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Top 10 religious horror movies like "The Crucifixion"


Date Posted: 08 October 2017


A scene from "The Crucifixion".

From exorcism to paganism, religious-themed movies have been a mainstay in the horror genre since decades ago.

With Xavier Gens' "The Crucifixion" set to possess our screens this month, here is the compilation of our Top 10 religious horror movies listed below that somewhat carry a similar theme.

10. "The Exorcism Of Emily Rose" (2005)

Jennifer Carpenter plays the possessed Emily Rose in "The Exorcism Of Emily Rose".

Most horror movies that centres on demonic possession and exorcism often pale in comparison with William Friedkin's still-terrifying-as-hell 1973 genre masterpiece, "The Exorcist". But Scott Derrickson's directorial debut in "The Exorcism Of Emily Rose" is a rarity: a modern religious horror movie that successfully blends psychological horror and courtroom drama. Loosely based on the 1976 true-story case of a 24-year-old German girl named Anneliese Michel, "The Exorcism Of Emily Rose" revolves around a defense attorney (Laura Linney) representing a priest (Tom Wilkinson), who is charged with a negligent homicide following his act of exorcism on an unfortunate young girl played by Jennifer Carpenter. The acting is all top-notch, particularly the then-up-and-coming Jennifer Carpenter who gives a sympathetic yet frightening performance as Emily Rose. Whether the way she twitched and contorted her limbs or screaming her head out, it is all convincing enough to make you believe as if she is really possessed by the demon.

9. "The Exorcist III" (1990)

George C. Scott as Lt. Kinderman in "The Exorcist III".

When John Boorman's "Exorcist II: The Heretic" in 1977 was famously slammed with ill-fated responses, it looks as if "The Exorcist" movie wasn't meant to become a horror franchise in the first place. Then came "The Exorcist III" more than a decade later in 1990. Adapted and directed by William Peter Blatty himself from his book "Legion", the third instalment wisely ignored the sequel and was even smart enough not to outdo the 1973 original in terms of delivering state-of-the-art special effects. Instead, "The Exorcist III" is riveting enough on its own, with the story now focusing on a police lieutenant (George C. Scott) investigating a series of murders reminiscent of the grisly work of the long-deceased "Gemini" killer. The movie may have been a slow burner, but William Peter Blatty's meticulous direction manages to bring the best out of his actors, particularly George C. Scott's grizzled portrayal as the vengeful Lt. Kinderman who stops at nothing to find the killer. Blatty also proved to be an expert in crafting genuine suspense, with the elaborate hospital scene that ends up with a well-timed jump scare.

8. "Hellraiser" (1987)

Pinhead (Doug Bradley, centre) in a scene from "Hellraiser".

The feature debut of horror author Clive Barker in "Hellraiser" is best known for his imaginative, yet terrifying depiction of hell and netherworld, unlike anything you have seen before. Barker also created one of the most memorable antagonists in the form of Doug Bradley's Pinhead, complete with a S&M black leather outfit and nails protruding all over his pastel face. Although the movie was a financial success, the subsequent sequels that followed were notoriously pale in comparison with the ambitious original.

7. "Angel Heart" (1987)

Robert De Niro plays the shady Louis Cyphre in "Angel Heart".

Alan Parker's vivid adaptation of William Hjorsberg's novel "Falling Angel" is famously known for its controversial torrid lovemaking scene between Mickey Rourke and ex-"Cosby Show" television star Lisa Bonet that originally got slapped with an X rating (now NC-17) by the MPAA. But beyond the once-heated controversy, "Angel Heart" is a stylish yet mesmerising combination of supernatural horror and film noir blessed with an engaging performance by Mickey Rourke, who plays a 1950s seedy Brooklyn private eye in the search of a missing crooner named Johnny Favorite. Robert De Niro, who plays the mysterious Louis Cyphre, made a lasting impression in his otherwise minor role while Lisa Bonet gives a bravura performance that is a complete 360-degree turn from her once-squeaky clean image. Parker doesn't shy away from its graphic depiction of violence as well as its eerie depiction of voodoo and satanic cult, with the help of Trevor Jones' haunting score and Michael Seresin's dread-inducing cinematography.

6. "Martyrs" (2008)

One of the torture scenes in "Martyrs".

