13 Diabolical Movies for Halloween

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BY H.B.G. (Your Satanic Cinema Sommelier)

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Some of us struggle with our demons, others just want to cuddle. The Church, 1989

As Halloween – the ancient pre-Christian Celtic Pagan festival of Samhain – draws near, when the air chills and the vibrant leafy green signs of summery life are dressed in faded flame to kindle it’s dry surrender to the coming season of death, our mind turns naturally inwards – towards the darkness within – as a reflection to the deepening night without. The Season of the Witch is upon us once again and ’tis time to reflect upon the ebon mirror-screen to read the signs traced there by the cool fingers of Our Lady of Darkness. Many of our own home video screens will inevitably flicker with the cold fire of choice occult horrors, old and new, from cinema’s dreadful dream machine.

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Karloff leads a Luciferian cult in The Black Cat.

Connoisseurs of the genre are undoubtedly familiar with Cinema’s Unholy Trinity of Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist and The Omen. Others may already know Vincent Price as Prince Prospero in 1964’s Masque of the Red Death. Below we will present a modest list of 13 sorcerous and satanic ‘sin’ematic tales spun by film makers. We will point out some popular examples as well as draw attention to some of those which may be overlooked. These and many other examples appear in our growing list of Devilish movies: Satanic Cinema Sommelier; Our Favorite Devilish Films.

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Hazel Court as Vincent Price’s mistress in The Masque of the Red Death, 1964,  brands an inverted cross on her breast in an act of devotion to Satan. This is the first instance of an inverted cross as a symbol of devil worship on film.

These films offer us the full congregation of evil: The Witch, The Cult, and The Devil Himself.

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Barbara Steele in Curse of the Crimson Cult, 1968

The Witch is a primal archetype of our collective unconscious; an image so ancient and long held that we still remain spellbound by her powers. The Hag, the child-snatcher, the cannibal crone in the gingerbread house, the satanic siren or seductive succubus licking her blood red lips… they all live inside us. She resides in that secret place from where dreams arise; that place most of us expend effort to avoid noticing. But she is always there, waiting, in our stories, fables, movies and fashion magazines.

The Cult is a nightmare that is often all too true in reality and even makes the occasional appearance on the evening news. Often formed by a group of devil worshipping acolytes in these movies, The Cult is most often hidden from view in plain sight. Their predatorial eyes stalking their victims with a cold obedience to a perverted sense of unholy and supreme evil.

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The Exorcist, 1973

The Devil …well, what can one say about the Old Man? The Opposer, The Adversary, The Tempter, Shaitan, Satan… the very embodiment of all that is evil, of all malice, of all we fear… and, simultaneously, all that we desire: Power, Wealth, Talent, Fame, Sex.. all are on the Demon’s auction table… for a hefty price, of course.

Some of these movies are crude attempts, some are jumbled fever dreams, cult films, a few are special masterpieces that linger long after the lights are out and the covers are drawn up… when dreams of primitive horrors etched in our ancestral DNA lurch and suddenly shamble towards you out of the dreaming dark… with claws extended.

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Evil Takes Many Forms in The Witch.

1. The Witch (2015)

Satanic Sommelier: Guiness, 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 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. This one is a slow burning thriller with committed performances and some unsettling imagery of classical witchcraft.

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Christopher Lee is great as a Satanist in almost every film he ever made.

2. Horror Hotel, AKA City of the Dead  (1960)

Satanic Sommelier: Chardonnay, chilled. Features Christopher Lee (who certainly holds the record for Actor Who Has Portrayed a Satanist or Appeared in More Satanic/Occult Films More Than Any Human Ever) as a college professor with more than a dabbler’s interest in Witchcraft. An atmospheric thriller that takes a cue from 1960’s PSYCHO in regards to the premature fate of it’s first main protagonist. Good atmospheric early piece of witchy cinema.

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You’ve never seen anything quite like Alucarda.

