A wine list of diabolical films (by no means exhaustive) with the most redeeming value, or that are otherwise notable for interesting Satanic, Black Magic, Witchcraft, Pagan or Occult, content.
Some have aged well and are to be savored, while others have a distinct bite. A few have gone to vinegar but may still make an interesting salad dressing.
Beware! We tried to avoid it but there may be a few spoilers!
This list will be added to as time allows.
First, of course, are Cinema’s infamous “Unholy Trinity” of Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist and The Omen.
We of course refer to the original films and not any remakes nor sequels, prequels or fecals. That is not to say that some of these sequels are not enjoyable, but these original films, and novels in the case of Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, stand out as having had a widespread influence in popular culture regarding beliefs in an actual Devil, or Satan, and the powers of Evil.
Each of these three films have aged extremely well, are smooth but robust in taste, and have their own distinct flavor and bouquet. Each one was a smash hit at it’s time of release and have spawned any number of imitations, sequels, remakes, spin-offs and wannabes.
The seventies and eighties were arguably the best time for these films. However, none before or since, has had as visceral an impact as The Exorcist.
Our personal favorite is Rosemary’s Baby, so let’s begin there.
Satanic Sommelier: A very expensive bottle of Château Margaux with savory notes and a strong finish! Too expensive? Try making a vodka blush in tribute to the Castevets!
- 2 1/2 ounces Vodka
- 3/4 ounces freshly-squeezed lime juice (strained)
- Dash Grenadine
- Fill shaker 2/3 with fresh ice. Add ingredients. Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass.
- Garnish with a fresh sprig of Rosemary.
You can always celebrate the good tidings with champagne. (1968) Although this may first sound like a bit of an overstatement, this film and the book it came from caused millions of people in the 1960’s to seriously examine their religious beliefs and ideology. This was done deftly – in print and film – without any onscreen violence or gore. Hands must have surely trembled as they turned the final pages of this thriller when it was first released in 1967. The film, which was released the following year, closely adheres to the original novel in every way but has been brought to vivid and believable life through committed performances by the entire cast, especially Mia Farrow as Rosemary and Ruth Gordon who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal as Minnie Castevet. This is the Mother of All Devil-Baby Movies and has spawned any number of imitations.
Satanic Sommelier: An expensive Scotch, neat, no ice necessary. (1973) What can we say here that hasn’t already been said? It is a tense, dark, psychological and spiritual Horror Drama. The scenes of the possessed girl are deservedly famous, but it’s truly the spiritual crisis of the character of Father/Dr. Damien Karras (played by Jason Miller) which stands at the center of this gripping story. Father Damien Karras is a Jesuit priest who loses his faith and subsequently achieves a kind of perverse heroic redemption in his own self-destruction – or does he?
Satanic Sommelier: A good but affordable Australian or Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon; we recommend Casillero del Diablo; or perhaps Newcastle beer. Enjoyable and easy to drink… but not every day. (1976) caused a good many people to start attending church or paying closer attention to the last chapter of The New Testament. A number of people went home and shaved their kid’s heads in order to inspect them for the Devil’s birthmark – 666. Spectacular death scenes which can be interpreted as coincidental “accidents” or the work of Evil forces. The trinity of Omen films is Satanic Cinema Canon and one could do worse than to watch all three in a video marathon.
♣♥♠♦ Other notable cinematic daemons…
(old to new) are:
Satanic Sommelier: Absinthe. (1922) Häxan is a strange creature that is also a real treasure. English title: Witchcraft Through the Ages, is a Swedish-Danish documentary-style silent horror film based partly on the director’s study of the Malleus Malificarum, a 15th-century German guide for inquisitors. Häxan is a study of how superstition and the misunderstanding of diseases and mental illness could lead to the hysteria of the witch-hunts. The film was made as a documentary but contains dramatised sequences of perverted and criminal Diabolic rituals and tortures enforced by the Inquisition. We recommend the version narrated by William S. Burroughs because… well, William S. Burroughs. Link below:
I married a Witch (1942)
Wallace Wooley: I’m afraid you’ve got a hangover.
