5 Devilishly Good Satanic Horror Films

Growing up in a very religious family, my upbringing was one of fear and terror…and that was just the Christian part of my childhood. Bonfires full of burning VHS tapes, CDs and so many other things “not of the Lord” made me interested in everything I was told NOT to be interested in. Naturally, Satanic imagery was where it was at as a teenager.

My love for free-thinking, being in control of your own future and fate, mixed with loving how defiance and questioning authority was a big part of the hardcore/punk rock subculture I cut my teeth in as a teen, my taste in horror was always rooted in two sub-genres: slasher films and Satanic/cult-based horror. While I can talk slasher films until I’m blue in the face, my preferences regarding Satanic horror changes from day-to-day. Though I’ve written my share of articles and essays on all things Satan, the truth is that what I might have liked five years ago, might not be what I gravitate towards these days.

My favourite Satanic horror films change like the seasons, but here are five films your church youth group probably hates. Read on!

Race with the Devil (1975)

A road trip gone wrong, Race with the Devil is pure Satanic exploitation greatness thanks to performances from Peter Fonda, Warren Oates and Loretta Swit. The film, which revolves around a group of vacationers stumbling across the wrong place at the wrong time, is a great example of having a solid concept and really focusing on grounded performances in a pretty out-there scenario.

There’s nothing quite like being chased and stalked by a Satanic cult to ruin your vacation plans and the fight between Fonda, Oates and their partners against the cult is a fun one to watch. This is a great slice of Satanic glory.

The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015)

One of the most unexpected surprises of the past decade, The Blackcoat’s Daughter is one of the greatest examples of a truly unsettling slow-burn horror, complete with enough tension to please the most diehard A24 fans. Directed by Osgood Perkins, the film takes three (or so you initially think) women and weaves a story that brings them together in a Satanic possession tale of losing your mind and giving into the darkness that so often comes into your soul when you’re most vulnerable.

The real star of The Blackcoat’s Daughter is Kiernan Shipka as Kat, a young woman feeling isolated and abandoned, looking to feel a part of something. Shipka has a vulnerability in her performances that destroys your insides, as you see her slowly lose her grip. The impending doom you know will come grabs a hold of your throat until the shocking violence shows up, ready to make your eyes and mouth open wide. Excellent score work by Elvis Perkins, beautiful cinematography from Julie Kirkwood and subtle yet moody direction by Perkins really makes this one a very special experience.

The First Power (1990)

What do you get when you combine a police procedural with Lou Diamond Phillips chasing a masked body-switching murdered played by the always charismatic Jeff Kober? The First Power, that’s what you get. The story follows an executed serial killer jumping from body to body to exact revenge on the cop who was responsible for his capture and death. It’s a really fun time, complete with people jumping a couple of hundred feet off a building, busting through windows doing backflip kicks, and the best usage of a spinning ceiling fan as a weapon around.

Films like The First Power are simply absent from today’s cinematic output and that’s a real tragedy. Gone are the days of wacky approaches to storytelling. While A24 and Blumhouse’S horror films are 100% my cup of tea, I miss the days of WEIRD horror. LDP gives his absolute all as a cop hellbent on proving that Kober’s serial killer character is back from the grave and looking to live forever.

The Witch (2015)

One of the few examples of a film actually living up to its hype, The Witch is a moody, terrifyingly tense movie, full of falling from grace, succumbing to dark fates, and some of the most visually striking scenery around. This is thanks to director Robert Eggers insisting on using authentic dialogue from the film’s 17th century time period, as well as some gorgeously eerie cinematography.

Think pieces and essays have been written on Eggers’ film. Though a lot of reading into the film and its themes is always a lot of fun, the fact is this: it’s just a really great film. One that acknowledges and embraces the feeling of dread. Whether we’re watching our protagonist slowly succumb to the witches and evil found within the nearby woods, or endlessly quoting Black Phillip’s “Wouldst Thou Like To Live Deliciously?”, one thing is for sure: this one is a Satanic masterpiece that deserves its instant classic status.

The Lords of Salem (2011)

One of Rob Zombie’s most divisive entries, The Lords of Salem showed that the rocker-turned filmmaker had more to offer viewers than the hillbilly aesthetic that he is so often accused of focusing on. More in line with something Dario Argento would have done, this witch and Satan-filled gem of a film follows Heidi Hawthorne (Sheri Moon Zombie),  a recovering drug addict radio DJ, who experiences a Satanic descent into madness when a mysterious record arrives. Playing the record over the air, Heidi accidentally brings the Satanic plan to fruition, causing the town’s women to murder and fulfill a prophecy of revenge, courtesy of Meg Foster’s terrifying Margaret Morgan, a witch who put a curse of the residents of Salem.

More of a visual experience that one based on plot and performance, Zombie really pulled out the stops with going all in design-wise, creating such an interesting look and ride. The cinematography by Brandon Trost is top-notch. Also impressive is Zombie regular (and wife) Sheri, who sheds her Baby Firefly persona in favour of a damaged individual trying her best to recover from her past mistakes.

Filled with masturbating dead priests, glowing red crosses and one of the most interesting visual takes on Satan around, The Lords of Salem is not only my favourite film on this list, but is also my favourite film of RZ’s.