During the earliest days of the site, we put together a loose, in no particular order, Top Ten listing of “Ten Possession Movies that Aren’t The Exorcist.” We’ve since teased, on a few occasions, we’d do a list to honor the Italian and Spanish film industry’s next favorite horror film to copy: The Omen.
Well, it took the power of the Internet three years to compel us to finally make up the list. Feel free to share it on your social media and comment on your favorites, below.
1. The Tempter, aka The Antichrist (1974) — Okay, so the business model here is The Exorcist — with a dash of Rosemary’s Baby. Yes, this was made before The Omen, but this was also made under, and originally released as, The Antichrist, so there you go. Alberto de Martino (behind one of our favorite Giallos with Strange Shadows in an Empty Room) weaves a tale about a Mia Farrow-cum-Rosemary lookalike who, under a psychiatrist’s care, goes into past-life regression therapy and becomes possessed by a Spanish Inquisition ancestor. Yes, the ancestor is the feared Antichrist. Yes, the nudity and swearing is mind-numbing in is ferocity. Yes, this movie is out of control in its crazed ripoffery. And it only gets stranger with de Martino’s next ode to the Dark Prince.
2. Holocaust 2000, aka The Chosen (1977) — We still haven’t figured out how Stanley Donen convinced Kirk Douglas to star in Saturn 3, and here’s the three-time Oscar nominee starring in an Antichrist romp directed by Alberto de Martino, back for another bit of the Crucifix after giving us The Tempter. So what’s this Italian-British co-production all about? Well, it seems the dreaded beast of the book of Revelation . . . is actually a nuclear power plant built near a sacred cave in the Middle East by Kirk’s industrialist, Robert Caine. Oh, and as in Saturn 3, regardless of his age, Kirk’s a virile young buck shacking up with a woman half his age. Oh, and his son, the aptly named Angel Caine, turns out to be the Antichrist.
3. Fear No Evil (1981) — Sure this is a low-budget Omen rip, but this tale of a high school student who, upon turning 18, discovers he is the prophetized Anitchrist is oh, so good. In a pinch taking from Carrie: Andrew is a dorky, weirdo bookworm who spends his days as a bully punching bag. Before you know it: Andrew has paralyzed his mother, his dad is in the booby hatch, and his mortal enemy, Tony Idavino, spouts breasts. Yes, the baby Jesus is murdered — don’t worry — its during the town’s annual Passion Play. Then Andrew — looking more like an ’80s glam rocker than a demon — lays waste to the town with a zombie apocalypse. Yes. It is as awesome and strange as it sounds.
4. The Inquisition, aka Inquisición (1977) — Okay, so this is more about “witch hunting” than the rise of the Antichrist. However, unlike Michael Reeves’s Witchfinder General (1968), Michael Armstrong’s Mark of the Devil (1970), and Ken Russell’s The Devils (1971), the sexually depravity and spiritual corruption of Witchfinder Bernard de Fossey (Paul Naschy, who writes, but also in his directing debut), actually conjures a reincarnation of Satan. And when Naschy conjures an “Antichrist,” rest assured that his Ol’ Scratch enjoys (plenty) of naked women and nipple-ripping.
5. The Visitor (1979) — Did you hear the one where Ovidio G. Assonitis (Tentacles) and Giulio Paradisi (who worked with Fellini on 8 1/2 and La Dolce Vita!) decided to cash-in on The Omen with a cross between Chariots of the Gods meets Rosemary’s Baby? So goes this tale regarding the soul of a telekinetic young girl at the center of a war between God and the Devil. Franco Nero is a space god? Check. Sam Peckinpah — yes, the director of western classic The Wild Bunch — as an abortionist who removes one of the space babies? Check. John Huston — yes, the director of The Maltese Falcon and The African Queen — as an angel to stop Zathaar, aka Satan, the “bad alien” from succeeding? Check. Lance Henriksen (Near Dark, Aliens) as an ersatz Ted Turner media mogul who wants the power? It’s all there . . . and it just goes on and on . . . The Bad Seed meets Close Encounters of the Third Kind? Okay, if you say so. And we thought Jodorowsky’s El Topo was a chore to interpret.
6. Bloody Sect, aka Secta siniestra (1982) — Spain’s “Roger Corman,” Ignacio F. Iquino — in his only horror film — takes no chances with his take on the birth of the Antichrist as he clips scenes not only from The Omen, but Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, as well as The Shining, Suspiria, and Rabid, along with stylistic soupçons from Dario Argento, Joe D’Amato, Ruggero Deodato, Jess Franco, and Bruno Mattei. It’s a tale of a woman artificially inseminated with the sperm of Satan (!) by a fertility doctor. It’s also a tale that never lets up as it piles on the plot absurdities — refer to your favorite Mattei opus — amid the gore and the sleaze.
