Susanna Bannion (or the power that lies in a name)

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By: Rafael Espadine

Rafael Espadine is an artist and Philosophy student, researcher on the occult and ancient spiritual cultures. He works in the field of Indian culture. He is our first contributing writer to Devil In the Details. His work may be viewed at: Spadini Arts  and @r.spadini (Instagram).

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Dakota Johnson as Susie Bannion, Suspiria 2018.

Luca Guadagnino’s rebooted Suspiria (2018) has certainly surprised both followers of the cult classic and newcomers alike. It is a beautiful, lengthy, haunting, multi-layered and dreamy depiction or better saying, experience. And it has witches. That’s the very rare combination that every admirer of the occult expects to see when going for a supernatural movie. Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977) — I’m not calling it “the original one” on purpose, for both films are too original to be compared — has that quality of attracting the esoterically minded too; and it stands at its own place of honor for that occult taste as well as for its aesthetics, among other reasons. Whereas the first film shows the two sides of the story by clearly dividing the good girls from the bad ones in a more typical representation of good versus evil, the new  take of Suspiria leaves much space for questioning, but it seems that “space”, and how it may or may not be filled, is precisely one of the key words of the reinvented plot. By not totally following the new trend of completely rectifying the story of well-known villains by portraying them as betrayed, and unjustly vilified creatures (as done in the plots of Maleficent and Wicked, for instance), perhaps what Guadagnino’s  Suspiria remarkably does is to show us a type of horror — for lack of a better term — that, we could say, is almost an unavoidable part of Nature itself. This horror is  beyond most any human comprehension of the cosmos and is not just a mere fruit of human cruelty although mixed with it at times. It presents what could be easily seen as opposite sides of a coin, blurring frontiers; and how the two sides really look to be parts of a single coin now!

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After this brief appraisal, what’s presented next is a short analysis that aims to stir a possible new interpretation for the central and unique mystery of the new version of Suspiria out of the symbology present in the name of the character that goes through the deepest transformation, while also causing major changes around her: Suzy Bannion.

I’ll assume that the reader of such a focused analysis is a connoisseur of both films and that the two works can be treated as classics (yes, even the new one already), so major plot details are freely discussed here.

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Jessica Harper as Suzy Bannion. Suspiria (1977).

The name: Susanna, Suzy, Susie

Sources are varying in the spelling of the short version of the name, but if we are to trust the official records and the subtitling, the full name of the main character would be Susanna Bannion, with short forms varying from Suzy in Argento’s production and Susie in Guadagnino’s version.

Now Susanna, a feminine personal name widely used across the globe, is itself very interesting. Derived from the Hebrew Shoshannah (שושנה), with the most common spelling coming to us via Greek form Σουσάννα (Sousanna), making the S letters softer, this Hebrew word is also transliterated as shūshan, shōshan and shōshannā, and means simply “lily”, the flower (while lily is derived from the Latin lilium). Many flowers in the past have been designated by that name, including the so-called water lilies. Now the implications of the lily as a symbol, the heraldic fleur-de-lis (which literally means “lily flower” in French), the symbol of the six-pointed star, its connection to moon spirits and deities, the annunciation of the Virgin and Mary herself , Lilith — besides royal families and bloodlines — are endless (and who needs another book on that?). For those acquainted with the plot, the final discovery of the first heroine is through a very similar flower: an iris; whose shape also follows that of the fleur-the-lis pattern, i.e., three petals turned upwards, and three petals turned downwards. The flower seems to be missing in the new version (although one room is named iris in the new film as an obvious reference), but isn’t the new Susie haunted by a nocturnal flowering light in her bedroom that will lead her way to her final discovery/empowerment? A side note: Cinematic-wise we may cite another contemporary dance themed psychological thriller that also hints at Lilith’s disruptive power as a dark independent feminine principle that promotes drastic changes: Lily is the name of the lavishly sensual ballerina from Black Swan that so shockingly contrasts with the fragile and candid Nina and who also paves the way for the latter’s transformation. Her name leaves very little to be revealed…

“Lilith is the universal rule breaker”

The Lilithian theme seems to fit the character of Susie very well, especially the new Suspiria. The theme is that of the shattering of the old order by means of a rebellious behaviour, and that is the biggest fear of Western civilization and it’s created illusions of continuity, valor, and rigid legacy. If it comes from women then, there’s even more to be feared, given the millennia of prejudice against women and against the feminine in itself. Lilith is the universal rule breaker. However, as pointed by the Italian occultist Fulvio Rendhell, a renowned medium and magician still active in Rome, in his ‘Lilith la terrorista cosmica’ (Lilith, the cosmic terrorist ) — part of the book Lilith, la Sposa di Satana nell’Alta Magia a rare and authoritative treatise on the dark feminine — any revolution stiffens, gets institutionalized as norm and establishes new rigid dogmas and therefore, will have to be destroyed in due course by another revolution and so on and on endlessly. In astrology, Lilith is, among many other possible interpretations, an aspect of the non-normative: wherever she rules the aspect she is presiding over must irrevocably be fulfilled by unusual courses of action for the usual ones simply won’t work out.

In various philosophical approaches, the end of something and its transmutation into something new is the very way life itself manifests; and if we could perceive every transformation, we would see it happens all the time, and that every instant is made of that: an eternal “becoming”. The insistence in connecting the basic theme of the Three Mothers and Alchemy, both in Argento’s Suspiria (1977) and Inferno (1980) are quite revealing: the mothers could be symbols of the alchemic stages of Nigredo, Rubedo and Albedo. Besides that, sighs could be seen as a negative manifestation of air, tears of the inner emotional turmoil, and darkness as the opposite to light and an all-encompassing factor, essential for the symbolism of the dark feminine in various cultural and spiritual backgrounds. Curiously the Kabbalah recognizes three basic elements: air, water and fire. Earth in this interpretation would be a gross manifestation resulting from the amalgama of the other three elements mentioned.

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The surname: Bannion

According to genealogical records, the surname “Bannion” and its other forms are Welsh and derived from the personal name Eignion or Enion — from ‘einion’, stability, fortitude, the name of a clan ancestor — with the patronymic prefix “ab” added to it. The prefix would be later assimilated into the surname itself and from ab-Enion it would become Bannion. As a masculine name Enion may also mean “anvil”. An anvil as a symbol and allegory is very interesting in itself, but we are about to see a feminine version with most appealing implications: we will now briefly step into the very mystical universe of William Blake (1757–1827). In that rich and mesmerizing universe Enion is a character of the Gnostic mythology of Blake. She is an Emanation paired with Tharmas, one of the four Zoas, beings created from the division of the primordial human, Albion. Tharmas is an allegory for the sensations, whereas Enion of the sexual impulses and desires and both should be reunited after the Final Judgement when Enion will then consummate a sexual union. Blake’s Enion seems to be all “why is everyone so ready to think the worst is over?” in her every line, especially here in these selections from ‘The Four Zoas’.

[The Wail of Enion]:
(Four Zoas, Night II, ll. 595–626.)
I AM made to sow the thistle for wheat, the nettle for a nourishing dainty:
I have planted a false oath in the earth; it has brought forth a Poison Tree:
I have chosen the serpent for a counsellor, and the dog
For a schoolmaster to my children:
I have blotted out from light and living the dove and nightingale, 5
And I have causèd the earthworm to beg from door to door:
I have taught the thief a secret path into the house of the just:
I have taught pale Artifice to spread his nets upon the morning.
My heavens are brass, my earth is iron, my moon a clod of clay,
My sun a pestilence burning at noon, and a vapour of death in night. 10
What is the price of Experience? Do men buy it for a song,
Or Wisdom for a dance in the street? No! it is bought with the price
Of all that a man hath — his house, his wife, his children.
Wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none come to buy,
And in the wither’d field where the farmer ploughs for bread in vain. 15
It is an easy thing to triumph in the summer’s sun,
And in the vintage, and to sing on the waggon loaded with corn:
It is an easy thing to talk of patience to the afflicted,
To speak the laws of prudence to the houseless wanderer,
To listen to the hungry raven’s cry in wintry season, 20
When the red blood is fill’d with wine and with the marrow of lambs:
It is an easy thing to laugh at wrathful elements;
To hear the dog howl at the wintry door, the ox in the slaughterhouse moan;
To see a God on every wind and a blessing on every blast;
To hear sounds of Love in the thunderstorm that destroys our enemy’s house; 25
To rejoice in the blight that covers his field, and the sickness that cuts off his children,
While our olive and vine sing and laugh round our door, and our children bring fruits and flowers.
Then the groan and the dolour are quite forgotten, and the slave grinding at the mill,
And the captive in chains, and the poor in the prison, and the soldier in the field
When the shatter’d bone hath laid him groaning among the happier dead: 30
It is an easy thing to rejoice in the tents of prosperity — 
Thus would I sing and thus rejoice; but it is not so with me.

Yes, dear Enion, we know… it’s all a mess. The one out there, the one in here.
In another interesting passage from the Four Zoas entitled Night the First, Blake’s poetry says a little more about Enion’s powers and strong personality that causes her to hurt her own creations:

“…Then Enion in jealous fear
[240] Murdered her, & hid her in her bosom, embalming her for fear
She would rise again to life. Embalmed in Enion’s bosom.
Enitharmon remains a corse — such thing was never known
In Eden, that one died a death never to be revived.”

While reading this passage it is difficult not to think of the living dead victimized students of both Suspirias, above all those of the new production, kept by the witches in an embalmed intermediary stage between life and death serving the witches mysterious purposes.

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Sara (Mia Goth) falls under the spell of The Three Mothers in Suspiria.

A relation between Enion’s wails and the Mother of Sighs is easy to notice as both are presented as principles that predate all history (“pre-Devil, pre-God”, as explained by the character of Dr Klemperer in Guadagnino’s Suspiria). But a relation between this Enion and our good friend Suzy Bannion can also be made: Both Susie and Enion are anxious to bloom as perfumed lilies and they are making anything possible to achieve that.

I have mentioned Blake as a literary source as his mythology stems from the genius of a writer’s mystical imagination, — the same case as with the mythology that would be created later on by Thomas De Quincey, of which we will be talking soon.

After this small exercise of possible symbolic references, it’s time to get back to the film and stitch together a few parallels between the two scripts. As we wouldn’t be able to cover all possibilities in a platonic dialectic process to reach the aporias of this subject, I’ll briefly go through factors that might have been perceived in the first Suspiria and carried on to the new screenplay by David Kajganich — only explored through a different angle:

The Suzy/Mater Suspiriorum factor was always there.
Yes, in the 1977 film itself, hidden in plain sight, shrouded in delicate mystery. The background for the new version may arise from an interpretation of very subtle facts and passages, some listed below: 

When the newcomer Suzy finally manages to join the dance academy, Mrs. Tanner, one of the instructors, promptly introduces her to Madame Blanc, the vice-Director of the Academy who then says that years ago in New York she knew a great benefactor of arts called Carol Bannion, which Suzy reveals to be her aunt.

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Suspiria 2018’s Susie Bannion is a rule breaker and catalyst for transformation.

Suzy’s name itself, besides the possible symbols it carries as discussed above, could be a good hint as well. The film seems to try to show that when Olga while bullying Sara and the newly arrived Suzy says that she once heard that names that start with the letter “s” are names of snakes, and the snake is referred to later on. Moreover, we can’t deny that Suspiriorum and Susanna share initials.

Suzy decides to find answers and reasons for the strange facts happening around her and while being informed by experts on occult matters about the true nature of the Markos academy and its director Helena Markos herself, Suzy expresses that what is being told to her by Dr. Frank (played by a young Udo Kier) is familiar to her, as if she already knew about all that. The elder expert Dr. Milius (Rudolf Schündler, do you remember him as the butler Karl in The Exorcist? We do; and we know about that crucifix, Karl) also tells her that “a coven is like a serpent”, when explaining that the head of a coven is its source of power and when a coven has no head it is totally inoffensive like a headless cobra.

The final sequence shows an enraged Madame Blanc (played by a marvelous Joan Bennett) on her throne inside the hidden rooms of the academy, saying that the American girl must vanish. In the final confrontation, Helena Markos herself tells Suzy she’s been “expecting her” — now that sounds like more than just an ordinary desire for witness elimination, and maybe the coven had knowledge of an old prophecy of sorts about someone who would come for them, so they were trying to act in Herod’s manner to secure the throne (this Herod factor fits well the Snow-White tale which inspired Argento) — or maybe they just realized how powerful and clever Suzy was and decided to get rid of a potential predator and competitor.

Finally we see the first Suzy also putting an end to a passe order of witches, anyway, however doing it by flames (and you can tell how joyful she is when she leaves the academy in a most perfect “mission accomplished” expression!).

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Suzy (Jessica Harper) escapes at the end of 1977’s Suspiria.

If these and other possible connections are conscious deliberate decisions taken after some genius interpretation of the original plot or if these are some of the finest examples of unconscious manifestations of symbolism, is yet to be known.

Daria Nicolodi, co-author of  Suspiria (1977) and Inferno (1980) – the stylish continuation of Suspiria which was successful in keeping up with the atmosphere of the first film of the trilogy of the Three Mothers in which Daria also plays the part of a countess – is actually responsible for the plot of a school that hides an occult background (which is, according to her, something that happened in her family) and also for the insertion of the Three Mothers mythology to the plot. She expressed in an interview that she is the only person who knows the end of the story and that there is another Mother to be explored: Levana. Daria says she was not consulted for the making of Mother of Tears, the third episode of the trilogy, and that the film is not the actual conclusion of the story (we dare to say the film is not a conclusion to anything. Period. And let’s not even mention the Levana from the incredibly messy Il Gatto Nero (1989) aka Demons 6: De Profundis, but, oh, we just did…).

Now Levana, this Roman deity that rules over childbirth was associated with the goddess Artemis in her role as protectress of childbirth and is the character that appears in the title of the essay from where the names of the Three Mothers were taken, “Levana and Our Ladies of Sorrow”, part of the fragmentary and unfinished collection of fantastic essays from 1845 by the English writer Thomas De Quincey grouped under the title of Suspiria de Profundis’ (sighs from the depths). De Quincey imagines the character of Levana accompanied by three sisters that mimic the triplicity of the Parcae, Furies and Graces: Mater Lachrymarum, Mater Suspiriorum and Mater Tenebrarum, Latin names for Mother of Tears, Mother of Sighs, and Mother of Darkness.