This acclaimed French import is undoubtedly one of the most intense horror movies ever seen. Written and directed by Pascal Laugier, "Martyrs" centres on a young woman named Lucie (Mylene Jampanoi), who seeks vengeance against the people who are responsible for her bleak childhood trauma. Laugier doesn't hold back when comes to graphic violence, which is evidently seen during the bloody family massacre sequence. "Martyrs" is definitely not for the squeamish, while the second half of the movie which focuses on a more religious tone about the "martyrs" that is both thematically depraved and compelling to the mind.

5. "Thirst" (2009)

Song Kang-Ho plays a Catholic priest turned vampire in "Thirst".

"Oldboy" director Park Chan-Wook's blackly comic take on vampirism in "Thirst", which stars Song Kang-Ho as a Catholic priest who turns into a vampire following a failed medical experiment, is as macabre and twisted as his famous "Vengeance" trilogy. Beneath the elegantly gruesome violence and its atmospheric vampire story with a religious undertone, Park also successfully explored the theme of lust and love involving the forbidden romance of Song Kang-Ho's Sang-Hyun and Kim Ok-Bin's Tae-Ju to melancholy effect.

4. "Rosemary's Baby" (1968)

Mia Farrow plays Rosemary in "Rosemary's Baby".

Adapted from Ira Levin's novel of the same name, "Rosemary's Baby" is a chilling slow-burner that tells a story about the titular Rosemary (Mia Farrow) whose pregnancy has something to do with Satan. Roman Polanski's methodical approach for taking his time to develop the story and the characters might be too slow-moving for those with short attention spans, but viewers who are patient enough will find this a thought-provoking cinematic experience. Polanski successfully captured Rosemary's fear, anxiety as well as the uncertainty of her unborn child that evokes a sense of foreboding dread, thanks to the combination of Krzysztof Komeda's eerie score and William A. Fraker's perfectly moody cinematography. At the heart of the movie is Mia Farrow, who delivers a compelling performance as the emotionally-disturbed and reserved Rosemary. Her role, of course, is also famously known for her iconic pixie hairstyle designed by the legendary British hairstylist Vidal Sassoon.

3. "The Wicker Man" (1973)

Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee) during the final ritual sequence in "The Wicker Man".

Forget about the 2006 laughably bad remake which starred Nicolas Cage... in a bear suit. The original 1973 movie, which starred Edward Woodward as Sergeant Howie investigating the missing girl in a remote island village of Summerisle, remains the real deal. Anthony Shaffer's provocative subject of paganism in "The Wicker Man" is well-directed by then-newcomer Robin Hardy. The movie is also genuinely bizarre and disturbing at the same time without being laughable, something that the 2006 remake mistakably does the polar opposite instead. "The Wicker Man" is, of course, famous for its shocking finale during the ritual sequence as well as Christopher Lee's eccentric performance as the leader of the cult, Lord Summerisle.

2. "The Omen" (1976)

Gregory Peck in "The Omen".

There are three sequels (1978's "Damien: Omen II", 1981's "Omen III: The Final Conflict" and 1991's "Omen IV: The Awakening") as well as the 2006 remake, but Richard Donner's 1976 original remains the benchmark in the series. This religious horror classic, which revolves around American couple (Gregory Peck and Lee Remick) discover that their adopted Damien (Harvey Stephens) is actually the Antichrist, benefits from Donner's expertly-crafted death scenes such as the lightning rod-impaling scene and the accidental decapitation scene caused by a sheet of glass. "The Omen" is also unforgettable for Jerry Goldsmith's malevolent score, which deservedly won an Oscar for Best Original Score.

1. "The Exorcist" (1973)

The final exorcism sequence in "The Exorcist".

The numero uno in the list goes to... none other than William Friedkin's "The Exorcist", which is widely regarded as one of the scariest horror movies ever made. Best of all, it stands the test of time even over 40 years since the movie was first released in 1973. Adapted by William Peter Blatty himself from his novel of the same name, the movie follows the unfortunate 12-year-old girl Regan (played by the incomparable Linda Blair), who ends up being possessed by an ancient demon named Pazuzu. Soon, her actress-mother (Ellen Burstyn) enlists the help of two priests, Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller) and Father Lankester Merrin (Max von Sydow) to perform an exorcism on her possessed daughter. The exorcism sequence towards the end is particularly terrifying till this day, while the 360-degree head-spinning moment and the "pea soup" sequence are among the most iconic set-pieces ever seen in the horror genre.

Writer: Casey Chong



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The Crucifixion (05 Oct 2017)


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