3. Alucarda   (1975)

Satanic Sommelier: A Spanish red. (Read the title backwards). This nunsploitation film has some great surrealistic set pieces, plenty of hysterical blasphemy, flagellation, sadistic monks, exorcism and…. bleeding nuns! But the tale itself, with its elements of lesbian vampirism, seems at least somewhat inspired by J. Sheridan LeFanu’s ‘Carmilla’ (1872). A young woman is brought to live at a convent where she encounters the mysterious Alucarda. The young women form a strange relationship and make a pact and become satanically possessed as part of Alucarda’s cursed history.

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More Nasassja Kinski, please.

4. To the Devil a Daughter (1976)

Satanic Sommelier: Blue Nun. Three reasons to watch this film: 1. Christopher Lee (starting to see a pattern here?!) as a Satanic priest (he does it so well! Look for that smile during a nasty scene near the beginning of the film). 2. A 15-year-old full frontal nude Nastassja Kinski  (we also love her dressed as a nun), and 3. some rather atypical Satanic ritual  imagery. Great cult film if you can somehow manage to ignore Richard Widmark.

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Jessica Harper in the original Suspiria. She also makes a cameo in the 2018 remix.

5. Suspiria (1977)

Satanic Sommelier: A fine Italian red wine.  Suspiria is a film that stands out in horror cinema and remains perhaps the most celebrated artistic horror film ever made. Director Dario Argento’s masterpieceThe Three Mothers motif is carried on in the sequels Inferno (1980) and The Mother of Tears (2007). The 2018 remake featuring Dakota Johnson and Tilda Swinton is a thoughtful homage to some ideas inspired by the theme but is not nearly as fun as the original. We started #TheThreeMothers hashtags. Read our Occult-Horror geek articles on the original 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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Sherri Moon Zombie breaks on through to the other side in The Lords of Salem.

6. 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 heroin addiction. Worth seeing for Meg Foster, Dee Wallace, Judy Geeson and Patricia Quinn (Magenta from The Rocky Horror Picture Show) as witches, and some bizarre artistic moments.

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THE SENTINEL 1977 with horror veteran John Carradine as a blind priest. Jeffrey Konvitz wrote the book.

7. 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 feels 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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Mickey Rourke stumbles into a diabolical mystery in Angel Heart.

8. 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: 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. 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. 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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Masks, Death Masks, & Sadistic Face Lifts in The Sect / The Devil’s Daughter, 1991

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

Satanic Sommelier: Italian red wine or German Riesling. (Italian title: La Setta), is another Italian horror film co-written and produced by Dario Argento and directed by Michele Soavi. The film stars Kelly Curtis (sister of Jamie Lee Curtis: ‘Halloween’ 1978) who has a destiny with the devil’s crew.  Herbert Lom also stars. It’s a weird film with some echoes of Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen, but embellished with some truly bizarre twists, some surrealistic, dreamlike and nightmarish imagery, along with some gore. A creative departure from the standard.

the-house-of-the-devil-original.jpg10. 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 deep psychological fears people had at that time which manifested in a widespread social panic. 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. Like Rosemary’s Baby, it shows how effective storytelling, great acting, and very good filmmaking can create so much suspense with minimum special effects.

Unknown-311. Hereditary  (2018)

Satanic Sommelier: Whiskey with a cola chaser. The ripple effect of Hereditary is still being felt even as director Ari Aster’s latest release Midsommar is gaining much critical acclaim for these well formulated, suspenseful and artistic horrors. Demonolotry is not a typical thing to inherit from one’s family …unless you’re in a horror film. Forget the haters who criticize it, Hereditary is a very good film with superior performances and an unsettling punch-to-the-gut story that leaves much to ponder regarding the fine line between demonic horror and family drama.

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The occult symbolism overflows in 1989’s The Church.

12. The Church (1989)

Satanic Sommelier: Italian red wine. (Italian title: La chiesa),  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. Visually captivating. There are some definite nods to ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ including an uncanny homage in a Devil Rape scene (compare the music for these scenes in the two films), and an old couple that seem patterned on Minnie and Roman Castevet that tour The Cathedral. You should definitely go to The Church, it’s good for your soul.

evilspeak-2013. Evilspeak (1981)

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  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 (played by Clint Howard – brother of director Ron Howard) are especially unpleasant with gratuitous shame. This film carries some rather heavy Satanic  motifs with a vicious and gory climax to boot (effects are 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.

