Saturday, June 11, 2011

Guide to Satanic Horror: 69 Films for the Devil


If you have ever read my blog, you know that I love Satan (which is in the title, duh). I will watch any kind of deplorable crap that features Satan, Satan worshippers, satanic possession or satanic rituals. Sometimes it's pretty disappointing, which is why I'm here to give you a digestible breakdown. Satan and the occult are the basis for a SHITLOAD of horror films. If I were to cover every movie that vaguely had to do with Satan, we'd be here for several hundred pages (one day...). So I've decided to organize it loosely by category, discussing the films I love best or are the most notable. Note: I am not including films about witch-hunting or else I would surely write about such wonders as MARK OF THE DEVIL and WITCHFINDER GENERAL. I am also not including films where characters are taken to hell-dimensions, allowing me to leave out things like HELLRAISER, FROM BEYOND, and EVENT HORIZON. Neither of these sub-genres have much to do with the devil.

Straight-up Satan worship aka The Best of the Bunch:
1. ALUCARDA (1978) is one of the best Satanic films of ALL TIME. This Mexican release got little critical acclaim, but remains a cult classic. Two orphaned teenage girls living in a convent establish an incredibly close bond. Unfortunately one of them unleashes a diabolical force when she becomes possessed by Satan, who may also be her father. It is lush and beautiful and does everything right.
2. HAXAN: WITCHCRAFT THROUGH THE AGES (1922) - Amaaaaaazing documentary-style silent film about Satan, evil and witchcraft. It's wonderful and beautiful and you have to see it. Definitely go with the Criterion DVD.
3. THE DEVILS (1971) - Ken Russel's opus about a sinful priest (the wonderful Oliver Reed) who is the victim of a country-wide conspiracy perpetrated by the crown, a famed witch hunter and a local convent. The best film you will ever see that blames it all on Satan, plus my favorite film of ALL TIME. Not yet on DVD because Warner are fuckers.
4. LE MANOIR DU DIABLE (1896) - Georges Melies short, considered to be the first horror film. Features Satan's wicked spellcasting in an abandoned castle. It is available on Youtube for your viewing pleasure.
5. THE EXORCIST (1973) - I don't need to describe this one. Probably the greatest film about demonic possession ever made.
6. THE OMEN (1976) - Again, I shouldn't have to describe it. The greatest film ever made about the antichrist and still holds up after thirty years. Unlike the fucking sequels...
7. HORROR HOTEL aka CITY OF THE DEAD (1960) - Creepy, effective film about a young girl who visits a New England town and stumbles into a Satanic cult. It is fortunately in the public domain and you can watch it here. Definitely a classic of early '60s horror.
8. THE BLACK CAT (1934) - One of my favorite horror films. Lugosi-Karloff classic about the showdown between two old war buddies and a Satanic cult. Every time I see a snuggie commercial on TV, this is what I think of.
9. THE DEVIL'S RAIN (1975) - Shatner vs Satan. What more do I need to say? Plus the late, great Ernest Borgnine, blood rituals and a mess of Satan worshippers. Some people find this cheesy, but I think it's a load of fun.
10. DON'T DELIVER US FROM EVIL (1971) - French film about two girls who become friends and immerse themselves in debauchery and evil. Has been banned, partly because of the young age of the two stars.
11. SATAN'S BLOOD aka ESCALOFRIO (1977) - Sleazy Spanish film about a couple who goes for a visit in the country and winds up playing with a Ouija board, having an orgy and getting kidnapped by Satan worshippers. Oops.
12. SATAN'S CHEERLEADERS (1977) - One of the most entertaining films I've ever seen, also with some of the most ineffectual Satanists committed to film. Slutty cheerleaders are kidnapped by a sexually frustrated cult member, accidentally kill him and find their way into the heart of the cult. Luckily Satan sides with the girls.
13. ALL THE COLOURS OF THE DARK (1976) - Slow, creepy, atmospheric Sergio Martino film about a woman's descent into madness. Is she being persecuted by a Satanic cult or just losing her mind? Stars the lovely Edwige Fenech and is also a successful giallo.