Daniel: Don’t tell me what I’ve got! I invented the hangover. It was in 1892… B.C.
(1942) Witchcraft and love-spells that go awry… and a daddy who drinks. An amusing precursor to later endeavors such as ‘Bell, Book and Candle,’ and TV series ‘Bewitched‘ (1964 – 1972) and ‘American Horror Story Season 3: Coven‘ (2013).
The Seventh Victim (1943)
Satanic Sommelier: Whiskey. An old fashioned mystery thriller centered around a cult of Devil worshippers called Palladists. Though tame unto the point of near-boredom by today’s jaded cinematic standards, it still carries a cozy film noir accent. Also noteworthy for prefiguring future essays into horror cinema. The group of Palladists have a certain affinity with later cinematic devil worshipping groups, such as in Rosemary’s Baby. The shower scene is said to have inspired Hitchcock’s notorious shower scene in PSYCHO…
The final laws against Witchcraft in England were repealed in 1952, allowing witches to finally “come out of the (broom) closet.” Witchcraft became all the rage after Gerald Gardner wrote and published a couple of groundbreaking books on the subject as an underground Pagan religion. It’s popularity as the Wiccan religion has spread and been on the rise ever since.
Night of the Demon (1957)
Bell, Book and Candle (1958)
Satanic Sommelier: Mix up a Manhattan! A cocktail made with whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters. (1958) In the late 1950s, Gillian Holroyd (Kim Novak) is a modern-day witch living in New York City’s Greenwich Village. For some reason she decides to cast a love spell on Jimmy Stewart. Witchcraft and love-spells that go awry. Helped pave the way for TV series ‘Bewitched‘ (1964 – 1972) and ‘American Horror Story Season 3: Coven‘ (2013).
Horror Hotel (1960)
Satanic Sommelier: Chardonnay, chilled. (1960) aka The City of the Dead. Features Christopher Lee (you will find his presence occurs often in our list!) as a college professor with more than a dabbler’s interest in Witchcraft.
The Masque of the Red Death (1964)
Satanic Sommelier: Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. We recommend Casillero del Diablo as your affordable go-to red wine for these films. (1964) Based upon the hypnotically perverse and lovely-dreadful poem by Edgar Allan Poe and starring the inimitable Vincent Price as a tyrannical 12th-century prince (a mix of Gilles De Rais and the Marquis De Sade) who is intrigued by a girl and takes her to live amid the immorality of his court where he compels her to join him in the “glories of Hell.”.
Vincent Price and Hazel Court are an aristocratic couple attempting to prove their evilness to their Master Satan in 1964’s ‘The Masque of the Red Death‘.
Eye of the Devil (1966)
Satanic Sommelier: Chilled Chardonnay. (1966) Is a slow paced but suspenseful occult mystery-thriller with seasonal Pagan sacrifice and witchcraft at it’s heart. Very good acting by a great cast (David Niven, Deborah Kerr, David Hemmings, Donald Pleasence) and effective storytelling keep you engaged in wondering what will happen next. However, if you’ve read Sir James Frazier’s The Golden Bough you’ll already know the outcome. Noteworthy for being the beautiful Sharon Tate’s first feature film. Her character is mysterious and intriguing. Regrettable that her talented life (and the lives of several others) was cut abruptly short in unspeakable circumstances by the murderous Manson Family cult in August of 1969. A wave of weirdness will assail your mind if you think too much of connecting the occult dots between: ‘Eye of the Devil’ – Sacrifice, or ritual murder – Sharon Tate – the year 1966 – Roman Polanski – ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ – The Devil – Mia Farrow – The Beatles – The Manson Family cult – John Lennon – The Dakota building in New York – etc…
Witchfinder General aka The Conquerer Worm (1968)
Satanic Sommelier: A pint or two of Guiness. The story details the heavily fictionalised murderous witch-hunting exploits of Matthew Hopkins, a 17th-century English lawyer who claimed to have been appointed as a “Witch Finder Generall” by Parliament during the English Civil War to root out sorcery and witchcraft. The film was retitled The Conqueror Worm in the United States in an attempt to link it with Roger Corman‘s earlier series of Edgar Allan Poe–related films starring Price—although this movie has nothing to do with any of Poe’s stories, and only briefly alludes to his poem.
