Firstly, I would like to apologize for not having an entry in this How To Start Getting Into Horror series last week. Comic-Con was going on and I didn’t want this to get buried in the mass amount of information we were putting out, like trailers, galleries, announcements, etc… It was a very fast paced few days and this series is all about taking time and easing your way into the genre. With that being said, let’s do this!
Two weeks ago, I wrote about several psychological horror films that, in my mind, were great ways to dip one’s toes into that subgenre. These films didn’t use gore to shock but instead focused on the horror of human nature, of how easily we can be broken and the terrifying consequences that result from our minds shattering.
To that end, I want to dive into a subgenre I feel to be the best next step forward: Religious-based horror films.
Now, clearly to start things off here we should begin with The Exorcist. It’s the ultimate tried-and-true religious horror film and for very good reason. The subplot of faith and the struggle of keeping it is just as much of a battle as Regan has with the demon Pazuzu. What you end up with is a film that shows both the strengths and horrors of religion at the same time. After all, while religion may give you strength, it also creates the very terrors we hope to never encounter.
I’ll admit that The Exorcist never scared me. I think it’s a masterpiece and worthy of every accolade it has received but it never spoke to me on a deep level. I ascribe that to my being Jewish. The possession of Regan and the struggles that her mother and the priests go through simply didn’t speak to my upbringing and culture as it most certainly does to a Catholic. But I understand the fear and I laud this film for having the guts to do what it did. It’s an extremely important film and it should be the basis for diving into the religious horror subgenre.
Once you’re done with The Exorcist, you can stay with the classics and watch two phenomenal Anti-Christ films: Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby or Richard Donner’s The Omen. Both films are graceful, beautifully crafted, and utterly fascinating works. They move in different ways, the former being more of a slow burn while the latter gets pretty gruesome at times (also a way to lay the foundation for gore-based horror). Plus, these two films are highly regarded in the film community, which gives them a sense of importance.
However, if you want to start heading into newer territory, there’s always Frailty. An often overlooked gem, this film once again shows the strengths and utter terrors of religion. When one is so devout and committed to the glory of God, will they really do anything to prove their piousness? Plus, it’s got Bill Paxton, so game over, man!
One film that came about in recent years that absolutely terrified and stunned me was Ti West’s The Sacrament. It’d been a while since I’d seen a film that so effectively made me feel terror, unsettling me to the very core of my being. I simply couldn’t fathom that people would give themselves so entirely to one man, so much so that they are willing to die – and yes, kill – all in the name of his “good word”. The fact that it’s inspired by Jonestown makes it all the more horrific.
If you want to have a bit of fun with this subgenre, you can always go with films that aren’t nearly as lauded but are still a good time, such as Stigmata or The Ninth Gate, the latter of which has this very entertaining adventure-feel to it.
Alright readers, those are a few suggestions to get things started. Why not tell me some of your favorite religious-based horror films in the comments!