By: Lauren Messervey
Satanic cult movies are super hot right now. They’re so hot that even Hollywood is catching on, bringing out films like Hereditary that hold the power to scare audiences more than they’ve been scared in decades. It looks like the Golden Age of horror cinema is making a comeback, and if you’re a fan of a good ol’ bloody cult ritual, you’ll be pleased to know that the devil is definitely in these details.
But first, let’s have a look back at some of the classics. Inspired by our Cinemacabre screening next Thursday, May 17th of Alucarda, one of the best (and rarest) satanic cult films, here are of four of the most badass Satanic horror movies out there (and three hidden gems that you should probably be watching right now).
YOU’VE PROBABLY HEARD OF:
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Did you have any doubt that this would be on here? This movie is probably the grandmother of Hollywood Satanic horror. When Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) and her husband, Guy (John Cassavetes), move into a new apartment to start a family, they think everything is all sunshine and roses. That is, until a girl in the building commits suicide, and a bunch of other strange stuff goes down that leaves Rosemary thinking that maybe the other tenants in the building are up to something way more sinister than tea time.
Who can forget that final moment when Rosemary is confronted with the horrible truth about her child? Not to mention her despair at finding out that the most irritating old people ever are both annoying AND evil. Even the critics agreed that this psychological horror film by the infamous Roman Polanski was not to be missed.
Imagine being accepted into a prestigious ballet school, only to find out that a bunch of the other women are getting murdered, and that the teachers may or may not be involved in an insidious Satanic cult. This is exactly the idea behind Suspiria, Dario Argento’s triumph of Italian cinema that raised the bar for terrifying cult films.
The film has spawned a remake starring Tilda Swinton and Chloe Grace Moretz, and as excited as we are about its 2018 release, nothing can quite pack the punch of the original. Without giving away any big spoilers, the final sequence is so creepy that it knocks most modern horror films out cold. If you haven’t seen it, don’t say we didn’t warn you.
The Lords of Salem (2012)
Although the critics weren’t too excited about it, this Rob Zombie entry does not come up short on the creep factor, if you’re willing to be patient. An ex-drug addict named Heidi (Sheri Moon Zombie), is a disc jockey on a local Salem radio station. When she’s sent a demo by a band known only as “The Lords”, she begins a dance with the Devil that ends with a scene that can only be described as the worst acid trip imaginable.
Critics who complained that this film was short on scares may not have been paying attention. There’s plenty of creepiness lurking behind every corner, appearing in places that you don’t expect, and may even miss out on, if you’re not watching close enough. The whole thing climaxes in a scene that, well… you just have to see it. Trust us.
The Witch (2015)
Destined to be an instant classic, The Witch was one of the creepiest, most atmospheric films to hit theaters in a very long time. Directed by Robert Eggers, this film tells the story of a young girl named Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) who is accused by her Puritan family of witchcraft after the tragic disappearance of her baby brother, Samuel. A warning – it is a slow build, but when it gets there, you won’t know what hit you.
Thematically, this is one hell of a smart horror film: from commentary on the “evil nature” of women, to the historical significance of Puritanism in America, this film has something for everyone. It also has some of the most visually insane scenes in modern horror cinema that, combined with Mark Koven’s spine-tingling score, will be sure to stay under your skin long after the movie is over.
YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Black Sunday (1960)
Another entry from the glory that is Italian horror cinema, Black Sunday is Mario Bava’s masterpiece that has been largely forgotten by everyone who hasn’t submerged themselves into the horror world. This is the classic, “don’t disturb that 200 year old corpse in the iron mask” bit that has been borrowed in one way or another from several horror films subsequently. Of course, the protagonists of this film do disrupt to corpse and unleash a chain of events that quickly gets out of hand.
There’s something genuinely creepy about the black and white that, despite the campy acting, makes this film a little bit unsettling. Aside from this, the nostalgic quality, along with the style of the film, make it a genuinely gorgeous masterpiece that speaks to an era when horror was more about the fun and less about the guts and gore. The opening scene is permanently ingrained in our minds, and despite how simple it is, it does not make it any less cringeworthy.
The Devils (1971)
If you haven’t heard of this film, it’s probably because the media hasn’t wanted you to hear about it. This film is so controversial that it is still banned in several countries, and screenings of it have even been met with sudden sabotage. It’s all based on a true story that took place in 17th century France when a nun accused a priest of witchcraft and soon after, the whole nunnery followed suit, creating hysteria in the city of Loudun.
Good luck finding a copy of this. Although the director, Ken Russell, still does screenings for various lucky theaters, its graphic sexual content resulted in zero star ratings from top critics. Maybe it was the scene where Vanessa Redgrave’s nun character gets a little sexy with Jesus, or the gratuitous nun masturbation sequences and orgies. Who are we to say? Whatever way you look at it, this film definitely speaks to the dangers of sexual repression and society’s abuse of power. For those reasons alone, this film is worth exhuming.
This rare and disturbing Spanish horror movie is sometimes seen as a companion piece to The Devils. Director Juan Lopez Moctezuma tells the story of Alucarda and Justine, two orphaned girls who become possessed by a demonic force. They return to the nunnery that houses them both, only to unleash bloody mayhem on the rest of the women there.
It’s creepy, it’s strange, and it’s incredibly controversial. It was considered all but lost until a negative of the film was discovered, making this film a diamond in the rough for those who are resourceful enough to find it. As it’s the feature film of our May 17th Cinemacabre, we don’t want to give too much away. All we’ll say is that most of the modern satanic cult films don’t hold a candle to this one.
We hope this list offers a little extra “oomph” to your Satanic cult film collection. Be sure to join us on Thursday, May 17th at the Royal Cinema on College street for a rare screening of Alucarda. Doors Open at 7, and the screening will commence at 8 pm. We look forward to seeing you all there for one Hell of a good time!