Remember to find out about more devilish films from the Satanic Cinema Sommelier; Our Favorite Devilish Films.

May your Halloween be less than harrowing!

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THE DEVIL, Key XV from the Tarot. From the Smith – Waite Tarot. Art by Pamela Coleman Smith.

Inspired by the Gods: Artist Rafael Espadine

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Rafael Espadine @ Dakshineswar Kali Temple near Calcutta

Rafael Espadine at the Dakshineswar Kali Temple near Calcutta, India.

Devil in the Details is proud to share this interview with Rafael Espadine, an artist and Philosophy student, researcher on the occult and ancient spiritual cultures. He works in the field of Indian culture in his native Brazil. He is also a fan of occult horror and was the first contributing writer to Devil In the Details with his thought provoking Suspiria inspired piece: Susanna Bannion (or the power that lies in a name). The pictures of artwork accompanying this interview are those by the hand of the artist, courtesy of Rafael Espadine. More of his fine art work may be viewed at his site: Spadini Arts , and @r.spadini on Instagram. 

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Hekate painting by Rafael Espadine

Devil In the Details: Have you always been creative or interested in art?

Rafael Espadine: My earliest recollections of myself and the world around me always involve art. My mom often says her womb is probably full of frescoes. She was and is my greatest sponsor, the first to ever buy me paints and canvases and papers etc. She is a ballerina and can draw and paint and sing very well, so I guess it’s kind of… Hereditary… (drums a rimshot).

Devil: How do you approach making a piece of spiritual art?

R. Espadine: For me sacred art has to be truly inspired by the spirit, touched by a bolt of light, emotionally and intellectually moved and it must bring a fresh glance into something that is by nature, timeless. Some of my best works came out of nowhere and involved physical reactions that could be compared to trance states. I like to be respectful to the spirit of the character or symbol being represented. I’m a lover of tradition and traditional iconography and my experience has proven to me that one can innovate in style and approach and yet retain the traditional spirit. I guess it is high time to leave fantasy art to RPG books.

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Ugra Tara (Kalika) – a fierce form of pregnant Kali. Original creation inspired by traditional design; by Rafael Espadine.

Devil: What are some of your artistic influences or inspirations?

R. Espadine: Artistically speaking my inspirations would be the Renaissance period and the Symbolists and Pre-Raphaelites, but I always go back to Pompeii’s frescoes and Egyptian art in general but mainly from the Ptolemaic Era. The timeless character exuded by ancient art is unmatched and a big part of my work pays tribute to such aesthetics. Oh, not to mention the East as Indian art has always fascinated me and the art produced during the Pala dynasty is my all-time favorite Indian art.

Devil: You are a culturally well-rounded individual and kind of a Renaissance Man. You also have an impressive singing voice.

R. Espadine: Oh, thank you so much for listening! Music is a big part of my artistic expression and I have always being involved with vocal groups and solo experiences. Dance too, as I have been exposed to ballet and practiced northern Indian classic dance (Kathak) but music, or better saying, the art of singing, is–in my humble opinion–, the only art you can truly carry with you in a most natural way that does not depend on external tools and conditions and that characteristic is amazing. The songs I managed to compose myself are usually short and inspired by ancient folk ballad tunes. Opera is where I meet almost a perfect combination of all those experiences and expressions and I am a coloratura aficionado.

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Oberon by Rafael Espadine; from his Instagram page.

 

Devil: Where else do you find the touch of Spirit?

R. Espadine: Besides the artistic inspiration, I would say the obvious: Nature is the highest inspiration. Subject wise I would say that mythology, fairy lore and witchcraft are my favorite subjects.

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Witchy Deity sculptures by Rafael Espadine

“Evil for me has always been a desmesure, an unbalanced excessiveness.”

Devil: When were you first drawn towards the horror genre? Through what medium?

