for the nature of the content."

The man responsible for the script, English writer Matthew Horton, spoke from his Hollywood home: "I don't understand how this furor has arisen. Hardly anyone has seen the script. I don't think "The Presence" is irreligious and it certainly is not intended as an attack on the Catholic Church. Of course some people are going to find the movie disturbing... it's about death, sex and evil... it's a horror movie - what do you expect?! Half of these people probably never read the script anyway. If they were to read the ending, then all would become clear."

One movie veteran said, "I think Matthew (Horton) had better run for cover. The north pole or the Amazon jungle are probably remote enough. This is going to upset a lot of people."

Horton's great-uncle, author Graham Greene, a convert to Catholicism, was no stranger to controversy with the Catholic Church. Many of his novels have been turned into classic movies, including Brighton Rock and The Third Man, starring Orson Welles. Most recently Phillip Noyce shot the Quiet American starring Michael Caine and Brendan Fraser.

A Hollywood producer who read the script said: "The Presence is very dark and disturbing. They might be lucky and get an "R" rating on this. It's got sex, violence, rape, perversion, cruelty, bad language, and evil spirits - but it's a scary thriller, so it'll probably do well if it survives the cutting room."

The Crime of Father Amaro, Scorsese's Last Temptation of Christ and Monty Python's Life of Brian all provoked massive outcries from religious communities. Even Harry Potter has recently been accused of being anti-religious.

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Patrick Salvo
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