There’s a whole new rush of Satanic Panic going on in this country thanks largely in part to a new music video by Lil Nas X where the out and proud rapper gives Satan a lap dance before killing the Dark Lord and taking his horns.
I won’t get into the social commentary here. I’ll just say that while other people are clutching their pearls over “Montero (Call Me By Your Name,” I’m sitting here watching the video on a loop and thinking about all the great movies we’ve seen over the decades involving Satan, the Devil, the Prince of Darkness, or whatever other title you’d like to ascribe to the Lord of Hell.
Might as well write about it, right?!
So, without further ado, let’s check out some of my favorites in no particular order. Don’t forget to tell me yours in the comments below!
Satanic Panic Cinema!
#1 Prince of Darkness
John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness is an underrated classic if you ask me.
Melding sci-fi and horror in that signature Carpenter style, the film focuses on a group of grad students brought together on a project in an old abandoned church. What makes this particular film so great is the pseudo-scientific explanation for the origins of evil, and the fact that Satan is condensed into a concentrated liquid form that, once unleashed, will bring hell to earth.
The film boasts one hell of a cast including Donald Pleasence, Jameson Parker, Victor Wong, Lisa Blount, Ann Yen, Dennis Dun, Susan Blanchard, and even boasts a special appearance by Alice Cooper, himself!
I personally think Jameson Parker’s mustache needs its own credit in the film, as well, but no one will listen…
#2 Angel Heart
This visually-stunning horror noir film is yet another underrated classic in my book.
Based on the novel by William Hjortsberg, Angel Heart was written and directed by Alan Parker (The Road to Wellville) and stars Mickey Rourke as Harry Angel, a private detective hired by a mysterious man named Louis Cyphre (Robert De Niro) to track down a man named Johnny Favorite who has every reason for wanting to hide out. This is a slow-burn movie with a hell of a pay off–see what I did there?–that everyone should see at least once.
Also of note, is Lisa Bonet’s brilliant performance in the film. She is absolutely entrancing as the enigmatic Epiphany Proudfoot.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. This isn’t a horror movie AND technically Tim Curry’s character wasn’t “the Devil.” I know all of that and I don’t care!
This dark fantasy film from 1985 was written by William Hjotsberg and directed by Ridley Scott, and Tim Curry was one of the sexiest, over-the-top Devil character’s we’ve ever seen on film. I was beyond terrified of him as a child. He just had a way of carrying himself throughout the film that oozed exactly the right kind of danger, and I’m still a little shocked that Mia Sara and Tom Cruise managed to defeat him.
If you’ve got a taste for sinister characters in a high fantasy setting, Legend is the film for you.
#4 The Prophecy
Oooh, this movie! Look, while other films that came after it have chosen to frame angels as violent and vengeful, back in 1995 when The Prophecy was released, very few had taken that path.
The film revolves around a Los Angeles detective (Elias Koteas) who discovers an ancient prophecy is coming to pass and he sets out on a path to keep it from happening. The angel Gabriel (Christopher Walken) is on the warpath, and the detective and a woman named Katherine (Virginia Madsen) find themselves reluctantly in league with, who else, Lucifer (Viggo Mortensen).
A lesser actor would have faltered when facing off with Walken, but not Mortensen. He is a walking sinister presence that never becomes a caricature. He also has some of the best lines in the film.
“You see,” he says, “I’m not here to help you little bitch because I love you or because I care for you, but because two hells is one hell too many, and I can’t have that.”
With a constantly twisting plot, the film is so much fun to watch which is why it has earned itself a cult following.
#5 The Devil’s Advocate
“Vanity, definitely my favorite sin,” so says Al Pacino as John Milton aka the Devil in The Devil’s Advocate which finds Keanu Reeves as a Southern lawyer drawn to a fancy New York law firm run by Old Scratch himself.
This film is beautifully shot and Pacino seems right at home in his diabolical role. He delivers every line with relish and a half-wink to let us know that he’s up to something like some villain from a 1930s melodrama, and yet he still manages to pull of a sinister quality.
What I love most about the film, however, is how much lore there is to dig into. There are little signs and Easter eggs all over the place, and it’s fun to and catch them all.
Speaking of relishing a role, has anyone ever had as good a time playing the Devil as Peter Stormare looked like he was having in Constantine?!
Based on the DC Comics, the film stars Keanu Reeves as John Constantine, a chain-smoking demonologist, exorcist, all-around supernatural jack-of-all-trades who is approached by Det. Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz) after her twin sister, Isabel, supposedly commits suicide. The case leads them into a demonic plot involving Gabriel–this time played by Tilda Swinton–and Satan, himself.
Though the film was panned by many, it’s still a fun watch and deserves a revisit from time to time if for nothing else than to see Stormare’s Satan chew the scenery in his own fiery fashion.
#7 The Witches of Eastwick
Three women (Cher, Susan Sarandon, and Michelle Pfeiffer) looking for a little spice in their life accidentally conjure up the Devil in the guise of Daryl Van Horne (Jack Nicholson) and chaos of every kind ensues.
That’s it. That’s the movie, and it’s worth every single minute of it. While the mood doesn’t seem entirely sinister most of the time, there are moments of real terror in this film. I don’t care what anyone says, when Veronica Cartwright starts projectile vomiting cherry pits as she descends into madness, it absolutely chills me to the bone. This is especially effective as the scene is intercut with Van Horne coaxing the women to, “Have another cherry.”
If you haven’t seen this classic in a while, it’s definitely time for a rewatch.