Levana’s role in child birthing is related by Quincey to the reality of sorrows: to be born is to realize the nature of this world. However, Levana, from the Latin levare (to uplift) was represented by the act of raising up the newborn by one of the people present as a life affirming act. De Quincey goes on to explain that Levana was tutelary of human education as well. The plots for the Suspirias (and Inferno, for that matter) surround educational centres and its students, i.e., the dance school and the music college in Rome where Mark (lived by the splendid Leigh McCloskey of whom we should talk one of these days) studies. However, as De Quincey explains, Levana’s educational program is not that of the grammars and schools, but an internal one and she is aided by the ministries of passion, strife and temptation to achieve the ends of her syllabus. “If, then, these are the ministries by which Levana works, how profoundly must she reverence the agencies of grief.” says the text.

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Mark (Leigh J. McCloskey ) is a witness to the agencies of grief in Inferno (1980).

Interestingly, the Hebrew term levanah (לְבָנָה) is a word for “moon”. Notice how similar it is to the Latin name Levana or even to the Latin word for moon itself, luna. This word can also be seen in the monthly Jewish ritual of the sanctification of the new moon, or the Kiddush Levanah, a ritual performed in obedience to Exodus 12:2 as a form of saluting the Shekhinah — the Divine Presence, an aspect long regarded by Kabbalists to be feminine, a concept not be taken lightly in contemporary neopagan or psychoanalytic views, though. Influential occultist Dion Fortune (whose real name, by the way, was also that of a flower, Violet) recorded in her celebrated occult novel The Sea Priestess — yet to be made into a glamorous film one day — that:
“Our Lady is also called the Moon, called of some Selene, of others Luna, but by the wise Levanah, for therein is contained the number of her name.”

The Lilithian theme is visible in De Quincey’s essay when it informs the reader that “every captive in every dungeon; all that are betrayed and all that are rejected outcasts by traditionary law, and children of hereditary disgrace, — all these walk with Our Lady of Sighs”. Well, that we believe could be the very definition of the Lilithian image of witches: outcasts that are powerful by being outcasts.

Back to cinema, we see that both Suspirias – as well as Inferno – are tales about the strife of growing up and the self-blooming through the suffering, the tears and the grief that comes along with being born. In virtually all spiritual currents it is told that initiations bring about some good amount of suffering, for there’s no true learning without pain (Nietzsche has just winked) since the simple fact of becoming aware means being able to see the sorrows of this world in a clear cruel way. In Inferno, Mater Tenebrarum makes clear that she is bringing about Mark’s transformation. De Quincey’s Mater Tenebrarum, the Mother of Darkness, finishes her soliloquy saying:
“So shall he rise again before he dies, and so shall our commission be accomplished which from God we had, — to plague his heart until we had unfolded the capacities of his spirit.”

Yes, we know all of this is a bit of a cathartic textual musing with huge chunks of pure speculation (as is almost any creative exercise) and once again I must go back to the beautiful words of De Quincey, as he wisely puts it: “Theirs were the symbols; mine are the words.”

In the end we all realize that speech is silver, but silence is golden, and that, dear reader, is another fairy tale for another bedtime.

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Suspiria Reborn: Revisioning A Vintage Horror Classic

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A witches dance? Hecate Triformis? Goddess Kali? Suspiria (2018) will leave you gasping and sighing.

A Spoiler-free review

By: H.B. Gardner

“We were truly impressed by what we saw.”

Horror remakes have been around since the old days. Dracula, the Phantom of the Opera, Freddy Kruger, The Omen and many others have all been resurrected and redone. But in recent years many filmgoers have understandably balked at the idea of horror film remakes due to the obvious increasing lower artistic quality being sacrificed in favor of quick financial gain by studios which habitually crank out bubblegum films for the masses; films with superficial excitement but no lasting flavor and are disposed of and forgotten in a very short time. It has embittered some genre fans to see their treasured cinematic touchstones smeared as it were by the hand of corporate greed, incompetent acting and shoddy CGI.

Well, we viewed director Luca Guadagnino’s passionate 2018 revisioning of Dario Argento’s 1977 horror classic ‘Suspiria’ on it’s opening weekend here in Japan and will try to write, while still fresh in our minds, our thoughts on the subject of Horror Remakes – without any spoilers! (We plan to do a deeper occult analysis of this new Suspiria in a future article after we’ve had the chance to view it again …and again).

We are not only a longtime fan of Dario Argento’s original 1977 cinematic masterpiece Suspiria, but have spent considerable time meditating upon a key piece of inspirational source material, namely the essay called ‘Levana and Our Ladies of Sorrow,’ from ‘Suspiria de Profundis,’ by Thomas De Quincey, where the title of the film and the idea of The Three Mothers were born. These Three Mothers – Mother of Sighs, Mother of Tears and Mother of Darkness are at the dark heart of the Suspiria universe. We being steeped in witchcraft, the occult and the horror genre ourselves ….well, our keen anticipation for the new Suspiria has been considerable. We went in with an open mind and with no expectations but to witness, as in jazz music, an improvisation on a theme.

We were truly impressed by what we saw.

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Mia Goth plays Sara.

Many, if not most of the popular movie-going populace, will not “get” this film, and at least two or three viewings may be needed to fully appreciate it. Suspiria 2018 is an artistic horror film. Those who expect a standard sort of remake, or who prefer their horror to be spoon fed to them with a smattering of jump scares, will likely be disappointed; and those with tastes reared on shallow bubblegum entertainment designed for those with short attention spans will be left impatient and bewildered. Luca Guadagnino’s film represents a deeper artistic turning into the profound regions of psychology, dance (as art), and witchcraft in the sense of The Black Arts than the more  typical horror film fare. The disturbing horror element is lasting in contrast to the superficial jump-scare formula that has long plagued the horror genre and it’s numb audience. Whatever your opinion of this new Suspiria, you must admit it is still a much more sophisticated and worthy sequel than Argento’s own 2007 Mother of Tears.

Learn about The Three Mothers by clicking the link below to another of our occult horror geek articles:

The Three Mothers & SUSPIRIA: Dario, De Quincey and the Dark Goddess; Part 1

Guadagnino has stated that:

“I hope that the movie comes across as a relentless experience that’s going to go deep into your skin all the way down into your spine,” the director shared with The Hollywood Reporter. “I want the movie to perform as the most disturbing experience you can have. The movie is about being immersed in a world of turmoil and uncompromising darkness.”

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This he has succeeded in doing. The film has indeed gotten under our rather jaded and genre toughened skin. The palpable after-effect of this unsettling film reminds us of a few other Art House films with an unsettling vibe.

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Japanese poster

What we liked about the movie:

The Dance scenes. In 1977’s Suspiria, dance was a rather insignificant aspect of the story, and did little more than provide a setting for the murderous mayhem. In the remake the dance is an esoteric key to the story. Art and The Black Arts are melded into a united force of Witchery heretofore undeveloped in film. Esoteric readings of the film abound with occult and witchcraft symbolism in unfamiliar yet traditional manifestations. This aspect will be explored more thoroughly in a future occult-horror-geek article.

The story, in a way seemingly disjointed or random at first (though not quite as so dreamlike as the original psychedelic Suspiria),  is actually held together throughout and underneath it all by an umbilicus of deeper psychological interpretation and esoteric continuity. A Psychological reading of the film will immediately highlight  the mother-daughter complex throughout, and within a few differing configurations (Suzy and her mother, Suzy and Madame Blanc, Helena Marcos and Madame Blanc etc.). The fuller background given for Suzy couldn’t have been better and adds a whole other  dimension to the story. There is also the wider scope offered of interpersonal relationships especially between women: sisters (Suzy is a twin), the status of older and younger woman, the naturally inspired novice and the experienced teacher; all added into the general theme of female empowerment – though mostly in it’s negative, or darkest, devouring Mother sense.

“The fuller background given for Suzy couldn’t have been better and adds a whole other  dimension to the story.”

The witches of the dance company are intriguing characters and deserve a mini-series in their own right.

The perhaps bewildering inclusion of so much focus on Dr Klemperer the character of the psychologist, pining for his loving wife he lost during the Nazi regime, who gets pulled into the web of witchcraft also highlights this psychological interpretation of Suspiria. He spends his time counseling those he meets who have been consumed by the devouring mother of the Markos dance company. He also spends a great deal of time crossing the border between East and West Germany. He is placed in the neither-neither realm of not being firmly in one world or the other: East and West Germany, past and present. He is already situated at the witches twilight crossroads and is thereby already under the sway of Mater Suspiriorum. This split, or division, is also accented within the Marcos Tanz company where a rivalry of sorts is brewing and the developing tension, suspicions and paranoia of listening through walls echoes that of  East Germany at the time of the setting. It was a time of turmoil, much like today.

With an unsettling atmosphere woven through with anxious sighs, fearful tears,  brooding darkness, and a good dose of body horror, Guadagnino has created a chilling and angst-ridden atmosphere of pain evocative of the late 70’s or very early 80’s. The inclusion of the psychologist’s story as a prominent rather than cameo role brings an added measure of De Quinceyan depth and poignancy undeveloped in the original.

Seeing it in Japan:

We are at a disadvantage as far as viewing new horror movie releases here in Japan. It usually takes several months for most films to make their way here to the Far East with their accompanying Japanese subtitles. Also, the cinematic experience in Japan was a little less than we had hoped for in that the theater was of quite a small size, the screen being no bigger than our own living room wall. We had viewed Hereditary just last November in a very nice, new spacious theater with a big screen in another part of Osaka. However, Toho studios must have got exclusive rights to show Suspiria in Japan as it was only viewable in a Toho theater which required a visit to Umeda in the heart of Osaka. We were able to purchase a Suspiria souvenir movie booklet at the cinema (in Japanese). It was a packed theater that first Saturday of it’s release in Japan. We were unprepared for a substantial amount of the dialogue to be in German or French so deciphering these languages amidst the Japanese subtitles was a bit perplexing. Surprisingly, however, this anglophone handicap did not mar the visual storytelling. We are anticipating multiple future viewings on blu-ray.

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Tilda Swinton works magic in three seperate roles !

The acting was the best we’ve seen in any horror film in a while. The performances were believable even amidst the often unbelievable mayhem going on.

The filmmakers took the original ‘Suspiria’ and spun it in the darkest and deepest directions it could possibly go.

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Dakota Johnson is amazing as Suzy.

A lot of thought and passion was obviously put into this rendering of the story and the art and crafting of it. The filmmakers took the original Suspiria and spun it in the darkest and deepest directions it could possibly go. This is a very different Suspiria from Argento’s. There is no comparing the two, each being a very different creature telling the same myth in a different way. While the original Suspiria remains a classic of the genre it may be said to feel a bit dated or even to contain a bit of camp, especially as viewed from our jaded eyes 40 years after the fact (consider the bat scene!). The new Suspiria never descends into the current trend of torture porn or detours into outright camp. The psychological tension is at first subtle but present right from the start; and the horror and mystery wrap slowly and insidiously about and clings like a viscous, membranous veil. There is suspense, mystery, striking imagery, dark fantasy, dread, horror, gore and the grotesque but it never really seeks to terrorize with mere cheap thrills in the way commonly done nowadays. The story is crafted to leave you unsettled and disturbed afterwards, recalling in this way Cronenberg’s films like Dead Ringers,  or like 1999’s The Reflecting Skin, and the more recent Hereditary. It also echoes the original source material from English opium eater Thomas De Quincey who, as already mentioned, originally conjured The Three Mothers in his work Suspiria De Profundis, in a brief essay titled Levana and Our Ladies of Sorrow.

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Tilda Swinton gives compelling performances as three separate characters.

Due to our mistrust of Hollywood – having lost faith with expecting studios to deliver quality horror, along with the tastes of the masses of film goers having seemingly devolved to the level of a 14 year old with a superhero fetish – we sadly suspect that this film may be greatly under appreciated. The original Suspiria has two sequels – both directed by Dario Argento, the first of which Inferno (1980) is a worthy successor. Mother of Tears (2007) despite having three Argento family members and Udo Kier involved in the production remains an unsatisfactory conclusion to the baroque, oneiric drama of the first two. Could we see a trilogy develop from this recent Suspiria remix? one that would focus on each of The Three Mothers? Only time will tell.

Guadagnino’s Suspiria has given us hope. While the pacing may feel a little slow or the story seem to try to encapsulate too much, we think it is an epic dark horror fantasy that brings one to meditate on the condition of a world that seems to so often feed off of pain and misery; whether this be on the level of interpersonal relationships, or of the individual to a group, or the warring sides of a fractured society.

…it is an epic dark horror fantasy that brings one to meditate on the condition of a world that so often seems to feed off of pain and misery.

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Tilda Swinton is a phenomenal actress.

“The Year One”: A Rededication

By: H. B. G.

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Actress Hazel Court, as the Lady Juliana, betrothes herself to Satan in Roger Corman’s The Masque of the Red Death, 1964. This is the first instance in cinema history where an inverted cross is used as a symbol of Satanism.

We have managed to maintain this WordPress-fueled website for one whole year now. We are delighted at this meager accomplishment by one man (who may, or may not, be possessed by many incubi). What started off as an obsession with the film Rosemary’s Baby and an intention to make a single blog post delineating the minor characters in it has expanded into a repository for our occult horror obsession – here: Satanic Cinema Sommelier; Our Favorite Devilish Films and on our Devil May Care Facebook page , as well as our Rosemary’s Baby 50th Anniversary Facebook Page.

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Mia Farrow and Victoria Vetri (aka Angela Dorian) in Rosemary’s Baby.

This past year we have, out of our own zeal, interviewed a surviving cast member of Roman Polanski’s film of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ ( An Interview with Ernest Harada: Celebrating 50 years of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ ) and have been keeping a correspondence with the actress Victoria Vetri (aka Angela Dorian) who played Terry Gionofrio – the Castevet’s ill-fated houseguest in ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ – from her prison cell in a California Institution, but who is now nearing a release date.

We have never before been a collector of autographs, but 2017 was our year for them due to our commitment to our writing on this site.

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Our Holiday card and an autographed picture from actress Victoria Vetri who is nearing her release from prison.

This month, We rededicate ourselves to this project. So, in the spirit of Rosemary’s Baby (the 50th Anniversary of the Satanic classic film thriller is this year) and “The Year One”:

Black candles are lit, the chalice is filled, and the cross-shaped brand smolders in the brazier…

We remain committed to keeping this site as a means of exploring the diabolical, the occult, and religion (and the things it demonizes) in horror films – and in reality – out of our own pleasure, and as a serious interest in the sway that religion and the mysterious, unseen forces of existence inspire and motivate the minds and hearts of individuals, groups and nations worldwide.

We have managed one year with at least one monthly contribution to our site, some are in-depth articles such as our explorations of Suspiria ( SUSPIRIA: In the Eye of the Peacock , SUSPIRIA: Dario, De Quincey and the Dark Goddess; Part 1SUSPIRIA: Dario, De Quincey & the Dark Goddess; Part 2 etc..)

