Dark arts: The most devilishly good movies about Satanism
Prepare to scare all your elders by throwing some devil horns into the air and listening to records on reverse because Hulu is developing a show based on the Satanic panic of the 80s. Called Demons, the series will be an anthology centered around two characters – a manipulative psychiatrist and his wife (and star patient) who will be involved in a different Satanic Panic case each season. The Hollywood Reporter explained that each season of Demons will “explore a twisted crime affected by the couple’s dark exploration into the fragile nature of memory and guilt.” False memories were a major part of some Satanic investigations, with heavy-handed methods of suggestion used on patients in a bid to help them “remember” acts of violent sexual abuse committed by nonexistent Satanic cabals.
To get you all prepped and ready for the show, here are ten of the best movies about Satanism that you should conjure the dark arts of the internet to seek out and watch immediately.
10. Starry Eyes (2014)
Exploring the deviant world of the occult Hollywood elite, Kevin Kolsch (Holidays) and Dennis Widmyer’s (Absence) indie horror offers a modern take on the age old “young person sells soul to devil in exchange for success” yarn. The dark descent of young starlet Sarah (Alexandra Essoe) into a dazzling world of fame and Satanism is explored devilishly well, with Jonathan Snipes’s synth score making hell sound great.
9. Häxan (1922)
The iconic film is a hybrid of documentary and fiction exploring the history of Satanism, demonology, and witchcraft. The movie is brimming with nightmarish visuals and a morbid sense of humor but also tackles some great social issues like the persecution of women over the ages. Because Benjamin Christensen’s film is free of spoken dialogue, you can even enjoy it to your favorite death metal soundtrack to really set the mood.
8. The Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971)
This movie honestly has it all – killer children, gothic brooding, Satanic cults, and pure exploitation horror and we’re honestly of the opinion it deserves far greater recognition than it receives. Starring Linda Hayden (Madhouse) as a young woman leading a pack of teenage Satanists who can’t be held back by their disapproving and panicked parents, the movie is creepy and shocking and completely badass.
7. The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015)
Directed by Oz Perkins (Legally Blonde) and featuring a perfectly eerie score from his brother Elvis Perkins, The Blackcoat’s Daughter is probably the most chilling and surprising movie on this list. Starring Emma Roberts (Nerve), Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men), Lucy Boynton (Murder on the Orient Express), and James Remar (Black Lightning), the slow-burn story is mysterious and unsettling and leads to a savage and unforgettable finale. Set at a virtually empty boarding school during winter break where the nuns are rumored to be secret Satanists, the movie uses Satanism sparingly and shockingly to great effect.
6. The Devil Rides Out (1968)
The Hammer Horror classic still packs a helluva punch in its dark exploration of Satanic worship and black magic. Starring Christopher Lee (Dracula) & Leon Greene (Flash Gordon) as two poor schmucks who accidentally find themselves at a high society party that’s actually a meeting of a Satanic cult, the film conjures up a world of aristocratic diabolism. One that people today still speculate is happening behind some of the most privileged and powerful closed doors in the world.
5. The Wailing (2016)
This tense horror from Na Hong-jin (The Chaser) really benefits from knowing as little about the plot as possible, so we apologize to all those spoiler purists who are likely spitting feathers over us including it in a Satanic movie list. However, we’re still not exactly giving much away, as this film about a mysterious sickness, the hysteria that follows as it spreads through a small town, and the events that follow has plenty more to offer beyond the threat of Satanism.
4. House of the Devil (2009)
Ti West’s (V/H/S) beloved indie horror offers a delightful throwback to the 80s without cramming the movie full of senseless nostalgia just for the sake of it. Instead, the film leans on the Satanic Panic of the era to provide a quiet menace to the movie which unfurls its secrets slowly and suspensefully. Featuring a cast including Greta Gerwig (Isle of Dogs), Jocelin Donahue (Furious 7), Tom Noonan (Robocop 2), and A.J. Bowen (You’re Next), the film is rightfully considered to be a modern horror classic.
3. The Sentinel (1977)
Visually arresting and absolutely stunning, Michael Winner’s haunting movie about a suspiciously cheap rent controlled apartment – and the woman who lives there as a declaration of independence – is savage and beguiling. The cult horror stars Christina Raines (Nashville), Ava Gardner (On the Beach), Chris Sarandon (Fright Night), Christopher Walken (True Romance), and Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park) and harbors a tasty metaphor for the women’s liberation movement of the time it was made.
2. The Witch (2015)
There will never be another goat in cinematic history as seductive as Black Phillip in The Witch – the talking baphomet of Robert Eggers’s (The Knight) mysterious horror who offers Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) a life of deliciousness and fresh butter if she becomes one of Satan’s brides. What young woman could possibly say no to such an offer? The film is incredibly well researched on the history of witchcraft and is impossibly creepy, with harrowing visuals tip-toeing through an atmospheric story.
1. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
One of the most influential horror movies ever made, Roman Polanski’s sinister film about a young woman (Mia Farrow) who becomes forcefully impregnated with the spawn of the devil is a masterful exploration of Satanism, the concept of evil, and female autonomy. Paranoia abounds in the film as Rosemary’s neighbors (including Ruth Gordon & Sidney Blackmer) seem nice and polite enough, making them even creepier as we discover they’re in cahoots with Satan.