Photo: The Nun (Warner Bros. Pictures)
James Wan’s The Nun killed it over the weekend with a $131 million worldwide opening, making The Conjuring universe the biggest R-Rated horror series ever. In honor of that impressive feat, I wanted to dive into some of my favorite clergy characters in horror movies. Whether their faith is being tested or they’ve been touched by evil, the following priests and reverends make their mark in these genre classics.
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10. Donald Pleasence’s Priest (Prince of Darkness)
Donald Pleasence’s most iconic horror movie character is Dr. Sam Loomis in the original Halloween movies, but that’s not the only John Carpenter project the late actor had a notable presence in. While Prince of Darkness doesn’t exactly come close to some of Carpenter’s other horror hits, Pleasence makes it worth watching as a priest who uncovers a Satan-filled canister locked in an eerie church basement.
9. Julian Beck’s Reverend Kane (Poltergeist II)
If a creepy, skeletal reverend ever asks you, “Are you lost, sweetheart? Are you ‘fraid, honey? Well then, why don’t you come with me?” get the hell out of there. And for God’s sake, do not let him in, no matter how much he sings to you.
8. Everett McGill’s Reverend Lowe (Silver Bullet)
Horror lists usually feel incomplete without a Stephen King mention, so of course, I’ve got you covered. Reverend Lester Lowe considers his lycanthropy to be a blessing handed down to him from God to kill those he deems as evil or immoral, but I’m not sure there’s really a justification for the kid he murders early on in the movie. Lowe makes for an interesting vigilante-type villain and a fun foe based on one of King’s best novellas.
7. Patrick Fabian’s Cotton Marcus (The Last Exorcism)
I’m gonna level with you. I have a love/hate relationship with this movie. I’m not a big fan of people who let one thing spoil an entire project, but the ending of The Last Exorcism damn-near ruined what I consider to be a pretty solid horror flick overall. I love following the disillusioned Reverend Cotton Marcus in the found footage style feature as he works to delegitimize exorcisms, only to come face-to-face with the real thing and one freaky-ass family. But, that ending still makes me want to rip my hair out.
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6. Rod Steiger’s Father Delaney (The Amityville Horror)
Father Delaney doesn’t play a huge role in the original The Amityville Horror, but the performance by Academy Award winner Rod Steiger is hard to forget, especially when the poor priest finds himself under attack by an unfair amount of relentless demon-spawn flies, or when he goes blind, or when his voice is literally stolen as he’s trying to help the Lutz family. He went through a lot, okay?
5. Anthony Hopkins’ Father Trevant (The Rite)
You can’t go wrong with Oscar-winner Sir Anthony Hopkins, who has made a space for himself in various mediums and genres, including horror. Hopkins is as captivating as ever as veteran clergy member Father Lucas Trevant who falls under a demonic presence in what is arguably the actor’s creepiest and most unsettling role since Hannibal Lecter. And boy does he play it well.
4. Toby Sedgwick’s Infected Priest (28 Days Later)
Sure, the infected priest in Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later makes a very short appearance (literally less than a minute), but it’s definitely a memorable one and that’s why we’re here. Our main character Jim awakens to an empty hospital and city, eventually wandering into a church in search of anybody. Jim quickly comes under attack by a crazed, infected priest, marking Jim’s first exposure to the Rage Virus and removing any hope he may have had that the church could provide sanctuary. Or, at least, another living soul.
3. Tom Wilkinson’s Father Moore (The Exorcism of Emily Rose)
The Exorcism of Emily Rose is part drama, part horror mystery and still holds up as one of the best demonic movies out there. Jennifer Carpenter absolutely kills it as the ill-fated Emily Rose, and if you ever find yourself possessed by a demon (or a legion of them), Tom Wilkinson’s Father Moore is the guy you want watching your back in life and in death.
2. Patrick Troughton’s Father Brennan (The Omen)
Damien in The Omen is the epitome of why children are so goddamn scary in horror (only playfully terrifying Gage from Pet Sematary has him beat) and Father Brennan tries as hard as he can to get Gregory Peck’s character Robert Thorn to see the truth about his devil child. Father Brennan pays a high price for trying to save the world from the Antichrist with an unforgettable scene that will have you scanning the skies anytime you go near a church.
1. Jason Miller’s Father Karras (The Exorcist)
How could The Exorcist not take the number one spot here? One of the most iconic scary movies of all-time is filled with many disturbing scenes. In this one, Father Karras goes toe-to-toe with the purest evil and makes the ultimate sacrifice in order to save a young possessed girl. Move aside, Father Moore. No one kicks the devil’s ass like Father Karras.