Bringing your daughter to the slaughter aka Satanic impregnation:
14. ROSEMARY'S BABY (1968) - Polanski's great film about a woman's descent into madness during her pregnancy, mostly due to the suspicious activities of her husband and neighbors.
15. PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1987) - John Carpenter sci-fi horror fest about Satan coming to earth as a swirling vat of green liquid and the band of theoretical physicists who try to fight him. You will either love or hate it. If you hate it, lighten up a little.
16. THE CONVENT (2000) - Very entertaining film about a group of college kids who enter an abandoned hospital and find themselves surrounded by demons. Funny, silly and kinda gory.
17. HOUSE OF THE DEVIL (2010) - critically acclaimed '80s occult throwback about a girl hired to watch an abandoned house owned by Satan worshippers. Worth watching, but so-so.
18. BEYOND THE DOOR (1977) - Don't fucking watch this movie. I hated this so much that this is the only serious trash-talking I'm going to do on this list.

'70s Satanic Sleaze:
19. ASYLUM OF SATAN (1971) - William Girdler film about a lady who has a nervous breakdown and comes to believe she's not recovering in a hospital, but in an ASYLYM OF SAAAAATAAAAN! This movie is ridiculous and campy as hell.
20. SATAN'S CHILDREN (1975) - a runaway teens seeks solace in a... oops... cult of Satanists who are bizarrely homophobic. Lots of insanity and trash ensues.
21. I DRINK YOUR BLOOD (1970) - Exploitation at its absolute finest. Words cannot express the ways I love this film. A small town gets on the wrong side of a band of acid-dropping Satan worshipping hippies. A young boy gets revenge by infecting them all with rabies, which is clearly the worst idea known to man.

Movies about deals with the devil:
22. MEPHISTO WALTZ (1971) - piano playing, Satanic experimentation, soul switching, etc. Damned entertaining, no pun intended. Alan Alda and Jaqueline Bisset co-star. Also features segments from Liszt's wonderful, difficult "Mephisto Waltz." If I had to compose a list of music about the devil, we'd be in serious trouble.
23. FAUST (1926) - Murnau's version, which is the first and the best, at least on film - there are some DAMN fine operatic adaptations of Faust. Plus, I had to squeeze some German Expressionism on this list.
24. SPIRITS OF THE DEAD (1969) - A trilogy of European arthouse adaptations of Poe stories, though here I am referring specifically to the final segment, Fellini's TOBY DAMMIT, which stars the lovely Terence Stamp.
25. THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER (1941) - Classic adaptation of Vincent Benet's short story about a farmer who makes an ill-advised deal with Old Scratch. Pick up the Criterion, which is beautifully restored and full of extras.
26. ANGEL HEART (1987) - Disturbing, sleazy film about a down-on-his-luck detective who takes a case to find a missing person in the heart of voodoo-soaked New Orleans. Stars Mickey Rourke in one of his best roles.

Blame EVERYTHING on the devil, because that makes it OK, whether it's a string of murders or an outrageous party:
27. THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (1964) - Vincent Price stars as Prince Prospero, a devil worshipping libertine and sadist in this Corman film based loosely on the Poe story. Beautiful, gothic and debaucherous.
28. SATAN'S SCHOOL FOR GIRLS (1973) - Yes, it's exactly what it sounds like: a murder mystery in a girl's school involving Satan worshippers. One of the most critically acclaimed made-for-TV horror movies of the '70s.
29. NIGHT OF THE DEMON (1957) - Tourneur classic based on an M.R. James story, "Casting the Runes," where a Satanic cult's leader begins to sick demons on his rivals. Lovely and not to be missed, though I would close my eyes at the end, if I were you. It's better not to see the demon at all.

British '60s and '70s Satanic panic:
30. BLOOD ON SATAN'S CLAW (1971) - A creepy, atmospheric film about the Devil taking over teens in 17th century rural England when a farmer uncovers a demon's claw buried on his land. Highly recommended.
31. THE DEVIL RIDES OUT (1968) - Christopher Lee and Charles Gray star in this great film about an occult scholar determined to stop a Satanic cult. Christopher Lee is in one of his only heroic roles ever, which is saying a lot, because he holds the Guinness world record for most film acting roles in history.
32. TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER (1976) - Lots of people talk shit, but I love this movie. It can be a bit of a cheese-fest, but Christopher Lee is great as an excommunicated priest who starts his own church in the name of the devil. Can an occult novelist intervene in time before he claims the soul of a young girl?

