Horror movie fans know how ardently the horror genre survives and often uses religious practices and myths to deliver a film they love. It might be wrong to say it out loud, but extreme religious practices and beliefs unleash the true horrors. From Satanic rituals to blood sacrifices, from soul exchange with the Devil to asking forgiveness for mortal sins, they scare human beings in every form. The latest addition to the religious horror genre is definitely “Consecration.” It questions the fundamental belief: do angels protect us? The film plays with extremist religious practices and the desperate wish of the church to condemn the Devil and restore lost relics to make the church all-powerful. If the film has got your attention or you love well-knitted religious horror films, here is a list of seven films you should watch.
The Exorcist (1973)
“The Exorcist” is a classic horror movie that dominated the religion-horror subgenre for decades. William Friedkin’s iconic film is a masterpiece horror film and undoubtedly has to be number one on the list. The film is based on a book by William Peter Blatty, a Roman Catholic. It is the story of a mother (Ellen Burstyn) who is desperate to find a cure for her daughter, Regan (Linda Blair) after she begins behaving strangely. As every medical intervention failed to cure Reagan, her mother turned to the Catholic Church for help. Thus, we witness an exorcism performed by a younger and more science-minded priest (you should rule out the oxymoron here), and we also witness the fears of the Devil in the older priest. Exorcism, as you already know, is the battle between God and demonic spirits. This film very carefully creates a brilliant exorcism scene that will stay with you forever.
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
If we are to explore religious horror movies, “Rosemary’s Baby” is an OG. Roman Polanski knew exactly what was needed to make an iconic horror movie. The movie has a phenomenal cast and a great plot. It explores the depths of Satanic anarchy and Catholicism. The film is one of the first to explore the Cassandra Complex, which involves disbelieving others’ valid warnings and concerns. The film centers around a couple, Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and Guy (John Cassavetes), who have recently shifted to a new apartment building. There they met with peculiar neighbors. The elderly couple, the unique neighbors of Rosemary and Guy, offered them a path to turn Guy’s failed career around. However, the path to success comes at a horrible price. The movie explores the anxieties that are triggered by religious beliefs and theology about the age-old feud between good and evil.
Just when you thought priests and holy men were average-looking men, Francis Lawrence, in his directorial debut, “Constantine,” drops Keanu Reeves on you. The film is a classic battle between angels in heaven and demons in hell. John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) is a cynical occult expert who is suffering from terminal lung disease. He made a pact with a half-breed angel named Gabriel to extend his life, and in return, he will keep the demons away from earth. In the meantime, a detective is trying to find the truth about her twin sister’s death. The twin sister jumped off the roof of the psychiatric hospital. The detective was convinced that her sister, who was a devoted Catholic, would never commit suicide, so something supernatural must have forced her sister to commit the crime. The film will take you on a visual tour of angels and demons and bring back everything you thought was just a myth.
The Conjuring (2013)
It is a crime not to have “The Conjuring” on the list of scary religious movies. The film was rated R, not for nudity or violence but for the extreme horror it showcases. The film is based on a true story and thus immediately grabs the audience’s attention. Paranormal investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) were requested to examine the house of a family who had recently moved away from the city and was experiencing paranormal activities. As Ed and Lorraine enter the house, they feel they are surrounded by demonic spirits. On further investigation, they found there lived a religious mother who had sacrificed her soul to the Devil and had sacrificed several people, including her child. The mother of the family is now possessed, and Ed and Lorraine, along with a team, try to save her and the family. The backstories, the jumpscares, and the entire visual style of the film will intrigue you. Even if you are a horror movie fan, conjuring will make you sleep with your lights on for at least a few days.
Although the film will not make you scream, it definitely will make you feel like someone is caressing your spine with cold, icy fingers. The story revolves around the suicide of Erika, a young girl in a Catholic school. Soon after her death, there were a series of deaths that the school’s guidance counselor was investigating. In the course of the investigation, the counselor gets to know certain facts that change the entire perspective of the film. However, there are no jumpscares, and the building up of horror takes most of the time, but the film enraptures you with a certain creepiness that you cannot shake off.
Saint Maud (2019)
Director Rose Glas’s debut film, “Saint Maud,” tells a tale woven in a classic blend of mental illness and religious extremism. It punches your gut and your soul with the narratives of a fanatic Maud (Morfydd Clark). It is the story of saving the soul of a cancer patient (Jennifer Ehle). The film “Saint Maud” depicts the fanaticism with which the soul needs to be saved. Although saving a soul is God’s will, the film sets the dark tone of Satanic ways to save a soul. The film is a major hit among horror movie fans and, for all the right reasons, makes its way to the list of one of the most impressive religious horror movies.
There are several other films that you can add to the list. The constant battle between God and the Devil has been an integral part of horror movies since their dawn. However, if you are intrigued by the religious horror sub-genres, these films will encourage you to explore more.