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We were able to get Jessica Harper’s Suspiria autograph with a modest charitable donation to the Houston Food Bank last year.

and Rosemary’s Baby ( ‘Sympathy for the Devil: The Sublime Satanism of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ , An Interview with Ernest Harada: Celebrating 50 years of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ , ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ Turns 50 ! ), etc…

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Ernest Harada was very kind to give us an interview as well as autograph a photo for us.

Some other posts are much lighter fare but are hopefully at least entertaining brain candy for the diabolically inclinedAll of Them Witches: A”Who’s Who” in Rosemary’s Baby , Women From Hell: Cinema’s Greatest Ladies from Hades , ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ 2017 Fantasy Remake & Dream Cast.

Indirectly related to all this is the work we started in 2017 with the Arcana Tarot Study Group in Osaka, Japan where we currently reside. This group’s mission is to help spread knowledge of using the Tarot via the medium of English; and to improve the skills of English students via the Tarot, here in Japan.

As a father, husband, teacher, writer, reader, mystic and artist, our energies are rapidly absorbed, day-by-day, by our esoteric interests and the gaping jaws of Time; yet we inevitably find ourselves drawn back to exploring the shadowy realms of occult horror, like a sincere Seeker of Truth…, or a dog to it’s vomit.

“But whatever lies behind the door, there’s nothing much to do,

Angel or Devil, I don’t care,

For in front of that door… is you.”

                                                    – Bowie     ‘My Death’

 

‘Rosemary’s Baby’ Turns 50 !

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By: H.B.G.

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Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes toast to an imminent conception with far-reaching effects.

Caution: This article contains some spoilers! If you have not read the novel or seen the film (what the Hell are you waiting for?!) you might want to save reading this article until after you have!

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In 1967 American culture was exploding on all levels. This was the year of the so-called “Summer of Love”.  The Civil Rights Movement headed by Martin Luther King Jr. was in full swing, as was the Vietnam War, the Sexual revolution, and activism for Women’s Rights. Andy Warhol was making instant movie stars in The Factory. Timothy Leary, a psychologist and researcher with the Harvard Center for Research in Personality who oversaw Harvard’s Psilocybin Project, instructed a crowd of 30, 000 hippies gathered in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park to “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” LSD drenched Rock ‘n Roll and psychedelic art was unleashed as an endless parade of young, long haired hippies and flower children, defying all social norms, made transcendental pilgrimages – both near and far – towards a purple-hazy ideal of freedom. Young men were burning their draft cards and the youth in general were motivated towards social change while shaking off the grip of their families long-held belief systems. Things were drastically changing! Utopia was at hand!

An exotic and colorful bouquet of new cults, old religions, gurus and esoteric magic in the Age of Aquarius burst upon the scene: Moonies, Hare Krishnas, Occultism, TM, Scientology, Jim Jones, and the Process Church to name just a few. At the same time, Charles Manson was lurking in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district. Just the year before there was some publicity when Anton LaVey established the Church of Satan in San Francisco, the first legally recognized Satanic organization in history. Americans took notice of all this and wondered just what in the Hell was going on? The entire world had been turned topsy-turvy, seemingly overnight.

In the midst of this chaotic, sweaty, ecstatic rebirthing of the American Dream (which would quickly burn itself out and awaken into a full-blown nightmare) a book was published that March. Ira Levin’s thrilling best-selling suspense novel ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ was born. A year later on June 12th, 1968 the faithful  film version directed by Roman Polanski was delivered to the world just 6 days after the assassination of Robert Kennedy. We feel it is not quite overstating the matter when we claim that the world has been feeling the effects of this counter-culture ‘Baby’ ever since.

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Hardcover 1967 edition

This was The Mother Of All Devil-Baby Films. It sent some people away from the theaters visibly shaken and muttering “Blasphemy!” under their breaths. It ushered in a flood of Devil and Child-of-Satan themed films and books of both epic and lowbrow proportions. Dozens of various evil incarnations of the premise have followed in the malodorous wake of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’, including a made for tv sequel (‘Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby,’ 1976) and a 2-night NBC primetime remake in 2014. Ira Levin himself wrote a sequel: ‘Son of Rosemary,’ (published 1997) which he dedicated to Mia Farrow, who so excellently portrayed Rosemary Woodhouse in the now classic film.

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A challenge to Christian faith

‘Rosemary’s Baby’ appeared at a confrontational time in American society. Remembering this may help explain the nerve that this story hit for many people who were floundering or feeling washed-up by the counter-cultural wave of the day. The most firmly established, traditional and holy things were suddenly no longer sacred. In the film, Rosemary herself says “I was brought up a Catholic, now I don’t know.” Indeed, a stark TIME magazine cover from 1967 plainly asked: Is God Dead? This smacked of sacrilege and blasphemy to the majority of church-going middle America. The 60’s were a time when more people dared to openly doubt and question, not only established religion, but everything they had been taught or told! The hippies were busy rejecting, exploring and unlearning. Everything having to do with “The Establishment” was in doubt. The popular American consciousness was awakening to it’s own sense of independent thinking regarding reality apart from traditional authoratative religious ideas about morality as well as the corruptibility of a once esteemed government.

While ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ is a slow-building, intellectual suspense – horror film with practically no blood or violence, it was the climax – a definitive casting down of established Faith in the absence of any God – which sent some believers to confession and nudged some others towards the New Age. It spoke directly to those who felt ill-fitted and hypocritical sitting dutifully in church in their Sunday best as the white Christian  centered society they grew up in collapsed around them. ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ threw down the gauntlet; it forced believers to think hard for themselves about some deep questions, the kind that matter: Is there a God? and, If so, where the Hell is He now?

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Abortion was a topic not much discussed in polite company back before the movements towards change in the 60’s and 70’s. It was practically a taboo word, only whispered by mothers gossiping about some unfortunate neighbor’s daughter. In the film ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ the word is spoken twice within a few seconds, which in itself was quite significant for the time of it’s release. Of course even this splinter of dialogue takes place in a scene within which a few women are speaking privately in a kitchen, in hushed voices and with the doors secured. We are given even deeper insight into Rosemary’s thought processes in the final pages of the novel where Rosemary, after the diabolical revelation of the baby’s paternity, considers throwing first the baby and then herself out of the seventh story window. “Choosing life,” to use a pro-life phrase, had never before had quite the same dire intimations. Abortion, Suicide and Satan are all a part of the spell conjured by Ira Levin’s novel and Roman Polanski’s faithful cinematic version of it. I have elucidated a few of these aspects of the book and film in this article: Sympathy for the Devil: The Sublime Satanism of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’

Maybe that’s all a bit heavy. Plenty of people enjoyed ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ the film as art, and rightly so. It is still widely considered to be not only Roman Polanski’s masterpiece but a watermark in cinematic history, and not only for suspense and horror. It is quite possibly the best horror film ever made. The seamless hand-held camera work, the realistic performances, the perfect casting, the elaborate sets, the 60’s fashions, and the understated horror of it all weaves an effective spell that has rarely been rivaled in cinema since it’s release in June 1968. It has been critiqued, studied, and analyzed; it was also condemned by the National Legion of Decency.

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Cover for the 50th anniversary edition

Yet, despite it’s Hellish premise, ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ is not without it’s own darkling undercurrent of black humor. Even as  Rosemary’s painful pregnancy intensifies and the stranglehold of suspicion and paranoia increases into a palpable threat, there is a snide kind of wit that permeates the film, like a chalky under taste, right up to the very denouement. New York City in the Swinging Sixties – the materialistic agnosticism of urban culture influencing the good Catholic school girl from Omaha. The strange neighbors all but hiding behind carnival devil masks. Rosemary’s husband Guy Woodhouse is an aspiring actor focused on name, fame and wealth: he’s a materialist interested in the supernatural only for whatever material benefits can be gained by it. He makes fun about seeing the Pope performing a Mass at Yankee stadium on TV: “That’s a great spot for my Yamaha commercial,” he laughs, shortly before pimping his wife out to You-Know-Who. It’s the film’s realism, along with a judicious use of subtle irony and sly wit, that makes the psychological terror all the more palpable.

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L to R: Bruno Sidar as Mr Gilmore, Patsy Kelly as Laura Louise McBurney, Charlotte Boerner as Mrs Leah Fountain, Almira Sessions as Mrs Sabatini with her cat Flash.

And we can’t help but relish Minnie and Roman Castevet and the other lurid characters surrounding Rosemary. Polanski mostly cast theater people and prolific film extras in these roles as witches, so we get an odd feeling of something not-quite-right and familiar about them at  the same time. Ruth Gordon won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal as Minnie Castevet; a role she killed – leaving it impossible for anybody to match it. It is fun to think of the Castevets and some of the other extras as demons trying (a little too hard) to pass themselves off as human. We smirk at the irony  of a young, naive first-time mother’s helplessness before a coven of smiling, well-meaning old geezers who are (she thinks)  plotting against her and her baby. And, when there are no witches hovering around Rosemary, there are several authoritative men “mansplaining” things to her.

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“look at his hands!” Ruth Gordon as Minnie Castevet.

Want to know more about the witches in ‘Rosemary’s Baby’? Read our article: All of Them Witches: A ‘Who’s Who?’ in ‘Rosemary’s Baby’

Read our Interview with cast member Ernest Harada who appears in the film’s climax: An Interview with Ernest Harada: Celebrating 50 Years of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’

The deal is made with the Devil of course, but Rosemary, ignoring warnings from a dear old friend, has already sold her soul (and good sense) by falling in love with the old apartment building’s gothic charm and by begging her ambitious actor husband Guy to get them out of “the other lease” in order to take the apartment in the looming Bramford (need we mention the infamous Dakota where the exterior shots were filmed?). After moving in she does her best to redecorate the rather solemn interior with white and yellows; but as Rosemary remakes the Bramford’s interior to suit her tastes, the Bramford remakes Rosemary’s interior to suit it’s own sinister plans. That’s because Rosemary’s metamorphosis is America’s metamorphosis. Innocence is lost. Once the post WWII “high” of the 1950’s and ’60’s faded, the public  grew numb after numerous political and social upheavals, celebrity deaths and the consumer complacency which ushered in the 1970’s. Off come the pig tails, gone is the girlish smile, and a pain – “like a wire inside of me getting tighter and tighter” as Rosemary laments – settles in our core.

We can argue that things are still changing drastically today, perhaps in even more ways than they were in ’67. ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ is now 50 years old and still walks among us like a smug iconoclast at a cocktail party – sneering and scoffing at our outmoded ideas regarding religion or morality – wearing a cheap Halloween Boogey-man mask as he laughs at our nervousness at letting go of our old fears and inhibitions. And yet we wonder after the final revelation at the end of the story: is it a happy ending or a terrifying one? The answer of course is “Both.” Rosemary’s baby is alive, safe, adored, worshipped; but that in itself spells certain doom to the world we know, or at least to the world we used to know “back then.”

– H.B. Gardner

SUSPIRIA: In the Eye of the Peacock

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By: H.B.G.

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Jessica Harper as Suzy Bannion in SUSPIRIA

Suspiria (1977) Is a film that stands out in horror cinema and remains perhaps the most artistic horror film ever made. There is so much going on in Suspiria that one blog post cannot cover all the occultism that saturates this film. The Three Mothers motif, inspired by the work of Thomas DeQuincey, will find it’s own exegesis in a separate post. For now, let us focus our dark-adapted eye upon a particular set piece and give the Devil His due. And please, don’t think us entirely mad until you have digested all what we are communicating to you here.

Suspiria 4When looking for the Devil in the Details in Suspiria, you cannot help but notice the sculpture of the Peacock in the film’s climactic scene. That such exquisite yet superfluous beauty as the male peacock exists at all in the world can be seen by some as proof positive of a beneficial Creator – a thumb print, if you will, of the work done by the hand of the Divine Artist. This echoes the Peacock as a symbol of Beauty, Vanity and, of course, Pride – Lucifer’s sin.

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The Fall

The infernal Serpent; he it was, whose guile
Stirred up with Envy and Revenge, deceiv’d
The Mother of Mankind, what time his Pride
Had cast him out from Heaven, with all his Host
Of Rebel Angels, by whose aid aspiring
To set himself in Glory above his Peers,
He trusted to have equaled the most High,
If he opposed; and with ambitious aim
Against the Throne and Monarchy of God
Raised impious War in Heaven and Battle proud
With vain attempt. Him the Almighty Power
Hurled headlong flaming from the Ethereal Sky
With hideous ruin and combustion down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In Adamantine Chains and penal Fire,

From: Paradise Lost by John Milton

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The Fall

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A new opportunity presents itself…

In Suspiria, the presence of the Peacock with seven marble spheres at it’s feet recalls certain pre-Islamic religious traditions such as the Gnostic Manichaeism philosophy, or the later Yazidi tradition wherein which the ‘Peacock Angel’ – Melek Ta’usan entity often mistakenly confused with the evil entity known as Shaitan / Satan / Iblis by Judeo-Christian and Muslim interpretation – is responsible for the 7 created worlds, and the 7 Heavens.

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The Yazidis are peace-loving monotheists, believing in God as creator of the world, which he has placed under the care of seven holy beings or angels, the chief of whom is Melek Taus, the Peacock Angel. The Peacock Angel , vowing to bow only to God the Almighty, refused to bow to God’s human creations – Adam & Eve. By refusing this direct order from the Almighty, this so-called “Fallen Angel” is granted rulership over the created world and is given the task of challenging humankind with all the difficulties of incarnated existence with it’s endless parade of Sighs, Tears and Darkness.

In Yazidi (Yezidi) tradition, The Peacock Angel – named Azazel – as world-ruler, is Prince of this world – our created, material world; and if this world, with all it’s “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” is a shadow manifested by the deepest condensation of the divine light emanated by the Almighty, would it then be a complete error to call this entity the Prince of Darkness? Azazel is the one who causes both good and bad to befall individuals, and this ambivalent character is reflected in myths of his own temporary fall from God’s favour, before his remorseful tears extinguished the fires of his hellish prison and he was reconciled with God. As observed by more than one occultist, the Devil’s power lies in that ‘He suffers.”

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A Yazidi emblem with the Peacock Angel presiding over the created world. There are 3 plumes on the head (The Trinity),  7 red feathers (The Heptad of Angels), and 12 plumed eyes (The Zodiac).

In certain Gnostic traditions a reconciliation is made between God and the Devil.

