Cinema Reservoir
Breaking Cinematic Opinion and Observation

“Christ Almighty!” – Religion in Horror Films

Possible more than any other genre, horror films address religion in the most interesting and unbiased ways.  From scaring people to go to church to making people angry at it, these films made people think twice about who they choose to worship…

One of the creepiest posters ever!

One of the creepiest posters ever!

The Wicker Man (1973)

Dubbed by some as “The Citizen Cane of horror, this film from beginning to end is so mired in religion, it sometimes can feel a little preachy… that is, until the end.  The story follows Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward), who goes to the remote island of Summerisle in search of a missing girl.  Howie, the staunch Catholic immediately clashes with the residents of the island, especially Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee), who is worshipped as a sort of demi-god, responsible for the fruit harvest which finances their community.  This pagan village vehemently denies the existence of the missing girl, despite several clues to the contrary and continues to simultaneously frustrate and repulse Sgt. Howie with their blasphemous rituals…. which culminates in the mysterious Wicker Man festival that requires a human sacrifice.  SPOILER.  Howie soon learns that the missing girl is not to be the sacrifice and that he has a bigger role in the festival than he thought he would.  Trapped in the belly of the giant Wicker Man, which is set aflame, Howie shouts prayers to God, asking for help, He, of course, remains silent while Summerisle and his clan sing to the god of the harvest, confident that this sacrifice will reap a healthy crop.

"Spare some change for an old choir boy, Father?"

"Spare some change for an old choir boy, Father?"

The Exorcist (1973)

The Exorcist is the most famous Catholic film of all time for two reasons.  First of all, the Catholic Church initially banned its members from seeing it.  Secondly, most Catholics who defied the papacy and watched it became regular Sunday attendees afterwards.  In other words, it scared the Catholic church with its depiction of an out of date practice of exorcism (though the scene with the crucifix didn’t help) and then scared anyone who saw it back to the church, hoping to save their immortal souls from demonic possession.

hellraiser

"The box... you opened it, WE CAME!"

Hellraiser (1987)

In the deranged sadomasochistic world of Clive Barker, Hellraiser comes as close to depicting a realistic Hell as any other film has.  In this film, Hell is actually an alternate universe, accessed via the Lament Configuration – a puzzle box that when opened summons creatures called ‘Cenobites’.  Cenobites, as they describe themselves in the film, are:

(relevant) “Demons to some, Angels to others”

(interesting) “Explorers in the further realms of experience”

and (irrelevant yet mysterious) “Hirophants of the order of the Gash.”

So, while they aren’t technically from Hell and they aren’t technically demons, they represent all the mysticism and unknown of not only Christianity, but also Buddism and Hinduism.  Here, “Hell” is used more figuratively than literally, though where the Cenobites intend on taking some of the characters in the film is certainly hellish.

watch despite camp tagline

watch despite camp tagline

The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)

Wes Craven’s film about a drug rep/ anthropologist (Bill Pullman) who goes to Haiti in search of a drug rumored to be used by a voodoo cult to create zombies.  When he gets there he not only finds the drug, but also a lot of voodoo spells that the locals use to get rid of outsiders.

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