Satanic Cult Movies
Back in the ‘80s, it seemed that Satanic cults were everywhere. Geraldo Rivera devoted airtime to the subject (on Halloween, no less), and every parent was wary of backwards messages on the latest heavy metal albums. It was all nonsense, of course, but the fascination with the subject filtered down into the all-seeing Hollywood machine and resulted in a number of movies dealing with the subject of Satanic cultists on the loose.
With Nicolas Cage currently taking on vile devil-worshipping types at theatres around the country (in 3D, no less), I thought it was a perfect opportunity to examine some of the best examples of Satanic cults in the movies. And when I say “Satanic cults,” I’m not talking about some new age movement devoted to bringing out your more carnal side. No, I mean men and women who are actively plotting to bring about the end of the world and help install Satan on a big throne that’s probably made of skulls.
- The Devil Rides Out (1968) – Based on the Dennis Wheatley novel from 1934, this Hammer production stars Christopher Lee as Duc de Richleau, a man who becomes convinced that the son of an old friend is mixed up with the occult. But after rescuing the lad and another cultist, our heroes learn that they’ve disrupted a ceremony where Satan himself put in an appearance. This leads the cult to track down the wayward members of their flock, hurling powerful black magic at Christopher Lee like there’s no tomorrow. The film was originally going to be made several years earlier, but the concern over Satanism was too great at the time. By 1968, I guess nobody was concerned about the devil.
- Children of the Corn (1984) – Linda Hamilton and Peter Horton star as a couple traveling through Nebraska who run afoul of pint-sized cultists and their infernal master, “He Who Walks Behind the Rows.” Based on a short story from Stephen King, the film proved a solid hit at the box office and would later spawn a total of six sequels. If a child has ever given you the creeps, the scenes where the town’s kids wipe out the adults will stick with you for a good long while.
- Race with the Devil (1975) – Two couples (including Peter Fonda, Loretta Swit, Warren Oates, and Lara Parker) leave San Antonio in their RV and head towards Colorado on vacation. While staying at a lonely campground in central Texas, they witness a group of Satanists making a human sacrifice. When it becomes obvious that the local sheriff (R.G. Armstrong) is part of the sinister group, our heroes attempt to make it to Amarillo and report all of this to the authorities. But Satanists aren’t known for their kindly disposition, and soon the RV is being pursued by more and more cultists. Pushed to the limit, Oates and Fonda fight back in a lengthy car chase that includes plenty of shotgun action and vehicular stunts. The epitome of a drive-in movie, Race with the Devil offers some cheap thrills and several likable performers. The last few minutes of the film are still hella cool, and this is one that’s begging for a remake.
- The Devil’s Rain (1975) – Anton LaVey, the most famous Satanist in history, is credited as the film’s technical director, so you know you’re in for a treat. People melt, crosses turn into snakes, and Ernest Borgnine transforms into a goat-like creature. If that’s not enough to sell The Devil’s Rain, then check out the rest of the cast: William Shatner, Tom Skerritt, John Travolta, and Eddie Albert. I’ve always wondered who would win in a fight between Captain Kirk and Satan, and now I finally have my answer.
- Fever Night aka Static Age Band of Satanic Outsiders (2009) – Filmed over a two-year period on a shoestring budget, Fever Night hearkens back to the heady days of 1970’s occult movies. When three pals hold a Satanic ritual in the woods, nothing appears to happen. But as the movie twists and turns through its 85-minute runtime, the pals quickly discover that they’re not alone in the woods and some rituals take longer to manifest than others. The acting, soundtrack, and lighting are far better than you might expect from a film made for under $50,000, which is why I highly recommend it for fans of doomed cultists.
- Rosemary’s Baby (1968) – When it comes to Satanic cult movies, it doesn’t get any better than this Roman Polanski masterpiece. Waifish Mia Farrow stars as a young wife who moves into a new apartment building with her actor husband (John Cassavetes) and begins to sense that there’s something strange about their kindly, elderly neighbors (Ruth Gordon in an Oscar-winning role and Sidney Blackmer). Before long, she finds herself knocked up, but she can’t shake the horrifying images of a demonic presence during conception or the sudden craving for raw meat. Polanski keeps the tension building throughout the film, and the payoff stands as one of the great endings in horror movie history.
- Jennifer’s Body (2009) – Written by Oscar-winning Diablo Cody and starring hotties Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried, Jennifer’s Body takes a satirical look at life among the teenage set. When popular Jennifer Check (Fox) and plain pal Anita “Needy” Lesnicki (Seyfried) attend a concert to see indie band Low Shoulder, Jennifer is spirited away and sacrificed by the fame-hungry rockers. Their spell is only partially successful, however, and soon a demonically-possessed Jennifer is running amok and whittling down the town’s male population. It’s not often that devil worshippers are portrayed as clean-cut, twenty-something band members, so fans of Twilight may want to check this one out. And any red-blooded male will definitely want to watch to see Fox and Seyfried strut their stuff.
- Suspiria (1977) – One of the greatest examples of Italian horror, director Dario Argento pours his heart and soul into this creepy classic about an American ballerina (Jessica Harper) who enrolls at a German dance academy and later learns that it’s run by a coven of witches. The use of music and lighting are highly effective and damned disturbing, and gorehounds will be delighting by the various graphic murders throughout. If you’ve never experienced the demented magic of Dario Argento, do yourself a favor and begin you journey with Suspiria.
- To the Devil…A Daughter (1976) – The last Hammer movie made until 2010, To the Devil…A Daughter stars Richard Widmark as John Verney, an occult writer who’s asked by a friend to pick his daughter up at the airport. Turns out the daughter in question is Catherine Beddows (Nastassja Kinski), a young and extremely hot nun. When the father then requests that Verney keep his daughter safe, it draws out members of Catherine’s Catholic order, who are actually a group of devil worshippers preparing for the return of their master. Christopher Lee plays the leader of the cult with his usual creepy vigor, and the cast is rounded out by Honor Blackman, Denholm Elliott, and Michael Goodliffe.
- Drive Angry (2011) – The rare modern 3D film that bombed at the box office, Drive Angry stars Nicolas Cage as John Milton (get it?), a badass con who escapes from Hell in order avenge the death of his daughter and save his infant granddaughter from being sacrificed by a white trash Satanic cult. He’s joined in his violent road trip by the leggy Piper (Amber Heard), a foul-mouthed ex-waitress who has a thing for bad boys and likes to get her toenails painted as a substitute for foreplay. An RV chase is reminiscent of Race with the Devil, and William Fichtner gives it his all as The Accountant, an agent of Hell sent to bring Milton back home.
If your parents ever got on your case for listening to Ozzy or other “evil” musicians, watching one or more of these satanic cult movies is a perfect way to spite them. Sure, it might open you up to the influence of the real Prince of Darkness, but a little rebellion is well worth the possibility of roasting for eternity.