'70s and '80s US horror:
33. THE SENTINEL (1977) - Creepy film about a girl whose new apartment building seems to be possessed. The bodies begin piling up and soon she becomes the target of evil. Surprisingly scary, though slow in parts.
34. BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN (1971) - Atmospheric, if sometimes silly film about a group of aging Satanists who magically kidnap a town in order to become young again. Entertaining, but very slim on the violence.
35. EXORCIST II (1977) - I don't care what anyone says, it's pretty entertaining. Not as good as I or III, but definitely watchable, if for its outright ridiculousness. Richard Burton (at the height of his alcoholism) co-stars as a priest assigned to help the now institutionalized Regan.
36. FEAR NO EVIL (1981) - Frank LaLoggia's debut film which features a Satanic battle, sexually active teens and a rock'n'roll soundtrack. Absolute cheeeeeesefest, but so much fun.

'00s occult/possession revival: What the hell is with all these bad occult movies Hollywood has been churning out in last decade? I still can't believe I went to see A HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT...
37. EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE (2005) - I expected to fucking hate this movie, but it turned out to be a flawed, if entertaining cross between an occult horror film and a courtroom drama. Makes an interesting statement about the contrasting roles of psychiatry and religion, also contains some solid acting.
38. THE LAST EXORCISM (2010) - Produced by Eli Roth and shot in a fake documentary style, it tells the story of a fraudulent exorcist who comes across a real case of demonic possession. Unfortunately it's a pile of steaming shit.
39. EXORCISMUS (2010) - New Spanish film recently acquired by IFC (which means you can watch it on demand) where a young girl is either nuts or possessed by the devil. I've read mixed reviews and mostly felt the need to include it to illustrate the continuing fascination cinema has with the devil, even if it's trite and derivative.
40. THE RITE (2011) - Another crapfest. A young, disillusioned priest has his faith restored by training with a famed exorcist, particularly when the exorcist himself gets possessed by the devil. Co-stars Anthony Hopkins and is based on a book I'd really like to read, The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist.

Satan is bringing the end of the world!!!!!:
41. DAY OF THE BEAST (1995) - Excellent Alex de la Iglesia film about a sinful priest, a death metal salesman and an occult show TV host all trying to prevent the incarnation of the Antichrist.
42. CONSTANTINE (2005) - A lukewarm adaptation of a wonderful comic (
Hellblazer), the film is mindlessly entertaining if you can pretend it's not based on anything that's actually good. An occult detective, John Constantine, has to help a police detective discover why her identical twin committed suicide. Soon they realize that much more diabolical forces are at work.
43. THE NINTH GATE (2000) - A skeptical rare book dealer accidentally uncovers some old tomes that are the gateway to unleashing Satan into the world. Despite wildly polarized reviews, the film is entertaining if you can accept it for what it is - a very carefully paced occult suspense film. It's been long enough since I've seen it that I'll have to re-watch it before I can give a solid verdict, but I think a lot of the critical hatred is based on destroyed expectations. ROSEMARY'S BABY II it is not.
44. END OF DAYS (1999) - One of the worst movies on this list, for sure, but I just can't resist the Governator or Gabriel Byrne. This festering turd of an action-occult-thriller features Arnold as the body guard of the unfortunately chosen bride of Satan, whom he must protect lest the world ends. Hilarity ensues, all of it unintentional.

Nunsploitation: Most nun movies are not actually about Satan-worshipping brides of Christ, much to my dismay. Here are two that are more than just softcore exploitation, not that I have anything against hot, naked nuns getting it on:
45. MOTHER JOAN OF THE ANGELS (1960) - Polish film about a convent plagued by demonic possession. Surprisingly overlooked film with the same source material as THE DEVILS, but executed in a totally different way.
46. DARK WATERS (1993) - Lovecraftian horror clusterfuck about a young girl who returns to her childhood home on an isolated, medieval island to contend with murder in a convent full of nuns who may or may not worship the devil. Flawed, but powerfully atmospheric.