Director Reeves featured many scenes of intense onscreen torture and violence that were considered unusually sadistic at the time. Upon its theatrical release throughout the spring and summer of 1968, the movie’s gruesome content was met with disgust by several film critics in the UK, despite having been extensively censored by the British Board of Film Censors. In the US, the film was shown virtually intact and was a box office success, but it was almost completely ignored by reviewers.
Witchfinder General eventually developed into a cult film, partially attributable to Reeves’s 1969 death from a drug overdose at the age of 25, only nine months after Witchfinder‘s release.
The Devil Rides Out (1968)
Satanic Sommelier: Gin & tonic, or have a Guinness or Newcastle. (1968) We know this is hard to believe but Christopher Lee is NOT a Satanist in this film! …but he sure seems to know an awful lot about black magic! Charles Gray (Bond villain Blofeld, and the Criminologist in The Rocky Horror Picture Show) is the Satanic High Priest-Magician in this Hammer horror thriller. The opening credits are fantastic!
Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970)
Satanic Sommelier: A very rich, dry, full-bodied Merlot. Or, try a Bloody Mary. (1970) Christopher Lee-as-Count Dracula developed into the Devil’s avatar in Hammer’s Horror films. A group of dissipated men try dabbling in the occult – Hellfire Club style – to add something new to spice-up their drab debaucheries… with dreadful consequences. Russell Hunter as the effeminate Felix the pimp and Ralph Bates as Lord Courtly lend the film a tasty Là-Bas and Hellfire Club feel. The black magic elements are an obvious and key element to this good vs. evil story.
The Devils (1971)
Satanic Sommelier: Difficult to choose… Perhaps a very expensive bottle of Château Margaux with savory notes and a strong finish! Too expensive? Try a French Bordeaux. No? Maybe Absinthe? Chartreuse? Otherwise, Bloody Mary’s for everyone! (1971) Excellent film – if you can find it. Directed by Ken Russell and banned for years, it is still usually available only in edited forms. Based on actual events known as the Loudon Possessions. A seventeenth century “nuns gone wild.” Hysteria, repression, obsession, possession, and political intrigue leads us to the discovery of the real devils in society, i.e.: the unholy alliance of church and state! The art direction is fabulous and the film has a fantastic look all it’s own. The best DVD release so far (from BFI) can be found through Amazon UK. The special features include some footage from the infamous and always edited “Rape of Christ” sequence, in which possessed nuns depose a crucifix in order to have their way with it. We could rave on and on about how marvelous this film is, and how horrifyingly relevant it remains today!
Blood On Satan’s Claw (1971)
Dracula AD 1972 (1972)
Satanic Sommelier: Incense and peppermint schnapps. (1972) Claimed to be a favorite film of Tim Burton. A Satanic ritual performed by hippies using the dried blood of Dracula himself brings Christopher Lee back to (from?) the Undead. Or is it the un-undead at this point?? Just as in the previous year’s Taste the Blood of Dracula! The early 70’s were a time when dabbling in occultism and black magic were de rigueur. Peter Cushing is present as a descendent of Van Helsing, of course.
Necromancy aka The Witching (1972)
Satanic Sommelier: Any Black Tower brand wine, perhaps Pinot Noir, as we remember Mr Welles in the Black Tower wine commercials on TV back in the day. (1972) Orson Welles is the leader of a group dabbling in the Dark Arts. A not-so-great film, but gives you that ’70’s occult paranoia vibe which everybody was dipping into.
Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (1972)
Satanic Sommelier: Rum & Coke or Vodka cranberry. (1972) CSPWDT is sort of like Night of the Living Dead, but with a young theater group dabbling in diabolism and necromancy. Flawed but effective 70’s gem with some really good moments.