We find a peacock idol presiding over seven spheres in the climactic scene of Suspiria, just after we witness Madame Blanc, “the Vice Directress,” (wink, wink nod) of the Dance Academy and her coven of wicked witches invoking infernal powers. The presence of  this idol is either coincidence or somebody did their occult homework. Or, perhaps, the art director was influenced by other, unseen forces?

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Count the number of “eyes” on the peacock’s tail.

Archon: Gnosticism will give some insight into The Hebdomad, the Seven Spheres or Heavens, often recognized in popular Occultism and Kabbalah as: Saturn – Cronus, Jupiter – Zeus, Venus – Aphrodite, Moon – Hekate/Diana, Mercury – Hermes, and Mars – Aries all gathered around the Sun/Sol – Apollo. Seven colors are also expressed by the spectrum, the degrees of manifest Light – a peacock’s rainbowed fan of categorized material expression of Spirit. Further exploration into the esoteric significance of the peacock symbolism (Yezidi or otherwise) we will leave to those inspired to quest for it.

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Now, sometimes, when seeking out the Devil in the Details, you find the Devil looking right back out at you! Don’t drop your Tarot cards… but after a close observation of Suspiria  it appears the Peacock image in Our Lady of Sighs – Mater Suspiriorum’s – chambers has 15 “eyes” on it’s tail. Fifteen is of course the number of XV THE DEVIL card in the Tarot! Interestingly (by the way) 7 + 15 = 22, the number of Major Arcana cards in the Tarot.

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Whichever Tarot deck you use…

However you shuffle your cards…

THE DEVIL remains number XV !

The redemptive tears of the Peacock Angel…

Fifteen “eyes” on the peacock sculpture in SUSPIRIA…

THE DEVIL in the Tarot is numbered 15…

and, oh yes, the Hebrew letter attached to the XVth Arcanum of the Tarot – THE DEVIL card – is Ayin, which just happens to mean “an eye”.

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AYIN = Eye

The three DEVIL Tarot cards below (from three different packs) each carry a visible letter AYIN. We know our Tarot thoroughly and highly recomend it’s study.

Charms and decorations with eye-like symbols known as nazars, which are used to repel the evil eye, are a common sight across Armenia, Turkey, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, Greece, the Levant, Afghanistan, Southern Spain, and Mexico and have become a popular choice of souvenir with tourists. But we digress…

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After crashing into said Art Deco peacock idol, Suzy Bannion – Our heroine in SUSPIRIA – manages to snatch a fallen peacock plumed stiletto from the overturned idol with which to dispatch the powerfully evil and wicked witch Mater Suspriorum, a.k.a. Helena Markos, by stabbing her through the neck. Mater Suspiriorum, Our Mother of Sighs, is pierced in the neck, the throat, the very reservoir of sighs! Silencing forever that corroded, blasphemous craw!

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Something about that Peacock just sticks in my craw !

But of course we do continue to sigh,

and to weep,

and to stare long and deep

into the gaping jaws of Time.

The religious persecutions and genocidal campaigns executed against the Kurdish Yazidi people of Iraq are horrendous and continue today. How often do you hear the name of the city of Mosul in Iraq in the news?  Mosul is the area closest to the largest Yazidi population in Iraq. You may recall the  2007 Mosul Massacre.

Genocide of Yazidis by ISIL

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Yazidi children have also been victims of Islamic terror and genocide.

For centuries the Yazidis have been tormented and accused of being “Devil-Worshippers.” Religious extremism in the form of the zealots of the so-called Islamic State and other forces in the region have caused untold miseries upon these people who have seen their people massacred and their children sold into sexual slavery. We must use caution so as not to pour gasoline on the fire by misrepresenting the Yazidi people as “Devil-Worshippers” in the Horror film sense of the term. Their tradition is an ancient one containing elements of Gnosticism, Sufism, Christianity and Islam – and yet is completely unique. Comparisons from a solely Christian or Islamic perspective can only result in misinterpretation and misunderstandings. It is it’s own Faith.  Please research the topic to educate yourself further.

Yazidi Woman Who Suffered IS Enslavement Lobbies Washington for Help : May 27, 2017

May we suggest:

If you have a taste for the Occult we suggest this video lecture:

Thelema and the Yezidi “Devil Worshippers”

Some few books are available…

‘Survival Among the Kurds; A History of the Yezidis’

by John S Guest

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Yazidi traditions have a strong emphasis on bodily purity.

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Yazidi gathering at their sacred site in Lalish.

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A Yazidi gathering. Yazidi traditions differ from those of their neighbors but they are most certainly not “Devil worshippers” as certain intolerant groups have claimed.

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Displaced Yazidis fleeing from genocide by the savages of the so-called Islamic State

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Islamic extremists give Yazidis only one choice: Convert or die.

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Yazidi genocide by Islamic zealots.

We await the apocalyptic splendor of a world without religiously motivated hate or genocide.

By: H. B. Gardner

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Satanic Cinema Sommelier; Our Favorite Devilish Films

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A Chronological “wine list” through the past century (1920’s to today) of Diabolical Horror films that are  notable for Satanic, Black Magic, Witchcraft, Pagan or Occult content… paired with drinks.

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Two Satyrs, Peter Paul Rubens, c.1618

Some of these “sinematic” shows have aged well and are to be savored while others have a distinct bite. A few have undeniably gone to vinegar but may still make an interesting salad dressing.

This essay-list is by no means exhaustive and will be tweaked and added to as time allows. The first few decades are inevitably sparse, but scroll through the decades of this diabolical rosary of occult horror cinema to discover some rare gems. We’ve also included some interesting bits of occult cinema trivia here and there.

First 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.

Satanic Sommelier: Each of these three films have aged extremely well, though it must be remembered that they are children of their times. They are smooth but robust in taste, and each has it’s 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. 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.

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Rosemary’s Baby ushered in the whole Devil Baby cinematic motif

Rosemary’s Baby  (1968)

Satanic Sommelier:  A bottle of Merlot  with savory notes and a strong finish. Or  try making a vodka blush in tribute to the Castevets! (Just watch the carpet!).

  • 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. RosemarysBaby-Mia-Farrow-Paramount

Or, you can always celebrate the good tidings with champagne.  Although this may first sound like a bit of an overstatement, this film – and the novel by Ira Levin 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. The credit belongs to the near page-by-page and word-for-word translation of Ira Levin’s novel into film by director Roman Polanski. Hands must have surely trembled as they turned the final pages of this thriller when it was first released in 1967. This is due to the flawless matching of the most sacred (motherhood) with the most profane (absolute evil).

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The film, which was released a year after the novel’s release, closely adheres to the novel in almost every way, but has been brought to vivid and believable life through Roman Polanski’s voyeuristic lens and 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. The premise has since become it’s own supernatural horror sub genre.

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Ruth Gordon earned an Oscar for her portrayal of Minnie Castevet in Polanski’s masterpiece Rosemary’s Baby.

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The-Exorcist

An iconic image from The Exorcist

The Exorcist  (1973)

Satanic Sommelier: An expensive Scotch, neat, no ice or water necessary; just like Father Damien gets after his first meeting with Regan MacNeil.  What can we say here that hasn’t already been said? It is a tense, dark, psychological and spiritual horror drama. The scenes of demonic possession and exorcism are deservedly famous, but it’s truly the spiritual crisis of the character Father/Dr. Damien Karras (Jason Miller) which stands at the center of this gripping story.

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Jason Miller exuding gravitas by the bucket-full in The Exorcist.

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? Watch The Exorcist III to find out! (Feel free to skip The Exorcist “Number 2”).

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The Exorcist has traumatized generations and caused people to reaffirm their religious beliefs.

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The Exorcist works your nerves on many levels: sound, subliminal imagery, psychological tension…

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The Omen echoed the ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ motif and became a franchise

The Omen  (1976)

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.  The Omen caused a good many people to start attending church or paying closer attention to the Book of Revelations – 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 – after viewing this film! Indeed, it is due to this film that “666” as a mark of Evil entered the collective mass consciousness! 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.

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The Omen is must-see vintage Satanic cinema.

Other notable cinematic daemons through the decades are:

L’Inferno  (1911)

4400F938-9693-42D3-989E-613647128564 You gotta hand it to those filmmakers of yesteryear. Their sheer artistic exuberance has left a lasting and inspiring effect. Strongly inspired by the haunting artwork of Doré, this silent epic breathes a ghastly, nightmarish unlife to the torments  of Hell . How has nobody yet partnered with a major studio and dared to remake or produce a new cinematic vision of Dante’s hellish classic?   012C4A85-6E7C-4697-9693-E5F5B0600F86

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The Twenties held a lot of promise. Economic prosperity and the developing film industry  of Hollywood would soon lead to legendary debauchery and decadence.

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Häxan (1922)

images-13Satanic 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.

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Black Mass at a Witches Sabbath in the vintage Häxan.

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Häxan

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The inverted pentagram evokes the triumph of base materialism over the spirit. Metropolis.

Metropolis   (1927)

Satanic Sommelier: A Dirty Martini or a nicely chilled Chardonnay. Considered a film classic by pretty much any cinema enthusiast, it’s inclusion here on a list of diabolical films may at first glance appear mistaken. However, as industrialization and science and capitalism appeared to overtake all things holy, including the sacredness of the human spirit, Metropolis depicts the “satanizing” of society and culture – and even the human body – as greed and corruption take the lead in human society. Much analysis has been done of this film but one need only to watch it and note the Biblical cues. Compare the replacement of the sacred with the profane, organic Maria with robot Maria, and the triumph of Babylon (aka, Babalon, viz. Crowley) (and the later real life Feminist and sexual liberation movements) to understand the horror earlier Christian generations had of the Apocalyptic prophecies.

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Ave Maria. Metropolis.

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Feeding of the hungry god. Metropolis.

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Maria as the Whore of Babylon. Metropolis

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How great grandma got her kicks.

Messe Noir,  aka,  “Black Mass”   (1928)

Satanic Sommelier: Depends on the mood, doesn’t it? Absinthe, or Champagne. Otherwise a nice Bordeaux. Although not a horror film, Messe Noir  or Black Mass is a vintage erotic film, or antique porn if you like, from Paris, France which deserves more recognition. It runs only about 6 minutes but it depicts a female neophyte being led by nude, masked cultists to a Satanic altar for initiation into the cult by none other than Lucifer and Astarte serving as Satanic priest and priestess. The  congregation appears to be exclusively female besides the Satanic priest. There is a vampiric blood offering, ceremonial bondage, flagellation, and sex acts between the congregants in an orgy apparently in homage to Satan.

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The Devil’s servants are bound to their Master with the chains of love… or lust.

Little is known about this anonymous relic. Whether this film depicts an actual Black Mass (as a few have claimed) is highly debatable. It is far more likely that somebody had the brilliant idea of filming a staged Live Sex Act with diabolical theatrical costume and paraphernalia added in to spike the excitement factor – such as may have been available to patrons of some of Paris’s decadent underground cabarets back in the day. However, there is evidence that somebody at least did their homework before filming and we might assume that at least some of the congregants may have very well been sincere in their faith. France has a history as a hotbed of heresy and diabolism. Just read Là-bas (1891) by  Joris-Karl Huysmans for a taste of decadent Parisian satanism.

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Servants of the Silver Star and the Serpent. Messe Noir, 1928

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Satan receives many offerings in Messe Noir

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df0765cb7b421ece21b2237179e1af09The Great Depression swept the USA and much of the world was adversely affected. Fortunately some of this darkness birthed classic horrors of the cinema.

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The great Boris Karloff is steeped in Darkness in The Black Cat.

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The Black cat   (1934)

Satanic Sommelier: Brandy, on a dark, cold, stormy night. A young couple traveling on their honeymoon in Hungary meet Vitus Werdegast, a Hungarian psychiatrist played by Bela Lugosi who just so happens to be on his way to meet an old friend, the sinister Hjalmar Poelzig played by Boris Karloff. Weredegast and Poelzig go way back and their relationship has not exactly been a smooth one.

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Karloff x Lugosi = Classic Creepiness!

Werdegast (Lugosi) has spent the last 15 years in an infamous prison camp in Siberia. Poelzig (Karloff) is an architect with many dark secrets, and both will face off in a final confrontation before the bitter end. A collection of dead women in glass coffins, a Satanic cult, a book called The Rites of Lucifer, madness, stunning Bauhaus architecture in glorious black and white… there is much to be savored here. Although the story really has nothing to do with the tale by Edgar Allen Poe don’t let that keep you from seeing this Horror Classic.

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Stylish Bauhaus scenery in The Black Cat

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Hooray for Pre-code Hollywood!

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Classic Karloff

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The Wizard of Oz   (1939)

Satanic Sommelier: Amaretto and Coke, or Make a Grasshopper. Not a horror movie you say? Generations of children have been traumatized by this film which depicts a battle between two powerful witches over a pair of magic slippers! And… flying monkeys!!!

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The Scarecrow ripped apart by flying monkeys: some traumatizing shit right there.

cb67ef506492caa493438edb4eacd188Flying. Fucking. Monkeys!!! Great way to get the kiddies started until they’re ready for the “heavier stuff.”

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The cackle that spawned a million nightmares…

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World War II brought whimsical escape and some slow burning suspense to the cinema, but strict codes limited what could be depicted on screen.

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Veronica Lake is spellbinding!

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.

Not a horror film, (not much satanism happened on screen in the ’40’s). Witchcraft and love-spells 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).

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Veronica Lake casts a sexy spell in I Married a Witch

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The Satanic sommelier serves a cocktail to Jean Brooks in The 7th Victim.

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

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The devilish silhouette in the shower scene in The 7th Victim.

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A slow-burning film noir with Satanic cult accents.

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Angel On My Shoulder   (1946)

Not a Horror film at all, but notable for Claude Rains (The Invisible Man, 1933, The Wolf Man, 1941, The Phantom of the Opera, 1943) who has a great presence, and some great lines,  as The Devil in this classic.

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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.

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Night of the Demon, AKA Curse of the Demon (1957)

Satanic Sommelier: Gin, as you like it. Or, Newcastle beer. A black magic classic in which the supernatural collides with science! American professor John Holden (Dana Andrews) arrives in London for a conference on parapsychology only to discover that the colleague he was supposed to meet was killed in a freak accident the day before. It turns out that the deceased had been investigating a cult lead by Dr. Julian Karswell (Niall MacGinnis). Though a skeptic, Holden is suspicious of the devil-worshiping Karswell. Following a trail of mysterious manuscripts, Holden enters a world that makes him question his faith in science.  It is adapted from the M. R. James story “Casting the Runes” (1911). Did you know?? “Passing the runes” became part of the lyrics in The Rocky Horror Show because of this film.

