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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Tuesday Top 10: Faith-Based Horror Movies

I was recently asked to put together a list of the top faith-based horror films for Bloody-Disgusting... However, because Brad "Don't call me Mr. Disgusting" Miska is a busy dude, the list was accidentally assigned to two different writers--and damn it, I wasn't fast enough! Not one to let good copy go to waste, I've decided to "repurpose" the list--as we say in the marketing business--which means that now all you loyal Vault Dwellers get to enjoy it exclusively!

BJ-C had been helping me put this one together, but she's off the hook now--saved by baton nationals! However, keep your greasy eyeballs peeled for the newest VoH/DotW collabo in the days/weeks to come... For now, enjoy this breakdown of the most memorable horror flicks with religious themes:

10. Angel Heart (1987)
Robert DeNiro plays the Devil (oh excuse me, Louis Cypher) in this horror noir which was unfairly maligned upon release, but has since aged like a fine wine. Plus it has that infamous sex scene between Mickey Rourke and Lisa Bonet. What would the Cos say? Oh wait, he was too busy asking interns to tug on his Jell-O pudding pop...

9. Stigmata (1999)
I didn't expect much from this one when I first saw it, but it surprised me--both in its effectiveness, and its knowledgeable use of Christian folklore. Patricia Arquette is freaky in the title role of Frankie Paige, a girl afflicted with the wounds of Christ. And of course, Gabriel Byrne is Gabriel Byrne. As a recovering Catholic, this one was much appreciated.

8. Signs (2002)
I might catch heat for this one, but Signs deals very pointedly and frankly with the common problem of crisis of faith. If that doesn't make it "faith-based", I don't know what would. Mel Gibson plays a fallen priest whose brush with invading aliens causes him to reassess his relationship with the magic dude in the sky.

7. Seven (1995)
Yes, I refuse to spell it in that goofy way with the number 7 in the title. I'm cranky that way. Anyway, thanks to BJ-C for suggesting this one. For the handful of you that might not know the plot, Seven features the serial killer John Doe, whose murders are each based around one of the seven deadly sins. Think of him as Jigsaw, if Jigsaw had gone to Sunday school.

6. Hellraiser (1987)
While not so much tied into any recognizable organized religion, Clive Barker's masterwork is highly spiritual in nature. And of course, there's the whole "Hell" thing, which is kind of hard to get around. The Cenobites are clearly New Age demons, and there is much made of the universal balance of good and evil, which is all very Zoroastrian. Thank you, liberal arts education!

5. Faust (1926)
Four years after Nosferatu, F.W. Murnau delivered his other amazing epic, the screen's finest adaptations of one of Christianity's most famous legends. God and Satan do battle over the soul of Faust in Goethe's literary masterwork, brought to life in boldly visual fashion by the master of German Expressionism.

4. Rosemary's Baby (1968)
Yes, we're getting into the "predictable zone" here, so sue me. This is the film that ushered in the era of "Satanism chic" in horror, and spawned more copycats than you can shake a pitchfork at. Mia Farrow is impregnated by Beelzebub, and delivers her impish progeny to an apartment building filled with eager Devil worshippers. Shocking stuff for its day, and still packs a punch now.

3. The Omen (1976)
Gregory Peck delivers one of horror's all-time classiest performances in this wicked tale of Satan's attempt to reincarnate himself on Earth in the cute little form of Damien Thorn. Another great example of a film that makes the most of Christian folklore, crafting a story that draws us in, whether we buy into the faith-based stuff or not.

2. The Wicker Man (1973)
Ask any horror fan who's seen it, and they'll tell you that The Wicker Man is one of the genre's truly great discoveries. A much bigger deal in the UK than in the States, this twisted morality tale pits devout Christian police officer Edward Woodward against a cryptic Pagan cut led by the sublime Christopher Lee. Avoid the remake at all costs, in large part because it ejects much of the religious subtext.

1. The Exorcist (1973)
What would be the point of even trying to be cute and picking anything but this? William Friedkin's enthralling piece of filmmaking so impacted the culture into which it was released that it actually raised the ire of the Catholic church, and polarized audiences with its intense, and gripping take on the struggle between Satan and the soldiers of Christ in a world in which good and evil are very real forces. Based on William Peter Blatty's best-seller, it's the perfect example of a faith-based horror film directed at an often faithless modern world.