R. Espadine: I guess I have always been fascinated with the supernatural and I see the horror genre, in cinema above all, as the only genre that deals with the subject in all its natural turmoil, especially of its darker shades.

Devil: Do you feel that the horror genre touches upon spirituality?

R. Espadine: Spirituality for me has never been a rigid experience, but a vivid dynamic one. I believe that the world of Spirit has a natural grip to our deepest emotions and I think that good supernatural horror is the best genre to induce that in a cinematic experience. We sometimes need extra doses of shock to question what we see around and inside ourselves and the symbolic language of supernatural horror can be a good way to cathartically express that.

Devil: What diabolical or occult horror films or books have impressed or made the biggest impact on you?

R. Espadine: The Exorcist is for sure one of my favorites. It is the Maria Callas of horror. I was lucky to read the book before I saw the film, and the book was a very impacting experience. Just the opening transcriptions of human atrocities would be enough as a glimpse into the problem of evil. However, The Omen had the biggest impact on me as a film in my childhood because the implications were easier to understand at that time. Later on I could understand better the so many substrata present in The Exorcist – including the political ones and even the possibility that poor Pazuzu had nothing to do with poor Regan… – but as a kid The Omen made me think and question deeper theologies (and also to look for a certain birthmark under my hair…). Even later on Rosemary’s Baby proved to be a most instigating root of that type of plot and a much more elegant and disturbing one. I like the depiction of the supernatural within the apparently ordinary life that doesn’t call for too much gore or CGI to convey the message.

“The Exorcist is for sure one of my favorites.

It is the Maria Callas of horror.”

Devil: What were your earliest religious or spiritual influences?

Rafael Espadine: As a kid I was never told that there were fixed parameters to be followed or a single universal true that should be blindly accepted by all. When I asked my mother “how God is?” , and she said “it is Energy,” to which I replied, “I’m gonna make a drawing of God”, which I did. The result was a drawing of a bearded strong man seated on a cloud… but naked and holding a trident, so I can only guess that there are things that we simply bring within ourselves to this world somehow.

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Roman Isis, From a statue of the Hadrian era (117 – 138 AD).  25cm high. Sculpture by Rafael Espadine.

Devil: How would you describe your present spiritual path?

R. Espadine: I am an initiate of, and in, many spiritual paths – all duly practiced, although not at the same time and not all continued. I have always tended to the mystic ways within the greater spiritual traditions – or the alternate ones. At this point it is clear to me that the ancient mystery and magical traditions are my stronger strands as they normally coexist without clashing and are more open to personal gnosis, although I also tend to like things traditional in essence as I do in art. Philosophically-wise, I would say that Buddhism and (Indian Tantric) Kaula metaphysics are the most compelling ones to me. I’m a nature lover and the acceptance of this world and nature as a whole and as divine in itself is a basic tenant to me. Despite all that, I have the strong impression that Art is itself a valid expression of spirituality and it can be a full-fledged spiritual path like any other and such an achievement is a main goal for me. Above all, if I should have a God that would be Nature Herself in all its splendor and darkness.

Devil: Now, a Devil In the Details question we wish to pose to any one we interview, as a way of getting different views on our diabolical horror theme. What do you consider evil in today’s society?

R. Espadine: Evil for me has always been a desmesure, an unbalanced excessiveness. Think of it: a nation trying to expand territory at all costs, a virus, a cancerous cell, an animal out of its environment, a mind that can’t focus in the present time, excessive worry, man trying to be superior to Nature, a person who tries to get a promotion at all costs, etc. It’s always related to expanding and having more and more and more. It was true in the past and it is true today. Knowing our place and our potentials and trying to reach and do more but only as much as possible and in harmonious ways is mandatory at all costs.

Devil: Thank you so very much Mr. Espadine. It has been a delight getting to know you  and we will certainly be keeping an eye on your artwork and other creative endeavors as something to look forward to.

Rafael Espadine: Thank you so much for this interview. It is a big pleasure to contribute to this website in any possible way since this is one of my favorite places on the internet.

Please view more of Rafael Espadine’s fine artwork at his website Spadini Arts and you can also find him and more of his art on Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/r.spadini/