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“Dana Andrews said prunes, Gave him the runes, And passing them used lots of skills.” –  lyrics from the opening song to The Rocky Horror Picture Show – ‘Science Fiction Double Feature,’  are due to Night of the Demon.

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Kim Novak in Bell, Book and Candle.

Bell, Book and Candle   (1958)

Satanic Sommelier: Mix up a Manhattan! A cocktail made with whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters.  Not a horror film. 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).

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Oh Man! Like… Wow! The Sixties like really  unleashed the Devil upon an unsuspecting cinema-going audience, Man!!! Can you dig it?

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A satanic classic! Featuring the exquisite Barbara Steele as a vampire witch!

Black Sunday   (1960)

Satanic Sommelier: A nice Chianti, or try Strega liquor. (Italian: La maschera del demonio), also known as The Mask of Satan and Revenge of the Vampire, is a 1960 Italian gothic horror film directed by Mario Bava. A classic of the genre and launched the careers of Bava and actress Barbara Steele. A vampire film empowered by Satan and filled with gothic atmosphere. At the time of it’s original release the violence was considered too much and was censored.

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Patricia Jessel and Christopher Lee in Horror Hotel

Horror Hotel, AKA City of the Dead   (1960)

Satanic Sommelier: Chardonnay, chilled. 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.

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Over-selling it a bit… but still a classic of occult horror genre.

Night of the Eagle, AKA Burn, Witch, Burn!   (1962)

Satanic Sommelier: Newcastle beer. Something of a classic of it’s time. When a British professor (Peter Wyngarde) ties his success to his wife’s (Janet Blair) black magic, he destroys her voodoo kit.

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Some people never learn.

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The poster says it all… except for the really cool masquerading, evil, vampire cult.

Kiss of the Vampire   (1963)

Satanic Cinema Sommelier: Absinthe, and/or Champagne. Not quite a diabolic film, but there is a vampire cult and some occult magic ritual. A honeymooning couple are invited by the mysterious Dr Ravna to a party at his spooky castle…  green liqueur… hypnotic piano music… a masquerade ball… dancing… the young couple get separated… a vampire cult… a “professor” working with the occult… and killer vampire bats! A standard plot precursor to The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

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Having a devil of a good time in – Kiss of the Vampire, 1963

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The Red death with a pack of Tarot cards.

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The Masque of the Red Death

Masque of the Red Death  (1964)

Satanic Sommelier: Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. We recommend Casillero del Diablo as your affordable go-to red wine.  Based upon the hypnotically perverse work by Edgar Allan Poe, and starring the adorable and inimitable Vincent Price as a tyrannical 12th-century prince (a mix of Gilles De Rais and the Marquis De Sade) who is intrigued by the genuine innocence of a poor village girl and takes her to live amid the immorality of his court where he strives to compel her to join him in the “glories of Hell.”. Some Cabalistic occult significance can be read into the progressive colorization of the rooms leading to Prince Prospero’s (Vincent Price) black chamber.

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Vincent Price delights in being deliciously evil.

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‘.

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Hazel Court dedicates herself as a handmaid to Satan in 1964’s Masque of the Red Death by branding an inverted cross on her breast.

 Did you know??? Masque of the Red Death is the first appearance of an inverted cross as a symbol of Satanism in film!

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Devils of Darkness   (1965)

Satanic Sommelier: Cassilero del Diablo – Cabernet Sauvignon, or Something sweet & creamy. If you are a fan of Hammer horror then you should enjoy this fun gem about a suave, French vampire with a satanic cult following. It begins like a Hammer gothic vampire film with a troop of gypsies in a European forest but, as the body count rises almost as quick as characters are introduced,  the story veers surprisingly towards London in the swinging sixties where the occult boom has just started. Contains some interesting black magic references and tropes as well as the tawdry details of the complicated love affairs of vampires.

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Sharon Tate in Eye of the Devil.

Eye of the Devil (1966)

Satanic Sommelier: Chilled Chardonnay. 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. images-25

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…

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Sharon Tate offers a sacrifice in the suspenseful ‘Eye of the Devil.’

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Rosanna Schiaffino & Sarah Ferrati in The Witch in Love. Original Vintage Photograph 1966

The Witch,  aka La Strega In Amore  (1966)

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Strega is good stuff! Its yellow color comes from the presence of saffron. It is slightly sweet, semi-viscous, and has a bold, complex flavor with strong minty or coniferous notes.

Satanic Sommelier: Strega Liquer (of course!), or try a smooth Italian red with smoky notes. Don’t let the opening credits fool you! More of an atmospheric Drama/Mystery than a horror, but notable for it’s good but simple story, artistic camera work, and small cast of striking characters. It is based on the novel Aura by Carlos Fuentes and the story could certainly be remade into an effective film today. This little known Italian (dubbed into English) film (also called ‘The Witch In Love’ or ‘Strange Obsession’) is a film about the witch’s powers of “glamour” in the archaic sense of the word, meaning magic or enchantment. A historian goes to a castle library to translate some ancient erotic literature. While there he discovers what he believes to be supernatural forces at work. Seductive Sixties witchery to enchant the imagination.

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There is a Yin-Yang thing going on with these two fascinating women.

The gorgeous Rosanna Schiaffino is completely bewitching as Aura, and the older and formidable Sarah Ferrati carries a mysterious air as the widow Consuelo. The words witch or witchcraft are never even mentioned and there are no overtly obvious occult tropes, but there is plenty of subtle witchiness to be found. The Witch manages to cast a spell through it’s convincing performances and gothic atmosphere. There are a couple of points that lead us to suspect this film had an effect on Dario Argento’s work on Suspiria. One devil in the details are the curtains in Consuelo’s suite  which happen to be the exact same ones Jessica Harper can be seen hiding behind while observing the witches in the secret passage near the end of Suspiria. Also, the dubbed English voice of Consuelo sounds, at times, remarkably like the voice of Helena Markos – Mater Suspiriorum.

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Sarah Ferrati casts a deadly spell in “The Witch”, 1966

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Incubus  (1966)

Satanic Sommelier: A bottle of Casillero del diablo. Incubus (Esperanto: Inkubo) is a black-and-white American horror film filmed entirely in the constructed language Esperanto. It was directed by Leslie Stevens, creator of The Outer Limits, and stars William Shatner, shortly before he would begin his work on Star Trek. Considered a lost film for years, a copy was found in Paris in 1996 and has had English subtitles superimposed over the French ones. A flawed film but at heart a  good fable of good vs evil. A succubus desires to conquer a pure, virtuous and heroic man despite the warnings of her superior sister succubus to stick with the depraved and perverted. When things become desperate, the titular Incubus is summoned in the form of Milos Milos, an actor soaked in real-life scandal. images-1

Article on the Incubus curse

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Witchfinder General,

aka: The Conquerer Worm (1968)

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Vincent Price is the Witchfinder General

Satanic Sommelier: Pint after pint 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 Vincent 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. In the US, the film was shown virtually intact (uncensored) 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 Witchfinders release. 

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Sidney Blackmer and Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby.

Rosemary’s Baby   (1968)

One of Satanic Cinema’s Unholy Trinity (along with The Exorcist and The Omen – see top of page above) and our personal favorite. We have a real soft spot for Ira Levin’s and Polanski’s masterpieces in our black little hearts. We have a page/shrine of our own devoted to it…  (with articles and an interview with a cast member) at :      Rosemary’s Baby 50th Anniversary

and our ….

Rosemary’s Baby 50th Anniversary on Facebook

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Charles Gray in The Devil Rides Out.

The Devil Rides Out (1968)

Satanic Sommelier: Gin & tonic, or have a Guinness or Newcastle. 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!

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Christopher Lee appears in many films on our list, but just which side is he really on?

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! 200-1

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The Devil Rides Out

ΨΨΨΨΨΨΨΨΨΨΨΨΨΨΨΨΨΨΨΨΨΨΨΨΨΨΨΨΨ9153-7d4b-4ed5-9036-c2248803738aBy the time the Seventies rolled around, Satan was so comfortable in the cinema that he decided to kick things up and really make some heads spin! Everybody was tripping  on the occult trend before you could say “What’s happening?!”

mark-of-the-devil-poster   Mark of the Devil   (1970)

Satanic Sommelier: Guiness or Newcastle Beer. A Cult Horror classic noteworthy for it’s  violent depictions of witch hunting featuring graphic scenes of torture… and a handsome young Udo Kier

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Udo Kier

And the frighteningly creepy Reggie Nalder...

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Reggie Nalder

Who you may recognize from his memorable role in  ‘Salem’s Lot (1979)

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Aleister Crowley. Occultist.

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Dean Stockwell attempts to channel Aleister Crowley in the trippy The Dunwich Horror

The Dunwich Horror   (1970)

Satanic Sommelier: Cheap California Red or microbrew. Produced by Roger Corman (famed for those Poe adaptations featuring Vincent Price). Dean Stockwell and Sandra Dee star in this not-so-great adaptation of the story by H.P. Lovecraft. But it has a certain tacky charm and it can be enjoyed for the tacky late ’60’s California occult psychedelic vibe, imagery and music.  dunwich7

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Satanis: The Devil’s Mass    (1970)

UnknownSatanic Sommelier: Low-calorie Beer. One of the only non-Horror films to reach our list because of it’s relevancy to our ongoing discourse. This American documentary film is about Anton LaVey and the Church of Satan. Filmed in San Francisco, California, the film is a compilation of ritual footage and interviews with LaVey’s family, neighbors, and church members, as well Christian priests and Mormon missionaries. An intriguing look into the occult revival stirred up by the cultural upheaval of the ’60’s and 70’s. This documentary can be viewed on Youtube.

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Anton LaVey made quite a splash with his Church of Satan.

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Are you ready for unholy communion? To Taste the Blood of Dracula?!

Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970)

Satanic Sommelier: A very rich, dry, full-bodied Merlot. Or, try a Bloody Mary. 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.

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Felix the pimp has difficulty managing his charges in ‘Taste the Blood of Dracula’.

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You’ll discover many dirty habits in Ken Russell’s The Devils

The Devils  (1971)

Satanic Sommelier: Difficult to choose… Perhaps an expensive French Bordeaux. No? Maybe Absinthe? Chartreuse? Otherwise, Bloody Mary’s for everyone! 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 to the discovery of the real devils in society, i.e.: the unholy alliance of church and state!

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NOT coming to a theater near you. The Devils, (1971).

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.

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Stunning art direction contrasts with gritty reality.

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! Satanic Cinema canon!

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“Oh yes! And then some!”

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Angel is a Devil in Blood On Satan’s Claw

Blood On Satan’s Claw (1971)

Satanic Sommelier: A pint (or two, or three…) of fine Ale.  When a mysterious corpse is accidentally dug up by a boy in a small town, a group of local teens starts acting very strangely. The adolescents, led by a girl named Angel (Linda Hayden), are convinced the corpse was once possessed. Hoping to get in touch with the devil through the body, the teens act out a series of demonic rituals that causes a stir among the townspeople. When word of the satanic activity spreads, certain parents start trying to lock up the kids behind the spooky stunts.

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Count Karnstein offers dark delights in Twins of Evil.

Twins Of Evil   (1971)

Satanic Cinema Sommelier: Merlot. A Hammer Horror featuring Peter Cushing as a stern and pious witch-hunter who can’t determine which of his beautiful and recently orphaned twin nieces has been led astray by the evil Count Karnstein who is investing his time in Satanism and Black Magic in emulation of his wicked ancestors.

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Peter Cushing commands a fanatical Brotherhood in Twins of Evil.

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Simon, King of the Witches

Simon, King of the Witches   (1971)

Satanic Sommelier: We recommend smoking something while you finish a cheap bottle of California red before watching this after midnight. A Cult film even cult film fans may not have heard of. What the hell can we even say about this one? Simon is a Californian sorcerer who lives in a storm sewer who befriends a male prostitute and…. oh, hell. Just watch it when you’re drunk or stoned!

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Whatever you say, Honey. Simon, King of the Witches.

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The Mephisto Waltz   (1971)

Not yet viewed…

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Dracula AD 1972

 Dracula AD 1972   (1972)

Satanic Sommelier: Incense and peppermint schnapps. What a title! 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! 

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Tripping hippies go gothic! Dracula AD 1972 

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.

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With more than a touch of evil, Orson Welles gives us Necromancy

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.  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. 

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Orville’s coming-out party is not to be missed in the underrated cult classic Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things

Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things   (1972)

Satanic Sommelier: Rum & Coke, or perhaps Vodka cranberry. Screwdrivers are also appropriate, but Beer will do. Now considered a cult classic, “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 (perfect for what it is) with some surprisingly good moments to chill your blood. We first saw this on the late, late, late, you’re up too late show on local TV back in the late 80’s and remember being terribly creeped out and unable to put out all the lights in our basement bedroom afterwards. 

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Asylum of Satan   (1972)

Satanic Sommelier: Cheap beer. 70’s cinema really gave the Devil His due… but without much thanks to this odd movie artifact. Awkward to just plain bad acting, plagued by a funky 70’s music score and the cheapest effects available, this film will at least amuse some Satanic and Le Bad Cinema fans with it’s interesting twists and deaths. Notable for having the Devil costume from Rosemary’s Baby (with a goofy Devil mask) in the big Satanic ceremony at the end when the Prince of Darkness is summoned from Hell.   AsylumOfSatan3

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The Exorcist   (1973)

images-4  Of course! See the Unholy Trinity of Diabolical films at the top of our list (including Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen).

If you have somehow managed to escape viewing this film… what in the Hell are you waiting for?! It was a phenomena that caused a sensation upon release. It scalded the brains of, and traumatized, many a cinema-goer in the early 70’s, and has challenged people’s ideas regarding the existence of an actual Devil or power of absolute evil ever since. It has also caused many a Christian believer to excoriate any occult paraphernalia, such as Ouija boards or Tarot cards, as gateways  to Satanism, possession and eternal damnation. Certain Scenes scared and disturbed people more than any film ever had before – causing physical reactions like increased heart rate,  shaking and nausea – and people leaving the theater. The Exorcist is often imitated, but hardly ever surpassed, in Satanic Cinema.

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The Evil One expresses a palpable presence in The Exorcist.

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Antichrist   (1974)

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Speaking of the Prince of Darkness…. back to Christopher Lee.

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Christopher Lee presides over The Satanic Rites of Dracula… of course! Ab Fab’s Joanna Lumley stars as Van Helsing’s granddaughter.

The Satanic Rites of Dracula    (1974)

Satanic Sommelier: Gin & tonic for this very British film.   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 in order to wipe out humankind! Christopher Lee’s Dracula (suffering from a severe case of ennui, no less) is at the center of this diabolical treat. Joanna Lumley (Patsy Stone of Absolutely Fabulous fame) appears as Van Helsings granddaughter.

