by Mark Az
The Exorcist is at the top of the heap. I’d also put The Omen way up there. And there are others, of course. Films that mine religion as a way to scare us. Satan comes to us in the form of a child, or a german shepherd (Devil Dog: The Hound from Hell) or a car (The Car). Demons of all sorts have their origin in some religious text. The two movies we talk about this week on the Cinemondo Podcast, Posession and The Devils, are classics of the genre. Both weird and different - must watches.
But lately, this sub-genre has gotten super stale. Who the hell is scared of this stuff anymore? Not me. The Nun?? Didn’t see it - don’t think it’s going to keep me up at night. Stigmata? Not scary. We could go on and on. But I did see a religious-themed recently that, although not a horror film, was pretty darn intense and, in some ways, scary. It also had one of the best performances of the year. Ethan Hawke plays a priest that is going through a major crisis of conscience. The film is Paul Schrader’s First Reformed, and I was riveted from the get go. Might be too slow for some - think a much more sober Wes Anderson film without the cloying whimsy. The film is slow-moving, but don’t let that lead you to believe that it is boring. It is not. Extremely well-directed, and written by the guy that gave us Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and others, it’s a film worth seeking out. Available on Amazon Prime.
In many ways, it is religious horror based in today’s reality. Creepy.