The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1974)
Satanic Sommelier: Gin & tonic for this very British film. (1974) Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, ’nuff said. But with the added thrill of an elite Satanic fraternity planning to release a plague on the unsuspecting earth, with Christopher Lee’s Dracula (suffering from a severe case of ennui, no less) at the center!
The Wicker Man (1975)
Satanic Sommelier: Mead, or a good Celtic brew. (1975) Classic! Must see film starring Christopher Lee (starting to see a pattern here?!). A conservative Christian policeman (Edward Woodward as Sergeant Howie) is sent to investigate the report of a missing child on a small Scottish island. He is scandalized by the local Pagan culture and it’s sexualized rituals which are overseen by Lord Summerisle (Lee at his best). The more Sergeant Howie learns about the islanders’ strange practices, the closer he gets to tracking down the missing child.
Race with the Devil (1975)
Satanic Sommelier: This one is strictly beer. (1975) Two couples vacationing together in an R.V. from Texas to Colorado are terrorized after they witness a murder during a Satanic ritual. Peter Fonda stars. A heartwarming 70’s touchstone it is not.
To the Devil a Daughter (1976)
Satanic Sommelier: A reasonable but quality Cabernet sauvignon or Merlot. May we suggest our go-to Devil Wine: Casillero del Diablo, produced by Concha y Toro. (1976) Three reasons to watch this film:
1. Christopher Lee as a Satanic priest – he does it so well! Look at that smile at a nasty scene near the beginning of the film!,
2. A 15-year-old full frontal nude Nastassja Kinski (we also love her dressed as a nun),
3. and… some rather atypical Satanic ritual imagery.
Alice, Sweet Alice (1976)
Satanic Sommelier: A cheap, full-bodied Merlot with acrid tones that sting the nose and leaves your tongue and teeth purple because you passed out from over-drinking before brushing your teeth… but every once-in-a-while you pick up a bottle because it does the job. Gato Negro will do. (1976) A frightful 70’s American slasher gem reminiscent of Dario Argento’s giallo shockers. This creeper focuses on murders that occur around two young sisters and the younger one’s (’80’s beauty Brooke Shields) first communion, and it positively spills over with bloody murder and over-the-top Catholic paranoia. Applause and thanks are due to Jane Lowry (as Aunt Annie DeLorenze) who was really going for the Oscar in this project!
While not explicitly Satanic, Alice Sweet Alice sure feels blasphemous when taken in it’s grisly entirety. The creepy cat-loving landlord was played by Alphonso DeNoble. According to director Alfred Sole, Alphonso made extra money by dressing up as a priest and hanging around cemeteries. Elderly widows would ask “Father Alphonso” for a blessing and offer him a donation for the church in return.
Did you know ?
Linda Miller (who plays Alice and Karen’s mother) is the daughter of Jackie Gleason and was married to Jason Miller, who portrayed Father Damien Karras in The Exorcist?
Satanic Sommelier: Affordable but drinkable Italian red wine… and hashish (smoke ’em if you got ’em). (1977) Is a film that stands out in horror cinema and remains perhaps the most artistic horror film ever made. Dario Argento’s masterpiece. Note the sculpture of the Peacock in the film’s climax – the Peacock is of course a symbol of Pride (Lucifer’s sin). The Three Mothers motif is carried on in the sequels Inferno (1980) and The Mother of Tears (2007).
Read our Occult-Horror geek articles on Suspiria here:
The Sentinel (1977)
Satanic Sommelier: Whatever your poison may be, drink plenty of it!(1977) The gateway to Hell requires a vigilant ward. The requirements for the position are a rather particular sin. The Sentinel is kind of like a blend of Hell House and Rosemary’s Baby with some Law & Order mixed in. If it is tedious at times you can amuse yourself by spotting the many big names in it, enough to give even a jaded movie goer pause: Ava Gardner, Burgess Meredith, Sylvia Miles, Jose Ferrer, Eli Wallach, Christopher Walken, Chris Sarandon, Jeff Goldblum, John Carradine, and Beverly D’Angelo in…. well, an unforgettable scene. Make-up effects by the legendary Dick Smith of The Exorcist fame. This somewhat gritty ’70’s devil movie has a politically incorrect climax to creep you out.