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Rich weirdos get their Hellfire Club kicks in The Satanic Rites of Dracula.

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Peter Cushing knows that a crucifix is much more effective than that sissy little gun in The Satanic Rites of Dracula

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The Wicker Man (1975)

Satanic Sommelier: Mead (Honey wine), or an Apple Cider.  Classic! A 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. 

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Alucarda   (1975)

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A friendship sealed in blood binds the fates of two girls in a convent in Alucarda.

Satanic Sommelier: A Bloody Mary. Or try a Spanish Crianza, followed by “una cerveza mas fina” con guacamole y tortilla chips for this Mexican nunsploitation masterpiece. (Spanish title: Alucarda, la hija de las tinieblas, or Alucarda, the daughter of darkness) is a 1977 Mexican horror film directed by Juan López Moctezuma, and starring Tina Romero in the title role. Often thought to be based on the 1872 novella Carmilla, it revolves around two teenage orphan girls living in a Catholic convent, who unleash a demonic force and become possessed by Satan. Though it is a Mexican Spanish language film, it was originally filmed in English, as evidenced by the fact that the lip movements match the dubbed English dialogue. There is something compelling about this film and much of it is due to the ferocity conjured and unleashed in the performance by the leading actress Tina Romero.

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The demonically inspired Alucarda.

This nunsploitation film has some great surrealistic set pieces, plenty of hysterical blasphemy, flagellating nuns, sadistic monks, exorcism and…. bleeding nuns!! Could somebody please explain to us the nun’s bloody habits in this film? Is this a historically accurate style for a certain religious order? or simply a surrealistic flourish? Nuns in habits stained with their monthly blood. Hardcore.

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Alucarda is a must see for any Satanic cinema fan!

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Alucarda is Satanic Cinema canon!

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Satanico Pandemonium    (1975)

Satanic Sommelier: Mexican red or Corona beer. A vintage nunsploitation horror film that feels almost sacred in that cheap plaster saint kind of way. Sister Maria lives with the convent for her charity works, but her imagination is sparked after she happens to see a naked man who has just finished bathing in a nearby river. In her secret fantasies, she becomes agonized by visions from another world, a world in which she is permitted to run free. In this world Satan is her lord, and her acts of violence and blasphemy mount. Sister Maria realizes that she is elected by the Devil himself to destroy the convent and lead her sister nuns into hell. Only the Devil can intuit the dark secrets of her tortured mind. A very interesting film that pays off for what it lacks in it’s twist ending to the story.

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The Devil’s Rain   (1975)

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Ernest Borgnine on the set of ‘The Devil’s Rain’ with Anton LaVey

Satanic Sommelier: Vodka and blood orange lemonade with club soda. Watched this two or three times decades ago so we are due to rewatch. But we remember it as a B movie with not much happening until the last 20 minutes or so. Anton LaVey served as some sort of Satanic consultant on the set. Interesting cast including William Shatner, John Travolta, Tom Skerrit, and… Ernest Borgnine as a Satanic cult leader?!?! Dated gruesome effects are given lots of time to give the viewer to fully take in the “visage spillage” (say that with a French accent and it suddenly makes the film, if not more bearable then, at least more amusing.

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“Visage spillage”

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Race with the Devil (1975)

Satanic Sommelier: This one is strictly beer. 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. The final shot at the ending is memorable. Clay Tanner (the uncredited actor who played The Devil in 1968’s Rosemary’s Baby) appears as an extra. 

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Clay Tanner as Delbert in Race With the Devil.

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Nastassja Kinski and Christopher Lee in a Devil flick. Sounds like popcorn night to me!

To the Devil a Daughter (1976)

Satanic Sommelier: Blue Nun. This one is Satanic Cinema Canon. 

Three reasons to watch this film:

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Christopher Lee as a Satanic priest – he does it so well! Look for that smile at a nasty scene near the beginning of the film!,

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A 15-year-old full frontal nude Nastassja Kinski  (we also love her dressed as a nun),

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and… some rather atypical Satanic ritual ritual imagery.

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We felt the same way when we were forced to go to church as a child.

The Omen   (1976)

Satanic Sommelier: We recommend Two Paddocks pinot noir (see 1981’s Omen III: The Final Conflict). One of Satanic Cinema’s Unholy Trinity (along with Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist – see top of this list) The Omen became a trilogy of it’s own with sequels following Damien Thorn’s rise to power as The Antichrist . This movie suddenly brought 666 into public consciousness as a mark of evil. Classic! Satanic Cinema Canon. 

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Paula Sheppard is disturbing and disturbed in ‘Alice, Sweet Alice’.

Alice, Sweet Alice (1976)

Satanic Sommelier: A cheap 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. AKA Communion, Holy Terror. A frightful 70’s American slasher gem reminiscent of Dario Argento’s giallo shockers. This creeper focuses on murders that occur within a Catholic community, especially around two young sisters and especially  the younger one’s (’80’s beauty Brooke Shields) first communion. It positively spills over with bloody murder and over-the-top 70’s Catholic paranoia. Applause due to Jane Lowry (as Aunt Annie DeLorenze) who was really going for the Oscar in this project!

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“Oh my GOD!!”

While not explicitly Satanic, Alice Sweet Alice sure feels blasphemous when taken in it’s grisly entirety. The strict Catholic repression appears to encourage mentally disturbed behavior in this story. The creepy, obese, 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!! 

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Brooke Shields as Karen is ready for unholy communion in Alice Sweet Alice’

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Sometimes we just can’t get enough SUSPIRIA !

Suspiria (1977)

Satanic Sommelier: Affordable but drinkable Italian red wine… and hashish (smoke ’em if you got ’em).  Suspiria is a film that stands out in horror cinema and remains perhaps the most celebrated artistic horror film ever made. Dario Argento’s masterpiece. There has been much discussion about this film and a type of remake or reboot is anticipated for 2018. 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). We started #TheThreeMothers hashtag. Read our Occult-Horror geek articles on Suspiria here:

SUSPIRIA: In the Eye of the Peacock

SUSPIRIA: Dario, De Quincey and the Dark Goddess; Part 1

SUSPIRIA: Dario, De Quincey & the Dark Goddess; Part 2

SUSPIRIA: Dario, De Quincey & the Dark Goddess, Part 3

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The pleasure to be derived from viewing Suspiria is akin to getting a heavy dose of LSD and falling into a black light velvet poster trance in the mid seventies with the Hi-Fi stereo on.

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John Carradine in The Sentinel

The Sentinel (1977)

Satanic Sommelier: Whatever your poison may be, drink plenty of it! The gateway to Hell requires a vigilant ward. The requirements for the position are a 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 gritty ’70’s devil movie has a politically incorrect climax to creep you out.

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She was young. She was beautiful. She was next!

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Jonathan Scott-Taylor  wields equal amounts of sinister, sympathy and angelic charm as Damien Thorn.

Damien: Omen II   (1978)

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Satanic Sommelier: Bourbon… on ice. A wonderful sequel – both good and bad! But even the bad is good! Great performances all around – some a bit over-the-top in that wonderful kind of way – with Leo McKern returning as the wise old man, Sylvia Sidney as Aunt Marion, and that Frantic Red-Coated Woman warning: “You are in DANGER!”.

A real outstanding performance by a young Jonathan Scott-Taylor, who appears to have dropped out of acting in the mid-eighties. His charming portrayal of Damien is convincing, sympathetic and frightening. Just a couple years later and the whole Satanist-in-a-boy’s-military-academy motif would be recycled, tweaked and expanded in the wonderfully wicked Evilspeak (1981).

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The Legacy   (1978)

Satanic Sommelier: Hard Cider followed by hot tea with a splash of something. Called “A Supernatural Love Story” in the original theatrical trailer, The Legacy is a clumsy masterpiece only the 70’s could spawn.  It starts off kind of like a Carpenters music video. Although the diablery is so subtle when compared to other Satanic thrillers of the era as to be nearly unnoticeable, there is a lot of “mystery…” and some 70’s tinted Black Magic atmosphere.

A young American couple visit England on what they think will be a business trip, but all goes according to the Evil One’s plans when they are welcomed by a mysterious Unknown-3benefactor into a gathering of rich strangers at a mansion in the country where Destiny awaits them. An awkward film which definitely has it’s moments with delightful nonsense and death scenes that will at least entertain. Sam Elliot, Charles Gray and The Who’s Roger Daltrey each lend their own charm to the film.

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Roger Daltrey in The Legacy.

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Margaret Tyzack as the mysterious Nurse Adams (is she a nun or what?) seems awfully “familiar” (see what we did there?) in The Legacy.

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Escalofrío (Chill)  aka: Satan’s Blood   (1978)

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Satanic Sommelier: Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon… with cheese. A remarkably atmospheric, soft-core, erotic occult thriller that mixes Satanism , parapsychology and considerable doses of sex. Andrés and Ana, an urban couple living in Madrid, leave their apartment to spend a day of pleasure in the city with their dog. They end up accepting the invitation of two strangers, Bruno and Berta, to go to their country house for some wine and cheese. A storm surprises them and they have to stay for the night together. The two couples start a session with a ouija board. There are conflicting past situations, such as the affair that Ana had with Andrés’ brother or Bruno’s suicide attempt, which receives criticism from Berta. This will be the beginning of the horrors that will take place in the haunted house. No mistaking this one for a blockbuster but… there are a few genuinely chilling scenes. The occult-infused erotic scenes are of a tasteful quality and not intrusive to the plot. A good story with a twist ending!  An undiscovered treat!

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Satan’s Blood has a good story and some creepy atmosphere!

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Unknown-2The Evil   (1978)

Satanic Sommelier: Beer. A theatrically released film that kind of feels more like a made for TV movie – but with some mild 70’s gore. A somewhat slow-paced haunted house thriller with a diabolical twist.  A psychiatrist (Richard Crenna) buys an abandoned mansion, which was built over hot sulfur pits, in order to set up a drug rehab center (Hey! What could go wrong?). He recruits a group of volunteers to help clean-up and renovate the large house. Kids, this is what’s known as a recipe for certain doom. His wife almost immediately begins seeing ghosts and things go from bad to worse for our would-be remodelers.

What it lacks in parts (some of the acting is forgettable – in fact one character suddenly disappears without a hint of what actually becomes of her) is made up for in other ways. And we have to admit, including actor Victor Buono was a nice touch. Don’t expect too much and you may find it an enjoyable treat of diabolical ’70’s mayhem.

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The Amityville Horror   (1979)

Satanic Sommelier: BeerA cultural phenomenon in it’s time, in it’s own way. The House cursed by evil forces which led to a brutal multiple murder (or is it the other way round?) shook up many a movie goer and pulp paperback reader back in the day. A franchise which continues to beat it’s head against the same tired old walls even today.

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The Eighties wrapped everyone and everything in a cooling shroud of anxiety, troubled darkness and despair. Goth music was stretching it’s membranous wings, AIDS was decimating the most creative and talented, and the Satanic Panic reached it’s paranoid peak!

Screen Shot 2017-08-21 at 15.11.13Inferno   (1980)

Satanic Sommelier: Italian Red. After the marvelous Suspiria (1977) came the second film in The Three Mothers series directed by horror maestro Dario Argento. An underestimated classic with striking cinematography and musical score by Keith Emmerson (of Emmerson, Lake & Palmer). Stars Leigh McCloskey as a concerned brother compelled to leave Rome in search of his endangered sister (Irene Miracle) who has been living in a mysterious house in New York City connected to The Three Mothers. Alchemy is introduced into The Three Mother’s murderous brew in this follow-up to Suspiria’s surreal horror legacy. it should be noted here that actor Leigh McCloskey has expanded beyond acting into art infused with occult philosophy inspired by the Tarot and Kabbalah. Link:  Leigh McCloskey site

Omen III: The Final Conflict    (1981)

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Sam Neil as Damien Thorn assumes his mantle as Antichrist in The Omen III: The Final Conflict.

Satanic Sommelier: Please try a Two Paddocks pinot Noir in honor of winemaker and actor Sam Neil. The third and final film in the original ‘The Omen’ series (let’s not talk about that wretched 1991 Part 4 made for TV fiasco). Although usually considered the weakest of The Omen Trilogy, it is worth watching for suave and sexy Sam Neil as Damien Thorn. 

The 7 daggers of annihilation introduced in the first film, and reprised in the sequel, are put to use in this installment of the trilogy by a brotherhood of monks sworn to exterminating the Antichrist in the form of Damien Thorn, who, along with directing Thorn Industries, has come dangerously close – in influential position – near the American presidency!

Satanic Cinema Sommeliers take note when shopping for your diabolical wine rack – keep an eye out for Two Paddocks  wine because actor Sam Neil is the proprietor behind the New Zealand brand! Link: Two Paddocks Winery

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Feeling a little “Thorny,” are we Damien?

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Satanic Sommelier: A very good beer. This one is 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 (effects a a little dated, but so what?), 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.

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The Beyond   (1981)

Satanic Sommelier: Jaegermeister with a beer chaser, repeat.  A Cult Horror Classic and Our favorite Lucio Fulci film. There is a blind woman, a house that stands as a gateway to Hell, reference to the ancient and mysterious Book of Eibon, walking dead, spiders…. uhh, Plot? What plot? Who needs a plot?! Don’t try to analyze it, just enjoy the atmosphere and mayhem! Just do it under the influence of something!

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Black Candles   aka: Los Ritos Sexuales Del Diablo (1982)

Satanic Sommelier: Whiskey. Vintage, soft-core erotica with a diabolical thriller theme. By no means a great, or even a good film. Most of the acting is second rate, but the dull  film is carried along by sexy Satanic siren Helga Liné, who has appeared in many horror films. There are horror elements (a couple of characters die – one by Witchcraft, another by… well, let’s just say it’s an unpleasant end), and plenty of occult and satanic pageantry. What sets this one apart is the scene with the goat – either the young woman in the scene was a great actress or she and the goat actually shared a cigarette after the scene was finished shooting. 1978’s EscalofrÍo, aka Satan’s Blood is a more successful attempt at the erotic-occult theme.

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Helga Liné is a satanic hostess with the occasional Black Mass in her basement.

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Legend   (1985)

Satanic Sommelier: Merlot by Casillero del Diablo. More a fantasy than a Satanic Horror film, but it weaves a spell and certainly falls under our Diabolical theme due to the fabulous Tim Curry as Darkness. Suitable for the whole family once the kids are bored with The Wizard of Oz.

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Mickey Rourke in the exceptional Angel Heart.

