#1. Jacob’s Ladder
Jacob’s Ladder takes the top spot for one reason: It actually means something. When you think about what a movie means or what it’s about, that is something very different than discussing the plot. Jacob’s Ladder is about letting go of the darkness that binds our soul to the past so we can move forward with our lives. Yes, it’s steeped in biblical allegory, but the visuals are consistently disturbing, almost beautifully so. It’s one of those movies that you can watch over and over and get something different out of every viewing.
#2. The Exorcist
As damning as feminist criticism of The Exorcist has been, the movie remains as frightening today as it was when it was released 40 years ago. It may be more disturbing in the light of feminist criticism.
#3. The Witch
Masterclass acting and creepy atmosphere make this one of the most subtle period pieces concerning the fear of female sexuality and power. The heir-apparent and cultural inheritor of possession films which focus on celibate male heroes compelling with the power of Christ. The Witch extinguishes the need for a hero and instead features males that are alternatively naive and self-righteous.
#4. Rosemary’s Baby
Rosemary’s Baby is an exercise in subtext. It’s effective because of what it doesn’t show. Much of the horror resides just outside of your line of sight and in the periphery of your imagination. When this works, it’s because the storytelling is phenomenal, and, in this case, it is. Also, a rare piece of urban horror.
It’s hard to put four movies in front of Se7en, but the movie doesn’t actually feature any supernatural elements. It makes it an odd fit for religious horror. If this were a list of the best serial killer movies of all time, Se7en would be number one. Nonetheless, the religious themes are well-researched and smartly adapted. This is the type of movie that will never be forgotten.
6. The Mothman Prophecies
The concept is built off of an urban legend, but I don’t give a shit. It’s religious horror if I say it is. The moth represents entities forever trapped in the hellish regions. That makes them demons. That makes it religious horror. Despite critical indifference to the movie, it was genuinely scary. The mothmen reach out to those who have been destroyed by personal tragedy. They play on their longings and their fears. They draw them into a web of intrigue. They drive them out of their mind. This is a great concept and it was executed wonderfully.
Bill Pullman and Matthew McConaughey deliver brilliant performances in a script that puts a religious spin on the superhero genre. Bill Pullman tells his young boys that he can see evildoers and while the one son thinks he’s a dingbat the other buys it wholesale. The storytelling involves McConaughey’s character describing his childhood to a police officer who is investigating a number of unsolved murders that appear to be religiously motivated.
8. A Dark Song
Occult horror at its finest. A Dark Song is one of the most promising entries into a genre that has become dull and dry. Main character elicits the aid of a drunk occultist to perform the Abramelin ritual which will allow her to ask one favor of an angel. Her values are tested when she must choose between satisfying the debt she owes her grief and learning to move on with her life.
9. Devil’s Advocate
Cheesy at times because it sounds off like a morality play and with occasionally offensive results, but overall interesting premise and, of course, Al Pacino.
10. The Prophecy
Christopher Walken plays the Angel Gabriel as humans find themselves in the middle of a war between angels loyal to God and angels who think humans suck. Occasionally cheesy but Vigo Mortenson is Satan and Christopher Walken is awesome.
11. Flatliners (the first one)
Medical students stop their hearts to see whether or not there’s an afterlife but find their sins revisited on them quite literally and with potentially deadly results.
12. From Within
Angry witches set off a chain hex to curse a town for killing their ancestors. Decent flick.
If you’ve ever wanted to see a movie where a dude gets fucked up the ass by a tail, then here you go.
- Black Death (starring Carice Van Houten)
- Ouija: The Origin of Evil
- The Possession of Michael King
I will update this list periodically. If there’s anything you think I missed, leave it in the comments.