“[The Witch] surrounds you with a general yet mostly indescribable sense of unease, less through its violence or blood than its mood and tension. And then it clobbers you,” writes our own Jason Bailey about Robert Eggers’ debut feature in theaters this weekend.
Presented as “a New England folk tale,” The Witch has been endorsed by The Satanic Temple as a “transformative Satanic experience” and a film that “provides context to a period of American history that is too often fetishized by those seeking to wield this hammer once again.”
In the spirit of fun and all things Satan, we’re looking at other films that feature the devil at their black, rotten core.
Linda Hayden’s bewitching Angel Blake leads the kids of a 17th-century English village to join a coven of devil worshippers, hoping to resurrect the Prince of Darkness. The bucolic setting and seductive charms of the film’s lead bad girl make Blood on Satan’s Claw a cult favorite.
Ti West created a genre-melding horror film for the aughts with The House of the Devil, starring cult cinema icons Tom Noonan and former Warhol Superstar Mary Woronov. The style of the film mimics horror movies from the ‘70s and ‘80s, while playing up haunted house tropes and Satanic Panic madness. Jocelin Donahue plays a college student who takes a babysitting job, but quickly realizes that she’s the bait for a Satanic ceremony set to take place during the lunar eclipse.
This mondo movie — a genre of film that sensationalizes taboo subjects and foreign cultures in pseudo-documentaries — depicts occult practices and Satanic rites across the globe. Voodoo rituals, witchy orgies, and naked exorcisms abound. The film offers a look at Anton LaVey’s black Bay Area house before it was torn down and a lush Piero Umiliani score.
The mother of all Satanic horror films, Roman Polanski directs Mia Farrow in total breakdown mode as her husband, neighbors, and the devil himself lure her deeper into their sinister plan. And, no, the film does not star Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey in the dream sequence. The role of the devil was played by Clay Tanner.
Christopher Lee, the gentleman of horror, became a sexy and spooky genre icon playing Dracula for Hammer Films during the studio’s heyday. To the Devil a Daughter was the last movie Lee filmed with Hammer — at least until they regrouped in 2011 for The Resident (not recommended). Critics weren’t thrilled with the adaptation of Dennis Wheatley’s novel of the same name. The better Satanic Lee movie is The Devil Rides Out, but To the Devil a Daughter is more fun and stars Honor Blackman (Pussy Galore!), Richard Widmark, and Nastassja Kinski as a sultry nun who has sex with statues.
If you like your Satanic shenanigans mixed with car chases and action, look no further than the Peter Fonda and Warren Oates-starring film Race with the Devil. Director Jack Starrett claimed he hired real Satanists to play the devil worshiping crazies that terrorize a vacationing family after they witness a Satanic ritual. This is Fonda milking what’s left of his Easy Rider rep in 1975, and it’s glorious.
Italian genre cinema babe Edwige Fenech plays a terrified woman who feels like she’s losing her mind in All the Colors of the Dark. Like any normal person, she attends a Black Mass at the insistence of her hot, witchy neighbor. What unfolds is a psychedelic head trip thanks to an icy-eyed mystery man, a creepy cult leader with some serious nail game, and her not-so-adoring husband. Sergio Martino’s stylish depiction of the hysterical woman and Bruno Nicolai’s sitar-heavy score are perfection.
The Witch has Black Phillip, but Black Candles stars an ancestor of the black goat’s in some very uncomfortable scenes with a woman (you’ve been warned). Spanish provocateur José Ramón Larraz sets his sleazy Satanic story in England where a woman is drawn into a Satanic cult that is always DTF.
Several years before director Norman J. Warren made the cringeworthy Inseminoid (which is exactly what it sounds like), he made Satan’s Slave — which contains more sex and violence than the average British horror film for its time. A young girl is tortured by her evil relatives who lead a devil cult. Satan’s Slave has an exploitation vibe and is a bit of a hot mess — but who can’t appreciate a sadistic priest and a movie that pushed the buttons of the censors. Hardcore Brit horror fans will enjoy seeing how Warren’s genre output developed in explicitness over time, which is très Satanic in its own right.
For another movie dubbed Satan’s Slave, check out Pengabdi Setan — which is hard to find, but a rare portrait of Islam and evil instead of the typical Christian morality tale.
Near the end of the Satanic Panic that shocked Middle America during the 1980s, director Robert Resnikoff welcomed the ‘90s with a supernatural thriller. The First Power stars Lou Diamond Phillips as a cop and Tracy Griffith (Melanie Griffith’s sister) as the psychic who helps him hunt down a demonic killer that rises from the grave after his execution. The real star of the film, however, is Jeff Kober’s menacing murderer — who probably should have been a horror cinema icon, but made a name for himself as a gritty television star instead. The First Power’s old-school effects and unnerving atmosphere also make it an underrated gem.