There are also a number of werewolf/vampire films that mention or blame the devil for the cause of transformation. Most of these are absolutely terrible, here are three (OK, two and half) exceptions.
47. DRACULA AD 1972 (1972) - This is one of my favorite films of all time. Read my review if you want to know the full story, but it involves Dracula being reincarnated via Satanic ritual during the swinging '70s in London. Includes one of the best Satanic ritual scenes committed to film. Eighth installment in the Hammer DRACULA franchise.
48. SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA (1973) - Ninth, final and worst installment in the Hammer DRACULA franchise has little to do with Satanic rites, though there is one at the end of the film. Contains Lee and Cushing and if you have zero expectations you may enjoy it. But let this be a lesson to you that any movie with "Satan" or "satanic" in the title is frequently unlikely to include Lucifer himself.
49. THE RETURN OF WALPURGIS aka CURSE OF THE DEVIL (1977) - Paul Naschy, sexy beast that he is, returns in one of the many great Waldemar the Werewolf films. If you haven't seen any this is a decent place to start and will be much loved by fans of DARK SHADOWS-style cinema. The reason poor Waldemar is a werewolf is because a witch summoned the devil and put a curse on him and he must spend the remainder of the film trying to break it, as one of his own ancestors. Great satanic scene makes it well worth including in this list.

I'll get you a Satanic Mechanic:
50. PSYCHOMANIA (1973) - An undead-biker-Satanic cult movie that can never be denied. It makes my heart sing with joy and, hey, there's also a weird hippie/folk theme song. I should have put this in the top thirteen.
51. RACE WITH THE DEVIL (1975) - Peter Fonda, fuck yes. It sounds like it should be a Satanic version of VANISHING POINT (I wish on the Antichrist it was), but really it's about two couples taking a crosscountry trip in an RV that have a nasty encounter with a Satanic cult. OK, it's not that nasty, but it is pretty damned entertaining and there are some car chases. Please don't confuse it with the Ang Lee civil war epic, RIDE WITH THE DEVIL.

Spanish Satanism: No one does shitty Satanic films like the Spanish (probably all that Catholicism) but if I listed them all we would be in trouble, mostly because many of them are unavailable in English or on DVD.
52. TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD (1977) - Who looked at a script for undead Satan worshipping Knights Templar and thought that would be a good idea? I don't know, but thank the Dark Lord for Amando de Ossorio or we would never get to revel in such an enjoyable shitfest. Though the first is the great, there's a boxset that includes all four films. Yes, four.
53. BLACK CANDLES aka LOS RITOS SEXUALES DEL DIABLO (1982) - Larraz exploitation film with plenty of style and sleaze. Also, two words: goat love. What the hell is more Satanic than that? Not for the faint of heart or morally uptight.

There are also some great films that have a Satanic atmosphere, but deal more specifically with witches, warlocks or cults and less directly with Satan himself:
54. THE HAUNTED PALACE (1963) - a highly underrated Poe-Corman feature about the return of an evil, cursed Warlock to a New England town. Based loosely on H.P. Lovecraft's "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward."
55. NIGHT OF THE EAGLE aka BURN, WITCH, BURN (1962) - a creepy tale about a witch's use of black magic to bring her husband back from the dead, with predictably disastrous results.
56. INCUBUS (1965) - If you don't know what this film is, your mind is about to be BLOWN. It's a black and white gothic horror starring William Shatner and filmed in Esperanto. I could not make this shit up. A beautiful succubus is tempted by and falls in love with a good man who becomes intent on saving her soul. Chaos and sadness ensues.
57. SUSPIRIA (1977) - Possibly the greatest film about witches ever made and chock full of style, poetry and gore. Certainly one of Dario Argento's finest achievements. A young woman attends a ballet school in Germany that is unfortunately run by witches. When the bodies pile up and she finds herself next on the list, she has to uncover the mystery at the risk of her life. Definitely should be followed by the beautiful INFERNO, though watch the trilogy's conclusion, MOTHER OF TEARS, at your own risk.
58. THE WICKERMAN (1975) - One of my favorite horror films of all time. This British masterpiece stars Christopher Lee and tells of a police detective who must travel to an isolated island community to solve a murder. Instead, and to his great peril, he uncovers an incredibly creepy pagan cult gearing up for the spring sacrifice.
59. CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR (1968) - Karloff, Christopher Lee and Barbara Steele team up for an effective exercise in British gothic terror. Loosely based on Lovecraft's "Dreams in the Witch House," CURSE is about a man in search of his missing brother who finds an abandoned mansion, a satanic ghost and way more than he bargained for.
60. BLACK SUNDAY (1961) - In my opinion this is the greatest gothic horror film of all time, though no surprise as it was filmed by the late, great Mario Bava. It concerns a diabolical witch and princess trying to resurrect herself through an innocent ancestor and reawaken the power of her satanic, vampiric cult. Based on a Gogol story.
61. THE DEVIL'S MEN aka LAND OF THE MINOTAUR (1976) - Keep your expectations very, very low and you'll be pleasantly surprised by this Peter Cushing and Donald Pleasance turkey that's full of kidnapping, sacrifice and devil worshipping cults. At least you'll get a few laughs.

