The Top Ten Scariest Movie Demons
Monsters! Scary monsters!
The new film Sinister, starring Ethan Hawke, opens in theater on October 5th and is about a crime novelist who investigates an eerie perhaps-supernatural murder of the family who previously resided in his new home. The release of Sinister officially ushers in the Halloween movie season. If you’re anything like us, then you can’t wait for Halloween. Not only do cable TV stations start running their all-night and all-day horror movie marathons, but if you live in a city that has repertory movie theaters, then you’ll have a chance to see some of your favorite horror classics on the big screen from Frankenstein to Halloween II.
It also has us thinking about movie demons. Demons are a curious horror movie entity. They are not just undead blood-drinkers, or undead brain-eaters, or mild-mannered fellows who are transformed into animals at the light of the moon. Demons are a bit more, well, sinister, as they tend to be the very minions of Satan himself. No mere monster, demons are wicked and horrible manifestations of pure evil. As such, we have constructed the following list of scary movie demons from movies. Look on our works, and tremble.
The Devil from The Exorcist (dir. William Friedkin, 1973)
Let’s get the big obvious one out of the way first. What is still perhaps one of the scariest films of all time (seriously, watch it again) William Friedkin’s The Exorcist contains some of the most shocking horror imagery of any film, as well as some rather chilling notions about how the most horrible of things can creep in and infect the everyday lives of unsuspecting and innocent people. Little Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) suddenly finds herself playing host to a being claiming to be The Devil himself, and starts swearing, making disgusting sexual comments, and speaking with the voice of Mercedes McCambridge. The voice, the ragged skin, the creepy yellow eyes, the vomiting… it’s all so gruesome.
The Demons from The Beyond (dir. Lucio Fulci, 1981)
Few can handle demonic schlock better than the Italians, and few Italians were better than Lucio Fulci. The Beyond is about a woman who buys a house, only to discover that it was built right over a portal to Hell, and the monstrous and supernatural consequences thereof. The film is indeed kind of corny, and the copious demonic gore effects, when viewed through the jaundiced eye of adulthood, can look pretty cheesy, but if you saw this film as a young child, then you’ll recall how much those demon entities terrified you. The scene of the spiders eating that one guy’s head is enough to scare anybody.
That Clown from Poltergeist (dir. Tobe Hooper, 1982)
Another demon that can ruin your childhood, that clown doll from Poltergeist gave nightmares to an entire generation of kids. Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist, about a family that moves into a suburban home situated atop an Indian burial ground (those realtors are insidious!), is a PG-rated film (!) that features not only a killer tree and a scene of a guy tearing off his own face, but also a possessed clown toy that is quite possibly one of the most terrifying things ever filmed. Seriously, you’ll find yourself eyeballing your own toybox after this one. That clown, man. That f*cking clown!
Darkness from Legend (dir. Ridley Scott, 1985)
Ridley Scott’s cult fantasy film is a dreamy and melodramatic fairy tale about unicorns and imps who dwell in an enchanted glade. And while much of the film follows the innocent princess who lives in the glade, and the brave Wildman who would protect her, it’s the monster we all really remember. Not seen in full until late into the movie, the monster is indeed Darkness itself, represented by a wicked demon played by Tim Curry. Darkness is the very embodiment of Satanic evil, and sports not only a pair of demonic goat hooves, but a pair of gigantic horns, fangs, and a horrible voice. Wathing this awesome demon stroll horrifically across the screen, wanting to kill unicorns for fun, well, it won’t be easily forgotten.
The Horned King from The Black Cauldron (dir. Ted Berman and Richard Rich, 1985)
One of the less popular of the Disney animated canon, and clearly a Lord of the Rings ripoff, The Black Cauldron is, nonetheless, one of the better looking animated films of the decade. The story should be familiar: a young uninitiated man and his band of misfits and non-warriors must find an enchanted object (not a ring but a cauldron) before The Horned King can, and use its magic to resurrect his army of darkness. The Horned King is one of those terrifying kid film entities that burns its way into your brain and follows you into adulthood. The scenes near the end of the movie where the skeleton army stands up and begins lumbering around is terrifying under any circumstance, and not just kid movie circumstances.