End of Days (direct hate mail to BJ-C :-))
The Exorcism of Emily Rose
Prince of Darkness
The Prophechy
The Seventh Sign


JR said...

Pretty good list, but I'd swap out Signs for Alice, Sweet Alice.

Marianne said...

Dude, great list.

I'd put Devils Advocate in there too, its tacky but I love it.

I think religious horrors are my favourite, being somewhat atheist I find the idea of 'what if all that religious mythology were real' really resonating.

I'm interested in various faiths from an anthropological and folk lore basted view, and enjoy horror. So a combination of the two always does it for me.

B-Sol said...

I think that's exactly what makes The Exorcist so terrifying--the notion that there might actually be a malevolent force that exists in the universe...

Soap Magic said...

I'm surprised that I've seen 7/10 of the movies that are on this list! I'm frightened by Satan, so there's no doubt that The Exorcist, The Omen, and Rosemary's Baby had an impact on me.

Stigmata was one of my favorite movies when I was younger.

It's about time that someone besides me gave Faust some love. In my opinion, it's the best silent horror movie I've ever seen. I'm shocked that only IMDb has it on their top 50 horror movies.
This is off-topic, but do you think you can post your own personal top 50 horror movies? I'm very interested to know! :)

CRwM said...

I don't believe that Murnau's Faust is based on Goethe's Faust. Instead, it's a mash-up of several different versions of the story.

The plague outbreak that starts the flick has no analog in the play. In the play Gretchen accidentally poisons her mother; in the film, Faust is framed for the murder of Gretchen's brother. In the movie Gretchen and Faust have a child (who then dies when Gretchen is sent into exile - leading to Gretchen's own conviction on a charge of murder), which doesn't happen in the play. Perhaps most importantly, Faust and Gretchen die together in the film and, through the power of their love, are both redeemed and get into heaven. By contrast, there's a whole second post-Gretchen part to the play and Faust is "redeemed" only because he makes the claim he never knew true satisfaction and that means the devil did not keep his side of the bargain.

B-Sol said...

Soapy: To be fair, BJ-C has also big-upped Faust in her movie recommendations... As for me, I think my favorite silent horror may very well be the 1920 Jekyll & Hyde.

CRWM: Thanks for the clarification. Faust is one of those folk tales that have been around forever, I guess Goethe's version is just the most well-known.

John Sunseri said...

Nice list--I like it a lot.

My personal #1 would be FRAILTY; you can't get much more faith-based than that. But I'm happy with all the ones you listed.

Soap Magic said...

I forgot that BJ-C gave Faust some love too (oops! :P), but it's still a bit underrated, don't you think?

B-Sol said...

No question about it.

Frank said...

Great post Brian! I like Frailty as well. Thanks for the Hellraiser prop! Got to love Pinhead and the pain and suffering! Thanks my friend! Frank

RayRay said...

Love the list. But instead of swapping out Signs for Alice Sweet Alice, I would go with Constantine. I know, I know, no one likes Keanu, but Neo is the man, espcially as John Constantine. And there is a lot, lot, lot of good religious myth and lore in that one.

However, I am thrilled that Angel Heart, one that does stand up after all these years, on one of your lists.

B-Sol said...

Constantine came very close to making it, as did a few others. I should probably tack on a few honorable mentions.

Ms Harker said...

I'm a fan of Constantine (for obvious reasons), however The Exorcist still rocks over all faith based horror films. I like that Seven and Stigmata got a mention, both are reasonably good modern takes on the sub-genre. One question is a Jell-O Pudding pop what I think it is, if so eww!


Monster Scholar said...

Great list. I wouldn't have even thought of Signs (all I remember are the shiny foil hats) and Wicker Man deserves some love.

B-Sol said...

Yes Jess, it's exactly what you think. Cos got into a little trouble a few years back...

B-Sol said...

Yes Jess, it's exactly what you think. Cos got into a little trouble a few years back...

Chad Medeiros said...

The thing I love so much about the Exorcist is that it is less about Reagan and more about Father Karras. Most people I talk to about the film automatically start talking about the girl and forget that this is an attack at the Catholic Priests. What a great movie!!

Anonymous said...

You forgot THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. Easily one the most brutal Horror films of the decade.

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