Satanic Sommelier: A very good beer. (1981) This one is rather unique as it is the first (and perhaps only) film to use the high-tech demon-summoning-computer motif (this was the beginning of the 80’s when home computers became available) by the bullied young man out for revenge. Think Stephen King’s ‘Carrie,’ but with a male misfit instead of a young woman in the lead, who turns to the Devil for unholy revenge. Practically in a category by itself, innit? Enjoyable but often overlooked for it’s eccentricities, Evilspeak is a rare 80’s gem that is delightfully nasty. The scenes of the cruelties by young men in a military academy who gang up on a weaker one are especially unpleasant with gratuitous shame. This film carries some rather heavy Satanic motifs with a vicious and gory climax to boot, which caused it to be banned for a number of years in the UK. One of the few Satanic horror films which draws upon the less popular porcine symbolism of the Devil. The “evil” Egyptian god Set is associated with pig iconography (among other animal totems). Almost want to take a shower / bath after watching this one… almost.
Angel Heart (1987)
Satanic Sommelier: Jack Daniels or Jim Beam (any way you like) for you “Hairy Angel” types. (1987) Excellent. Atmospheric. Pulls you in and won’t let go. Mickey Rourke in his prime. Based on the novel ‘Falling Angel’ by William Hjortsberg. The novel is centered in New York and never travels to New Orleans like in the film. The book depicts a Black Mass that takes place in an abandoned New York subway. Well, that scene didn’t make it into the film but we get some good Voodoo ceremony here along with a (at the time it was released) controversial and passionate sex scene. Horror mystery with a real twist at the end.
Hellraiser & Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1987 – 1988)
Satanic Sommelier: Drink something really good… until it hurts. (1987 & 1988) Are very significant films in their dramatic revisioning of Hell, it’s demons, landscape and all their accompanying mythology. This is all due to writer/director/visionary/artist Clive Barker, and the many cinematic artists who helped realize his nightmarish ideas of Hell on film. Based upon Clive Barker’s novella ‘The Hellbound Heart’ we discover a deal-with-the-devil story twisted with perverted family relations. The simple Faustian premise is amped up to exquisite extremes of Hellishness where Pleasure and Pain become indistinguishable. The Cenobites, perhaps the most unique demonic figures seen since the Fin de siècle, are “Demons to some, Angels to others,” offering us to taste their pleasures of sweet suffering.
Prince of Darkness (1987)
Satanic Sommelier: That wild green fiendy liquid in the capsule compels us to select Midori for this one. (1987) Although certainly not a “great” film, this one has a seriously effective creep factor. A strange discovery is made in the basement of an old church (the aforementioned capsule containing a mysteriously active green liquid) and there is a team of scientists sent to investigate. Alice Cooper appears as one of the demented street people being attracted to the church. Do not watch it alone late at night. This is a movie that compels us to switch the lights on after waking from a nightmare and needing to make our way to the restroom in the dark. Directed by John Carpenter (Halloween, The Thing, In the Mouth of Madness) there is just something really disturbing about this movie. “Hello? Hello? I’ve got a message for you, and you’re not going to like it…”
The Church (1989)
Satanic Sommelier: Italian red wine, Casillero del Diablo, or whatever’s on the shelf.(1989) (Italian title: La chiesa), also known as Cathedral of Demons or Demon Cathedral, is an Italian horror film directed by Michele Soavi. It was produced by Dario Argento (along with a list of others). Asia Argento is a young girl in the film. Some nice set pieces, demons, Satanic rituals and plenty of gore. There are some definite nods to ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ including a Devil Rape scene and an old couple patterned on Minnie and Roman Castevet that tour The Church. You should definitely go to The Church, it’s good for the soul… or something.
The Exorcist III (1990)
Satanic Sommelier: Brandy. We don’t usually endorse many sequels, but the third installment in The Exorcist franchise, nicknamed around our household “The Apology,” is a worthy successor, (unlike “Number 2,” which we’ll just not mention here and pretend never happened). A well crafted film with a great cast, and a good, tight story with plenty of suspense and psychological religious horror.