The Cenobites from Hellraiser (dir. Clive Barker, 1987)
Demons to some, angels to others, the Hellraiser cenobites are unique creatures within horror movies. Less about mere demonic presence, the cenobites are essentially supernatural sadomasochists who offer the ultimate physical and sexual pleasure to their victims (who have summoned them by solving an enchanted puzzle box) before ripping them to shreds, and taking them into Hell. Pain and pleasure become indivisible to these creatures. What’s more, they don’t look like anything else from the movies. The cenobites are clad in black leather, have knives hanging from their belts, and are in a state of mid-mutilation thanks to wires or nails that are piercing their flesh. There’s a reason why the lead cenobite, nicknamed Pinhead, is considered a horror icon.
Black Roses from Black Roses (dir. John Fasano, 1988)
It was feared in the 1980s that many heavy metal were agents of Satan, and that secret satanic messages were making their way onto some rock records. The cheesy 1988 scare flick Black Roses taps directly into that fear. What if the metal music that came to your suburban community was actually fronted by evil demons from Hell, and that it was, via its driving beats and wicked power chords, transforming your kids, both mentally and physically, into ultra-sexual monster killers? The film is, like a few of the ones listed above, pretty corny. But the monsters themselves are actually pretty horrifying, and the one scene wherein a topless teenage girl first tries to seduce her dad, and then grows a scary monster head and tries to kill him is enough to make your skin crawl.
The Demons from Jacob’s Ladder (dir. Adrian Lyne, 1990)
A spooky afterlife tale, Jacob’s Ladder begins in an unassuming fashion, following a traumatized Vietnam vet attempting to live a normal life in the big city. This man is, however, haunted by nightmares that soon become waking visions. A kindly angelic doctor explains to him that these things he is seeing may be demons from his past, manifesting themselves as mental horrors. As the film progresses, the visions become increasingly violent, and we see the demons as wholly malevolent, twitching whatsits who haunt our hero’s very consciousness. These monsters are scary because they are unexpected when they turn up, and also because they don’t look like any previous movie demon. They are head-shaking, lumpy odd-looking things that too-closely look human. Jacob’s Ladder is a gut-punch of a movie, and scarier than most of its more sensational monster movie ilk.
Satan from Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (dir. Peter Hewitt, 1991)
The film is a broad comedy about two rocker teens’ adventures in the afterlife, and trying to prevent a despotic takeover of a future utopia, but there was one scene which scares the heck out of me. During the course of the film, our two title heroes, having been killed by futuristic robot clones of themselves (don’t ask) find themselves in Hell, facing off with Satan himself. Satan is a towering monster very similar to Darkness from Legend. He then forces them to experience their own personal Hells, wherein they meet evil drill sergeants, scary drooling grandmothers, and spooky Easter bunnies. In a demented comedy sequel film about a teen rock band, these scenes are incongruously scary. Yipes.
The Old Ones from In the Mouth of Madness (dir. John Carpenter, 1995)
Taken directly from the stories of H.P. Lovecraft, The Old Ones from John Carpenter’s underrated 1995 horror flick are a massive wall of fleshy monsters that are only glimpsed at in one scene from the movie. And while they are terrifying to behold (they have thrashing limbs and fangs and drippy, gooey monster ooze) it’s their presence that looms large over the movie. The Old Ones were an ancient evil that have tapped a horror author to write a book that would, essentially, drive all humanity mad. If you could see the universe the way it really is, both Lovecraft and Carpenter seem to argue, you would instantly go insane, and perhaps even transform into a slimy creature yourself. All thanks to the indescribably evil provided by the Old Ones. Meaty, horrible things.
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