7. The Late Great Planet Earth (1978) — Narration by Orson Welles intersperses the biblical reenactments, as chicken-little-the-sky-is-falling talking-head academics babble to stock footage of war and starving children, then tell us about planetary alignments and supercomputers running Ronald Reagan through numerology algorithms to determine if he is the dreaded Antichrist. Nuff said, for we love you, Hal Lindsay: you frightened us kiddies unlike no other Spanish or Italian ripoff purveyor before or since.
8. Prince of Darkness (1987) — Basically, John Carpenter did a remake-retool of Hammer Studios’ Quartermass and the Pit (1967) for $3 million dollars. As the characters prattle about theoretical physics and atomic theory, we learn that a canister of green liquid discovered in an abandoned church is the essence of The Antichrist. Yeah (yawn), before you know it: we are back in Carpenter’s old 13th precinct haunts with another variation on Rio Bravo as we hear about theories that Jesus is actually an alien and the Catholic Church covered it up and the world will end in 1999. (For the record: I’m the “yawner”; Sam likey. We are still friends, canisters of green goop, be damned.)
9. God Told Me To (1976) — According to Larry Cohen (The Stuff): God is one of the most violent characters in literature. Take that insight, then concoct a police procedural drama about a cop mixed up in some ancient astronaut tomfoolery à la Chariots of the Gods as a series of killings sweeps New York City in which the perpetrators claim, before their own suicide, that “Gold told me to.” Of course, it’s not “God,” but Bernard Phillips, the Antichrist, who according to his mother, was a immaculately concepted aliens, you know, just like Jesus.
10. The Sect (1991) — Is there a real life, worldwide Satanic “army of evil” responsible for the Manson Family and Son of Sam murders? Well, Michele Soavi (Stage Fright, The Church) answered the call with this story about a German schoolteacher impregnated by a giant bird that opens a glowing, blue gateway to Hell in a basement that will unleash the Antichrist to Earth. And that’s the short version synopsis, which doesn’t even begin to describe this film’s crazed, biblical non non sequiturs.
Never say “ten” movies. Never.
11. Reborn (1981) — Okay, so we are cheating one more . . . and there’s no actual “exorcism” . . . but it’s all for the love of Bigas Luna. Mixing the erotic with the spiritual, it’s a religious fantasy piece that questions faith, explores Luna’s own Catholicism, and the mysteries of one’s acquiring healing powers. Then things go bonkers, more so, as Dennis Hooper shows up as the maniacal Rev. Tom Hartley — our “Antichrist” — an American televangelist-head of a racketeering revivalist church who wants to exploit a young woman’s abilities of “hearing” the Holy Ghost, for his own, greedy purposes.
12. Raging Angels (1995) — Okay, so we are cheating two . . . and this is actually a “Satanic Panic” flick about the Devil using rock music to control the world. Released in the ’90s but made during the end of the Hair Metal ’80s, Michael Paré stars as a religious rocker fronting an organization pushing for a one-world government. An aspiring rocker played by Sean Patrick Flanery of The Boondock Saints fame tries to stop the Rapture and the rise of the Antichrist. Hey, Christian metal band Holy Soldier shows up to belt out Ronnie James Dio-era Rainbow with “Gates of Babylon” . . . as you ponder the awful CGI of it all amid Shelly Winters and Diane Ladd doing what they can to battle the evil.
Roman Polanski’s pre-Exorcist/Omen game changer that is Rosemary’s Baby, Al Pacino’s tour de force as the Antichrist in The Devil’s Advocate, James Glickenhaus’s debut oddball, The Astrologer, aka Suicide Cult, and the Richard Matheson TV movie-penned The Stranger Within. Does The Godsend fit in here? It has a creepy devil kid, but it’s more sci-if . . . eh, why not? Can we toss William Girdler’s The Manitou — with it’s tale of a gigantic growth on a woman’s neck that ends up being the reincarnation of the Native American spirit Misquamacus? That’s short of “Antichristy,” right? Eh, The Next One with Keir Dullea and Adrienne Barbeau? Yeah, Keir may or may not be an alien washed up on a Greek island — and he may or not be Jesus Christ (or the Antichrist; been so long, I don’t recall, fully) — but that’s a sci-fi flick and not the least bit horror.
What’s your favorite? Did we miss it? Let us know in the comments, below.
About the (hyperlinked) Review Authors: Sam Panico is the founder, Chief Cook and Bottle Washer, and editor-in-chief of B&S About Movies. You can visit him on Lettebox’d and Twitter. R.D Francis (who wrote this piece) is the grease bit scrubber, dumpster pad technician, and staff writer at B&S About Movies. You can visit him on Facebook.