The Devil’s Daughter (1991)
Satanic Sommelier: Italian red wine or German Riesling. (1991) (Italian title: La Setta), also known as The Sect and Demons 4, is another Italian horror film co-written and produced by Dario Argento and directed by Michele Soavi. The film stars Kelly Curtis (sister of Jamie Lee Curtis: ‘Halloween’ 1978) who has a destiny with the devil’s crew. Herbert Lom also stars. It’s a film that follows in the footsteps of Rosemary’s Baby but with some truly bizarre twists, some surrealistic dreamlike and nightmarish imagery, along with some gore.
The Ninth Gate (1999)
Satanic Sommelier: A smooth and satisfying Spanish or Portuguese red wine. (1999) A Satanic thriller directed by Roman Polanski and starring Johnny Depp (“Shut up and take my money!”). Based upon the 1993 novel The Club Dumas by Arturo Pérez-Reverte. Johnny Depp is the unscrupulous antique book dealer Dean Corso, who finds himself entangled in a mystery surrounding an ancient grimoire known as The Nine Gates. The Tarot-like illustrations in the mysterious book around which the story revolves are intriguing. The film is beautifully shot, well acted and steeped in Occult and Satanic essences, but it may leave some viewers perplexed at the end the first time they watch it. There is a deeper reading to the story regarding Dean Corso’s journey which is not explicitly spelled out for you (however, it is illustrated!). Worth a few viewings to think about and really appreciate the intricacy of the story.
Some occultists may find strange echoes of resonance in the works of Kenneth Grant.
Lost Souls (2000)
Satanic Sommelier: It tries to be champagne but it’s just a low-calorie beer. (2000) Although not a great movie it sure looks good. An interesting, but slow and subtle, take on the coming of the AntiChrist. Winona Ryder plays the lead role. John Hurt has a small but effective role as an exorcist.
The House of the Devil (2009)
Satanic Sommelier: A good Californian red wine to go with your “mushroom” pizza. (2009) Inspired by the Satanic Panic of the 1980s; the story feeds on the fears people had at that time. The film takes place and even appears like it was filmed in the ’80’s. A very good, slow burning thriller with a Grand Guignol finish.
The Lords of Salem (2012)
Satanic Sommelier: Magic mushrooms with a gin & tonic, and a beer chaser. (2012) Rob Zombie’s hallucinogenic trip into the weird world of witchcraft is, like it’s creator, certainly original. This film links back to ancient blasphemous heresy for starters before relocating us into modern Salem, Mass. where young DJ Heidi (played by Sherri Moon Zombie) is ensnared in the ancient sorcery of her family’s curse while trying to break free of a nasty heroin addiction. Worth seeing for the witches played by Meg Foster, Dee Wallace, Judy Geeson and Patricia Quinn (Magenta from Rocky Horror Picture Show) and some bizarre artistic moments.
American Horror Story Season 3: COVEN (2013)
Satanic Sommelier: Bourbon. An American cable TV drama series. A darkly funny and smart post-sexual revolution feminist return to those old Witchcraft and love potion flicks of the 40’s and 50’s. But this is American Horror Story – so yes, there is some sex and plenty of blood and violence – albeit with an edge of snarky black humor. A strong female cast (Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett to name a few) exhibits the thrills of using potent magical powers. Which Witch will reign Supreme?
The Witch (2015)
Satanic Sommelier: Guiness, a good local brew (beer) or an Irish red like Killians. (2015) The Witch is an atmospheric period piece set in 1630 New England. A folktale saturated with fearful religious paranoia that inexorably tears apart a family of English Puritan settlers trying to survive on the edge of a vast threatening forest after being banished from the safe confines of their colony. The fear of Satan’s power may be real or imagined or seen as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Committed performances and some unsettling imagery of classical witchcraft (so rare in cinema) make this film a must-see for those who move in certain circles… around a bonfire… beneath a full moon.