 Angel Heart  (1987)

Satanic Sommelier: Jack Daniels or Jim Beam (any way you like) for you “Hairy Angel” types.  Or try Toots Sweet’s favorite Twin Sisters Cocktail Recipe: Ingredients: 1/2 oz. light rum 1/2 oz. spiced rum 1 dash lime juice 1 dash Coca-Cola Directions: Shake with ice and strain into shot glass. Best served in a shot glass. Atmospheric film with an excellent cast. The story pulls you in and won’t let go. Mickey Rourke in his prime as Harold Angel (“Hark! The herald angels sing…”) and Robert DeNiro as Louis Cyphere (wink). Based on the novel ‘Falling Angel’ by William Hjortsberg.

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The bewitching Lisa Bonet.

The novel is centered in New York and never travels to New Orleans like in the film. The book  depicts a gritty 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 with the lovely young (and underrated) Lisa Bonet. Actress Charlotte Rampling appears as a mysterious old flame into more than just star-gazing. A horror mystery with a real twist at the end.

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Robert DeNiro is unforgettable as the cryptic Mr Cyphere.

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Hellraiser & Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1987 – 1988)

Satanic Sommelier: Drink something really good… until it hurts. Hellraiser & Hellbound 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. This was a genre-changing horror series when it first appeared and has influenced many since (Silent Hill comes to mind).

By definition, the term Cenobite  refers to a member of a religious order.

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Prince of Darkness (1987)

Satanic Sommelier: That wild green fiendy liquid in the capsule compels us to select either a Vodka gimlet or Midori for this one. Although the 80’s effects may be a little dated, 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 researchers sent to investigate. Donald Pleasance is a Catholic priest and Alice Cooper appears as one of the demented street people being attracted to the strange energy of the church. Do not watch it alone late at night. Directed by John Carpenter (Halloween, The Thing, In the Mouth of Madness) there is just something really disturbing about this nightmarish movie… “Hello? Hello? I’ve got a message for you, and you’re not going to like it…”

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The Believers   (1987)

Satanic Sommelier: Rum & Coke. A New York psychiatrist (Martin Sheen) finds that a brujería-inspired cult, which believes in child sacrifice, has a keen interest in his own son. Released just as the Satanic Panic was rearing it’s paranoid head, this thriller helped stir up the cauldron of mystical / magical religious intolerance, especially towards Voodoo and Santeria. Memorable ending.

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Not exactly what most people have in mind when they say they are going to The Church.

The Church (1989)

Satanic Sommelier: Italian red wine, Casillero del Diablo. (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 an uncanny homage in a Devil Rape scene (compare music), and an old couple patterned on Minnie and Roman Castevet that tour The Cathedral. You should definitely go to The Church, it’s good for your soul.

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Julian Sands as the Warlock.

Warlock   (1989)

Satanic Sommelier: Beer or cider. Released at the peak of the Satanic Panic then occurring in North America, this film played upon the fears of a populace terrified that Satanic covens were lurking in every neighborhood, and they wanted your children for terrible purposes. Although this film is certainly dated by today’s standards, it has served as a style template for many a young male witch (all black wardrobe and long hair). The wickedly handsome Julian Sands is the titular Warlock on an evil mission to destroy God’s Creation.

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unnamed As The Satanic Panic fizzled out, The Nineties saw a fruiting of big budget Devil films with some very big names in Hollywood in starring roles. Culturally speaking, many people were taking sides : true believers or heretics.

Trends towards the popularization and normalization of the New Age, Buddhism, Yoga and all forms of Paganism and related alternative belief systems blossomed.

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The well-paced scene leading up to this image scares the hell out of everybody the first time they watch The Exorcist III.

The Exorcist III    (1990)

Satanic Sommelier: Whiskey Sour. 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 Exorcist “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.

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“Now I call that showmanship, lieutenant!”

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Early on in The Devil’s Daughter / The Sect, we are introduced to a frightful Charles Manson-like cultist.

The Sect,  aka The Devil’s Daughter   (1991)

Satanic Sommelier: Italian red wine or German Riesling. (Italian title: La Setta), also known as  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.  

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Herbert Lom as the mysterious stranger with a package… and some weird eyedrops.

Herbert Lom also stars. It’s a weird film with echoes of Rosemary’s Baby but embellished with some truly bizarre twists, some surrealistic, dreamlike and nightmarish imagery, along with some gore. A very creative departure from the standard formulaic devil films we get these days.

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The Sect offers diabolical face-lifts!

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Dark Waters    (1993)

Satanic Sommelier: A Spanish Crianza or a Portuguese red wine. A good but slow-paced, somewhat surreal and artsy yet atmospheric, nunsploitation horror with strong echoes of H.P. Lovecraft. That croaking, blind Mother Superior though! Creepy! Subtle nightmare fuel.

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In the Mouth of Madness   (1994)

Satanic Sommelier: Chardonnay. Our beloved Sam Neil (Damien Thorn in OMEN III: The Final Conflict) finds himself falling into a plot with heavy influences by the grandfather of Cosmic Horror H.P. Lovecraft.  Directed by John Carpenter (Halloween, Prince of Darkness, The Thing).

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SEVEN     (1995)

Satanic Sommelier: Whiskey sour. “SE7EN” is a high budget, dark gift from Hollywood starring Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt and Gwyneth Paltrow. images-10Director David Fincher has called it a “meditation on evil,” set in a dirty, violent, raw and depressing environment. To this end, Fincher turned to production designer Arthur Max to create a dismal world that often eerily mirrors its inhabitants. “We created a setting that reflects the moral decay of the people in it”, says Max. While it is a crime thriller and not an occult horror (has no occult or explicitly traditional “satanic” tropes), witnessing the twisted mind of a smug psychopath going to outrageous lengths to murder his victims on the theme of the “Seven Deadly Sins” warrants this gritty and disturbing film a place on our list.Se7en film cross

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Barry Del Sherman as the sadistic Butterfield torments a former-cultist-turned-Tarot card reader in the splendid Clive Barker’s Lord of Illusions.

Lord of Illusions   (1995)

Satanic Sommelier: Tequila, any way you can take it. Clive Barker, the genius who created Hellraiser (among many other fine fantastic creations) again adapted one of his short stories into a feature film with this Neo-noir-occult-detective-fantasy-thriller. While some effects are dated, there is some real visceral horror and creepy occult intrigue here for the discriminating palate. Our favorite line comes early in the movie when the leader of a cult threatens an abducted young girl with his pet mandrill (!), telling her: “I think he’s in love.”

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Daniel Von Bargen as the sinister Nix. Lord of Illusions.

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I just like to keep a mandrill on a leash because…

 Nix: “I think he’s in love.”

Abducted Girl: “SCREEEEEAMS!”

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The Craft   (1996)

Satanic Sommelier: vodka cranberry or Zima. A significant feminist milestone in Occult cinema for updating the image of the witch as young, beautiful and daring. It also warns of the dangers of magic… without demonizing or Satanizing! Haven’t watched it since it’s original cinema release; should revisit it soon.

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The Devil’s Advocate   (1997)

Satanic Sommelier: Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon from Casillero del Diablo. Al Pacino,  Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron star in this slick, very high budget, modern approach to The Devil and all His works. Nice touch name-dropping John Milton, author of Paradise Lost – a Satanic classic listed on The Devil’s Bookshelf

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Satanic Sommelier: Beer. A great idea for a supernatural detective thriller that unfortunately fails to thrill or surprise with it’s far-fetched, convoluted story and mechanical outcome. The demon Azazel does some body-hopping possession to cause suffering among humankind. Nice to name drop AZAZEL as the demon due to it’s relation with the scapegoat, and the scapegoating of others – as responsible for sins which they are accused of while possessed in the story.

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The Ninth Gate (1999)

Satanic Sommelier: A smooth and satisfying Spanish or Portuguese red wine.  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. However, 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.

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A mystery is revealed in ‘The Ninth Gate.’

Some occultists may find strange echoes of resonance in the works of Kenneth Grant.

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Reading books like The Ninth Arch by occultist Kenneth Grant will bend and twist your mind into strange worlds and stranger aeons.

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Arnold Schwarzeneger VS Satan. Guess who wins.

End Of Days   (1999)

Satanic Sommelier: Beer. Remember when the world was freaking out about the Turn of the Millennium? 1999 stirred fears of a worldwide computer malfunction, or even the coming of the AntiChrist among the religious. Hollywood eagerly jumped on the paranoid crazy train to Hell with this high budget thriller in which Arnold Schwarzenegger saves the world from Satan. Gabriel Byrne is good as Satan’s host/The Nameless Banker. 

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Gabriel Byrne turns on the heat in End Of Days.

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Where will the 21st Century take Satanic Cinema? Will The Devil maintain a hold on an increasingly Atheistic or non-Christian society? Are Devil films doomed to become obsolete? Or will Evil come from beyond the stars and outside the circles of time?

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Lost Souls  (2000)

Satanic Sommelier: It tries to be champagne but it’s more like a low-calorie beer, or ZIMA. 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.

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Saint Sinner   (2002)

Satanic Sommelier: Chilled Chablis. We have a hellhound hard-on for almost anything Clive Barker… so we were pleased to stumble upon this made for TV horror movie.  In 1815 California, an emissary of Pope Pius VII, has traveled to a monastery in California to deliver an ancient statue that has trapped two beautiful succubi (female demons), Munkar and Nakir (played with creepy relish by Mary Mara and Rebecca Harrell.

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Munkar (Mary Mara) & Nakir (Rebecca Harrell) are darkly delicious and otherworldly as the ancient succubi sisters (or are they mother and daughter?) on the loose in the 21st century.

The monastery’s order serves as the secret repository for evil, supernatural objects collected by the Church, and kept there for safekeeping.  A young monk, Brother Tomas Alcala (underwear model-cum-actor Greg Serano), and his friend Brother Gregory inadvertently release the murderous demons, who travel to the 21st century using the monastery’s Wheel of Time. To redeem himself, Brother Tomas pursues them to present-day Seattle, where he allies with police detective Rachel Dressler (Gina Ravera) to recapture the homicidal terrors. Mild sexual tension, violence and gruesome horror effects make this one a fun diversion on a night with nothing to do.

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Jennifer Carpenter gives an intense performance in The Exorcism of Emily Rose.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose     (2005)

Satanic Cinema Sommelier: Chilled White wine. An interesting and intellectually engaging take on demonic possession. Not for the jump-scare or gore crowd (our lady-friend fell asleep during it at the theater). Fine performance by Jennifer Carpenter. Based upon the actual real life exorcism of Analiese Michel in Germany in the early ’70’s. 

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Silent Hill   (2006)

Satanic Sommelier: Gin & Tonic. What fresh Hell is this?! The film makers did not hold back on the sickness for this high quality film! Monsters, murder and a sacrificial religious cult all figure into this innovative dark horror fantasy. Quite a trend-setting taste of 21st century supernatural horror.

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MotherofTears-1The Mother Of Tears    

(2007)   Satanic Sommelier: Italian Red. The third part in The Three Mothers Trilogy. We agree with one critic who described this movie as “an instant cult film”. It is flawed, and after so much anticipation it left many Suspiria and Argento fans disappointed. However, after a few viewings (and a decade  later) we admit that it does have it’s merits and can be enjoyed for some of it’s eccentricities. Don’t expect it to be of Suspiria, or even Inferno, calibre. It is a great collaboration between Dario Argento, his daughter Asia Argento and her mother Daria Nicolodi. Udo Kier also makes a cameo as an exorcist.

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The Mist   (2007)

Satanic Sommelier: Stephen King usually = good beer; but you might want to start off with something a little stronger, like a shot or two of  Wild Turkey, or  whatever you enjoy shooting (no heroin, please!, this isn’t William Burroughs!). Why is this movie on this list? Well obviously… 1. the Lovecraftian influence: H.P. Lovecraft started a trend in horror nearly a hundred years ago and the ideas are only now getting real wide attention and use by horror movie directors. These ideas go far, far beyond traditional ideas of “The Devil”  and “Evil,” and into hostile realms of cosmic dimensions. And 2. the religious zealot crying out for sacrifice (“today’s word is expiation.”) is a frightening look at what can happen (and what is  happening) among certain groups of “sheeple” expecting the “End Times.”

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The House of the Devil   (2009)

Satanic Sommelier: A good Californian red wine to go with your “mushroom” pizza. 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. We highly recommend this one for the simple story and great acting by a small cast.

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Anthony Hopkins is always Rite, …and worth watching

 THE RITE   (2011)

Satanic Sommelier: “A nice Chianti.” A seminary student (Colin O’Donoghue) with more ideas on psychiatry than faith finds he must attend a Vatican school of exorcism. He then becomes the apprentice of Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins), a veteran exorcist, and encounters a terrifying force that causes him to question everything he believes. The Exorcist theme has been played out in numerous ways in cinema in the past decades but few can match the quality of The Rite.

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Sherri Moon Zombie breaks on through to the other side in The Lords of Salem.

The Lords of Salem (2012)

Satanic Sommelier:  Magic mushrooms with a gin & tonic, and a beer chaser. 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, Massachusetts where young DJ Heidi (played by Sherri Moon Zombie) is ensnared in the ancient sorcery of a family curse while trying to break free of a nasty heroin addiction. Worth seeing for Meg Foster, Dee Wallace, Judy Geeson and Patricia Quinn (Magenta from The Rocky Horror Picture Show) and some bizarre artistic moments.

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Patricia Quinn, Judy Geeson and Dee Wallace get it rite in old Salem.

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AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN –Pictured: (L-R): Jessica Lange as Fiona, Emma Roberts as Madison, Jamie Brewer as Nan, Taissa Farmiga as Zoe, Gabourey Sidibe as Queenie .

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?

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The Three Witches. Triplicity is a theme in Witchcraft

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The Witch (2015)

Satanic Sommelier: Guiness or a good local brew (beer), or an Irish red like Killians. 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. If you are looking for jump scares or buckets of gore, then you’re probably going to be disappointed. 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.

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The Void   (2016)

Satanic Sommelier: Gin & Tonic + lime. Viewed once but… uncertain how to categorize this one. Need to watch it again. Definitely worth a viewing. Kind of reminded us of John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness with some Lovecraft and Clive Barker rolled into it.

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Incarnate   (2016)

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Sympathy for the Devil: The Sublime Satanism of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’

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By: H.B.G.

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Is God Dead? Yes, this was an actual cover for TIME magazine in 1966.

Note: All passages in purple are direct quotes from the novel ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ by Ira Levin.