There are a fair number of great exorcism/possession films that come highly recommended, but don't specifically show Satan. Here are two:
62. THE POSSESSION OF JOEL DELANEY (1972) - A Shirley MacLaine film that deals more with Santeria and black magic, but has an amazing exorcism scene.
63. ABBY (1974) - It would be difficult to say if William Girdler ever truly leaves my mind. Known as "the Black Exorcist," ABBY is surely one of his best films. A virtuous young married woman becomes possessed by a chaotic, evil Santerian sex god and her husband and father-in-law must cast it out before she takes apart the town with her sinful ways.

Of course, there are likely to be dozens of other Satanic films I haven't seen yet, most of them appallingly terrible. Here are a few on my to-watch list:
64. INQUISICION (1976) - a Spanish film starring Paul Naschy as a witch hunter who falls in love with the village beauty, but she turns out to be a temptress determined to punish him for killing her fellow Satan-lovers.
65. EXORCISMO (1975) - another Paul Naschy film that involves a young girl being possessed by the spirit of her late father. He, of course, must exorcise the demon/ghost.
66. Brian Yuzna's FAUST: LOVE OF THE DAMNED (2001) - a weird rehashing of The Crow and Faust that somehow involves a giant lizard. I bet it's awful, but whatever. I'm perfectly willing to take one for the team.
67. EVILSPEAK (1981) - an Eric Weston film that looks terrible, but involves a bullied young boy in a military academy who uses a computer to conjure Satan and get revenge. This is pretty high up on my to-watch list.
68. PRIME EVIL (1988) - sounds like solid gold shit. A brotherhood of Satan worshippers kidnap and sacrifice young ladies to the Dark Lord and drink their blood to remain immortal. Apparently they're pretty bad at it.

Finally, if you really want to find out about the real Church of Satan, there's a relatively new documentary of what goes on in real Satanic rituals:
69. INSIDE THE CHURCH OF SATAN, which can be watched in full if you follow the link. Also, Wikipedia breaks down conventional Satanism pretty well.

Watch and enjoy. Also, Hail Satan.

Edit: I finally made this into a zine, which is 80+ pages long, greatly expanded, and can be found at the wonderful House of Mysterious Secrets!!!!!!!

6 comments:

  1. Concerning "The Devil's Rain", besides being credited as technical advisor, watch for Anton LaVey (Church of Satan founder) as the character wearing the brass helmet/face mask during Borgnine's ritual scenes.

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  2. Maybe you can help me. Looks like you have vast knowledge of old movies. I've been trying to remember a movie I saw at the drive-in back in the 70's, maybe early 80's that I believe was a satanic cult type movie. I only remember a couple of scenes. 1st, a pregnant woman sitting on her bed as a man walks into the room. The door closes suddenly, and she is now sitting in a chair. Scene switches to the outside view of the bedroom door from the hall as the room/ house is shaking violently, and we see an eyeball roll across the floor. 2nd scene I believe is the final scene, as the camera is panning through the house along the floor. As it turns a corner, there is a baby sitting on the floor with it's back to the wall, and the baby has no mouth. Sound familiar? This movie scared the mess out of me as a child, and I'd love to see it again as a horror loving adult.

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  3. as a child in the 70s I saw a movie that really scared me. the only part I remember is at the very end it shows a couple making love in some type of loft and the devil comes and takes them. he is in fire and gets them with his pitch fork. very very scary.

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  4. Maybe you would know this movie: It starts with a policeman and his friend playing basketball and they save a woman being chased by a Satanic cult. He protects her until she is taken by the cult members. The end of the movie has him running into their circle as they are about to sacrifice her. She was a plant...and he becomes the sacrifice. Any ideas? This would be a 70's-ish movie.

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