Rosemary’s Baby is perhaps the most positive Satanic book – and film – ever made. Certainly there will be die-hard fans of Joris-Karl Huysmans who insist that his 1891 novel Là-bas  (translated as Down There or The Damned) is the ultimate piece of Satanic literature;  however, it’s confused philosophical digressions, not to mention it’s darker and more grotesque passages, keep it far from the field of the positive. Rosemary’s Baby, both as a  novel penned by author Ira Levin and as a hit film directed by Roman Polanski, works on an entirely different level from Huysmans’ masterpiece of decadent diabolism. A level so close to our own, in fact, that we cannot help but be pulled into the story and accept that which must be considered by devout Christians to be the ultimate unacceptable thing – to purely love the spawn of Satan – the Antichrist incarnate. The other choice which presents itself in this thriller (as will be shown) is suicide – a grave matter – and a mortal sin that has been judged unpardonable in the past.

We are left wondering at the end of the story. We wonder if it is indeed a happy ending or a terrifying one. By the end of Rosemary’s Baby some people’s deeply held beliefs are called into question regarding: the Devil’s power, Is God dead? and, if you were Rosemary Woodhouse, a sense of what would you do? We must examine and consider our reaction to the final scene where Satan’s power is fully revealed in the apparent absence of any God. A child has been birthed who is destined to “overthrow the mighty and lay waste their temples! ….redeem the despised and wreak vengeance in the name of the burned and the tortured!” A true ‘Mother’s Love’ is certainly the purest kind of love to be found on Earth but what to do in this case?! We are left wondering – ‘Wouldn’t it be better if she throws the baby out the window and jumps out after it?’ as is suggested in the novel. Or, we might choose to look at it differently. After suspecting through much of the tale that the baby was in mortal danger from the coven, ‘Isn’t it marvelous that the baby is not only safe at the end but fiercely adored?’

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Virtue and Vice symbolized.

Sister Light, Sister Dark

In the story we (“we”are Rosemary – for the entire story is from her perspective) meet (Theresa) Terry Gionoffrio, a former drug addict with a sketchy past whose life has been turned around by a nice old couple, the Castevets, who in the way of the Good Samaritan (in a parable told by Jesus in the Book of Luke) have literally picked Terry up off the sidewalk, brought her home with them, and are bringing her back to full health and (in the novel) even planning on putting her through secretarial school – giving her the promise of a second chance, a new  future. But their home is the Bramford, a dark gothic apartment house on Manhattan’s upper West side with an even sketchier past than Terry’s. For over a hundred years all manner of scandals and crimes have accumulated within it’s darkly woven texture: suicide, murder, cannibalism, diabolism… But the Castevets seem kindly enough, “like real grandparents” as Terry says.

“I was starving and on dope and doing a lot of other things that I’m so ashamed of I could throw up just thinking about them. And Mr and Mrs Castevet completely rehabilitated me. They got me off the H, the dope, and got food into me and clean clothes on me, and now nothing is too good for me as far as their concerned. They give me all kinds of health food and vitamins, they even have a doctor come give me regular check-ups! It’s because their childless. I’m like the daughter they never had, you know?”

Terry says that at first she suspected the Castevets had some kind of ulterior motive, “a sex thing” he, or she, or they would want her to do. “But they’ve really been like real grandparents. Nothing like that.” It must have broken her heart when the revelation came that they actually did indeed want her for a “sex thing,” just not in the way anybody could have possibly imagined.

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Cult-ivated for great things

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Mater Dolorosa

Rosemary and Terry meet in the Bramford’s gloomy basement where, as we learn early on from our friend Hutch, that “a dead baby wrapped in newspaper had not so long ago been found. Whose baby had it been, and how had it died? Who had found it? Had the person who left it been caught and punished?” Rosemary considers researching the incident “but that would have made it more real, more dreadful than it already was. To know the spot where the baby had lain, to have perhaps to walk past it on the way to the laundry room and again on the way back to the elevator, would have been unbearable. Partial ignorance, she decided, was partial bliss.”

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Tannis anyone? Nothin’ says lovin’ like something from the coven.

A more appropriate meeting place could not be devised for these two women who each live “in partial ignorance and partial bliss.” The basement, being underground, is the womb – tomb of the “Black Bramford”. It is the location of a horrendous discovery “not so long ago”of a dead infant. Rosemary and Terry meet at the nefarious scene where a dead baby was discovered; a strange yet subtle twist involving the fates of these two women. The Bramford’s basement laundry facilities is a witches’ crossroads of devouring death; the dark steamy maw of the Dark Mother who gives birth to, and devours, her young. Were this story a Grimm’s fairy tale we could just as easily imagine the meeting of the relatively innocent pig-tailed Rosemary and the more worldly-experienced Terry taking place in some deep dark forest, at a crossroads where criminals are hanged, the unquiet dead are buried, and necromantic rituals take place in the flickering light of black candles made from the fat of unbaptized babes. They meet in the basement of the spooky, gothic witches’ mansion. The basement which is also, of course, the subconscious – where the monsters live. With it’s “steamy brick walls” it is the Bramford’s bowels, a moist womb. A gestation place for all evil conceptions. As Terry proudly exhibits her lovely, yet foul-smelling, gift from the Castevets, the umbilical threads of Fate are rewoven by the hand of Satan between these two women.

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“I’m not mad about the smell either.”

With Rosemary and Terry we are reminded of a pair of women that occur as a choice in many hero journey myths. Or, as card number six ‘VI The Lovers’ on the Marseille style Tarot card. The Dark Woman represents Vice, the Light Woman represents Virtue. Sister Dark and Sister Light – each represent a temptation. The somewhat exotic, brunette Terry – with her history of illicit sex, prostitution, and drugs; and fair, strawberry blond, girlishly pig-tailed Rosemary – the good Catholic school girl from Omaha, Nebraska. In the novel we learn (Minnie Castevet’s voice coming from the nun in the dream on the night of Terry’s suicide): “All she has to be is young, healthy and not a virgin. She doesn’t have to be a no-good drug-addict whore out of the gutter.” Very simple qualifications for the required candidate the Castevets need. Terry has been staying with the Castevets for a few months. Has Terry inquired about their taste in art? Or have they removed their paintings from the walls?

‘There aren’t many like Mr and Mrs Castevet,’ Terry said. ‘I would be dead now if it wasn’t for them. That’s an absolute fact. Dead or in jail.’

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Who’s your Baby-Daddy? In the novel, Rosemary brings Terry to her apartment to meet Guy. This photo imagines that scene which looks like it may have been filmed but edited out from the final cut.

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Some interpret the two figures flanking the male Lover as personifications of Vice & Virtue

Is suicide a sin?

Not long after meeting Terry we find her dead in the street, quite literally in the gutter you might say, right after she jumps from the Castevet’s seventh story window. We are shocked and appalled at this sudden loss of such a beautiful young woman we have only just met (in the novel we learn everyone mistakes her for the actress Anna Maria Alberghetti; in the film she resembles Victoria Vetri – who actually plays the role under the name Angela Dorian). “She was a very happy girl with no reason for self destruction” mourns Minnie. We are left to wonder as the suicide note is read silently; though Minnie Castevet tells us later that the suicide note “made it crystal clear” that they (the Castevets) hadn’t “failed her in some way”.

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Minnie, your only failure is your sense of fashion

Of course we come to learn just what Terry’s dilemma was. She was being groomed by the Castevets to become the mother of Satan’s child. Apparently the Castevets had wisely withheld this information from Terry up until and just before her suicide. Rosemary and Guy hear Minnie’s midwestern bray through the walls of their own apartment: “But it’s impossible to be a hundred percent sure!” and “If you want my opinion, we shouldn’t tell her at all; that’s my opinion!” The film hints that the suicide occurs the night after Rosemary and Guy hear the “singing and the flute and the chanting” coming through the wall from the Castevet’s neighboring apartment. The novel tells us the Castevet’s had one of their parties on the Saturday night before Rosemary meets Terry, but we are uncertain whether Terry was present. Perhaps she was, and perhaps that was when she was presented with the antique Tannis charm. On the night of the suicide Rosemary overhears the distraught voice of Minnie Castevet through her bedroom wall as she drifts into sleep. The voice seeps into her dream in the form of an angry nun from her Catholic school girl years complaining: “Sometimes I wonder how come you’re the leader of anything! If you’d’ listened to me, we wouldn’t have had to do it! We’d have been all set to go now instead of starting all over from scratch! I told you not to tell her anything in advance….. I told you she wouldn’t be open-minded! Time enough later to let her in on it.” 

Terry felt compelled to choose between willingly giving birth to Satan’s child, or suicide. Which choice is the lesser, or greater, sin? This is the question that unconsciously worms it’s way into our minds.

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“Didn’t she have a brother? She said she did. In the Navy.”

Whenever – and under whatever circumstances – she was informed of the Castevet’s diabolical plan, Terry felt compelled to choose between submitting to having sex with Satan and giving birth to his child, or suicide. We are presented with a soteriological dilemma. Which choice is the lesser, or greater, sin?  This is the question that unconsciously worms it’s way into our minds. According to the theology of the Catholic Church, death by suicide is considered a grave matter, one of the elements required for mortal sin.

A mortal sin (Latin: peccata mortalia), in Catholic theology, is a gravely wrongful act, which can lead to eternal damnation, if a person is not absolved of the sin before death (an impossibility for a successful suicide). A sin is considered to be “mortal” when its quality is such that it leads to a separation of that person from God’s saving grace.

Suicide is contrary to love for the living God. Not only is suicide seriously contrary to justice, hope, and charity, but it is forbidden by the fifth commandment: “Honour thy father and thy mother”. There is some debate among denominations and theologians, and differing opinions, as to whether suicide is, as a sin, pardonable or not.

As to why Terry didn’t just try to get out of there – we might well imagine her despair at the idea of going to seek help with her crazy story!  She would have quite assuredly imagined – knowing what she surely figured out before taking her own life (remember, Terry knew poor old Mrs Gardenia who used to live next door before slipping into a coma after a falling-out with the Castevets) – that the Castevet’s coven would take immediate black magical action against her, causing her to go blind, deaf or worse! Even if the Castevet coven resisted casting any spells against Terry (Ha! As if!) she would almost immediately have been shut away in some hideous New York mental hospital (this is 1965 remember). Or, she could choose to risk going back to the streets of New York in 1965, where she would most likely end up falling back into her old ways, and end up dying in the gutter anyway. Falling or jumping as a form of suicide holds some close connection to the idea of Satan’s Fall from Heaven. Poetic, no?

 

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He  moves in mysterious ways…

“Minnie said, ‘He chose you out of all the world, Rosemary. Out of all the women in the whole world, He chose you. He brought you and Guy to your apartment there, He made that foolish what’s-her-name, Terry, made her get all scared and silly so we had to change our plans. He arranged everything that had to be arranged, ’cause He wanted you to be the mother of His only living Son.'”

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“Look at His hands!”

We are given some valuable extra information about Rosemary’s thinking process in the final pages of the novel. After the awful revelation she is sitting with a hot cup of Lipton’s  tea and thinks…

“The thing to do was kill it. Obviously. Wait…. and grab it and throw it out the window. and jump out after it. Mother Slays Baby and Self at Bramford. Save the world from God-knows-what. From Satan-knows-what.”

Yet, she struggles with the idea whether it is even human and decides “He couldn’t be all bad, he just couldn’t. Even if he was half Satan, wasn’t he half her as well, half decent, ordinary, sensible, human being?” She considers that she could exert her own good influence over him to counteract their bad one. She even considers going to a priest. “It was a problem for the Church to handle. For the Pope and all the cardinals to deal with…”

Her motherly instincts take over when she hears the baby crying and sees that Laura-Louise is rocking the baby too fast. Roman Castevet tells her to rock him. “She stood still and looked at him. ‘You’re trying to – get me to be his mother,’ she said. In the film Sydney Blackmer, excellently cast as Roman Castevet, with a suffering look of pure pathos says “Aren’t you His mother?” In the novel, her eyes then move to the window  and she suggests that Roman should oil the squeaking wheels of the bassinet. It’s as though she is still deciding just what to do. Window? Wait?

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“She stood still and looked at him. ‘You’re trying to – get me to be his mother,’ she said. ‘Aren’t you His mother?’ Roman said.”

As she is rocking him she begins to think his eyes, which so startled and revolted her at first, are actually “pretty in a way,” and asks what his hands are like as they are covered in black mitts. She is told that he has very tiny pearly claws and they’re covered “only so He doesn’t scratch Himself, not because His hands are unattractive.” Her anger flashes at the appearance of Dr Sapirstein but she is quick to say: “‘Not you,” to the Baby. ‘It’s not your fault. I’m angry at them, because they tricked me and lied to me. Don’t look so worried; I’m not going to hurt you.'” She loosens the neck of the baby’s gown to make Him more comfortable. Tells Him He has a very cute chin. 

Indeed, it isn’t the baby’s fault. “Poor little creature.”

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“Hail Rosemary, mother of Andrew!”

Rosemary insists the baby be named Andrew John rather than Roman Castevet’s favored Adrian Steven, after his devil conjuring father and his own true name. A point she refuses even to argue about. And, “He can’t wear black all the time.” She has come to fully accept her baby, with budding horns, tail and all. Naming it, claiming it. Speaking sweetly to it as the coven gathers around the black bassinet in awe at the dark miracle before them and exclaim “Hail Andrew!” and “Hail Rosemary, mother of Andrew!” and “Hail Satan!” Rosemary Woodhouse gave birth just after midnight on June twenty-fifth. Exactly half the year round from you-know-who. She has become the first Satanic Madonna and has not even joined the coven. She calls the baby Mr Worry-face’. Roman assures her the baby knows she will not hurt him. She asks Roman “Then what does he look so worried for? The poor little thing. Look at him.” As a final touch, in an effort to erase what she sees as a “worried expression” from the baby’s face, she taps the silver ornament dangling above the baby – an inverted crucifix suspended by a black ribbon bound around the Christ’s ankles – and sets it swinging.

The genius of Rosemary’s Baby lies in it’s so successfully aligning the reader, or viewer, with the character of Rosemary that we too can’t help but condone her motherly instincts. With an intense interest in the subject Jules Bois wrote in 1895 in Le Satanisme et la Magie that the devil’s power lies in that “he suffers;” an idea expressed so well in Milton’s Paradise Lost we find ourselves wondering which side Milton was on. Rosemary sees her own baby “suffering” in the midst of a coven of aging witches – surrounded with black, gown uncomfortably tied, rocked carelessly and without a mother’s good sense, her own breast milk she’s been pumping out being fed to her baby in bottles when she had decided to breast feed, etc..). In Rosemary’s Baby, book or film, we find ourselves choosing life rather than the murder of an innocent baby – whatever it’s  paternal, or infernal, origins may be.

By: H. B. Gardner