10 Best Religious Horror Movies, According To Rotten Tomatoes – Screen Rant

From The Exorcist to Midsommar, plenty of acclaimed horror movies have drawn on religious themes for their stories and scares.
Finishing off this year's Halloween season is Lionsgate's Prey For The Devil, a supernatural horror movie about a young nun who trains as an exorcist and confronts a demon with ties to her past. Like director Daniel Stamm's breakout film, The Last Exorcism, Prey For The Devil draws on religious themes, both in the plot and imagery used to frighten viewers.
Religious horror is a subgenre with a long history, with the success of movies like The Exorcist proving that audiences love a good story that gets its scares from the darker sides of beloved faith traditions. For fans looking for the most critically acclaimed religious horror, Rotten Tomatoes can give some solid recommendations.
Starring Dan Stevens as a former missionary determined to rescue his sister from a mysterious cult, Apostle is a horror period piece directed by Gareth Evans. Like Evans' The Raid duology, the film features some graphic violence, but overall it's a very different beast, with a dark, foreboding tone that helps build tension for an effective slow-burn.
RELATED: 10 Best Horror Movies On Netflix, According To IMDb
Apostle is one of the more critically acclaimed Netflix horror originals, thanks in large part to Evans' direction and Stevens' lead performance as Thomas Richardson. Not only is he a commanding presence, a perfectly sells Richardson's struggle as a man who has lost his faith and is desperate to recover the one thing that still matters to him.
Unconventional vampire movies have been a staple of the horror genre for decades, and Korean auteur Park Chan-wook tried his hand at the mythos with Thirst. The movie tells the story of a Catholic priest who volunteers for a medical experiment, only for a botched blood transfusion to turn him into a vampire.
Not only is Park's directing style a great fit for a horror drama like Thirst, but the movie also explores some surprisingly deep dilemmas, such as how a deeply religious person would deal with becoming something that practically requires mortal sin to survive. That food for thought is surely a reason why Thirst won the Jury Prize at Cannes in 2009.
The Conjuring 2 accomplished something incredibly rare for a horror sequel – being, in the eyes of many fans, just as good as, if not better than, the original. After the success of its predecessor, the sequel cemented the series' reputation as a top-tier horror franchise, grossing over $320 million against a $40 million budget.
RELATED: 10 Scariest Horror Movie Villains That Never Actually Killed Anyone
The plot of The Conjuring 2 revisits the Warrens six years after the first film, when they are called to London to investigate a haunting plaguing a single mother and her four children. In addition to introducing new demons, this entry delves more into Lorraine Warren's faith, and her Bible plays a key role in the climax.
One of the most famous movies in the recent folk horror revival, Midsommar follows a troubled young couple who travel to rural Sweden for a midsummer festival, but find themselves drawn into a neopagan cult. The film earned extensive critical acclaim for being an engaging story of grief, with Florence Pugh's performance being singled out as one of the year's best.
The residents of the Hårga commune are one of the scariest cults in horror movies, and many of their practices are disturbing, particularly the climactic human sacrifice. But Midsommar also works as a culture-clash story of what happens when modern people interact with ancient religions that are alien to their sensibilities.
A movie so shocking that audiences in 1973 allegedly vomited when watching it, The Exorcist was an instant hit whose status as a classic has only been further cemented with age. Directed by William Friedkin (The French Connection) and adapted by the book's author William Peter Blatty, it's one of those horror films that would work just as well with all the scary elements taken out.
The core of The Exorcist is the story of Father Karras, a priest undergoing a crisis of faith who sees his belief in God restored through the trials and tribulations of an exorcism. The film also has a great supporting cast, including Max von Sydow's father Merrin, and iconic mother-daughter duo, Chris and Regan MacNeil.
Before The Conjuring was a sprawling franchise based on the cases of Ed and Lorraine Warren, it was a sleeper hit that arguably put religious horror back on the map. The movie follows the Warrens as they investigate paranormal activity at a Rhode Island farmhouse that is putting an unsuspecting family in grave danger.
RELATED: 10 Horror Movie Villains Who Went To Hell & Back (Literally)
While fans of The Conjuring mainly enjoy it for the scares, the atmosphere, and Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga's chemistry, the religious elements provide a solid, underrated base for much of the horror. Particularly when an exorcism becomes necessary and the Catholic Church comes in, viewers may get flashbacks to the likes of The Exorcist.
If fans of folk horror films like Midsommar want to see the movie that arguably codified the subgenre, they need look no further than Robin Hardy's The Wicker Man. Following a deeply Christian police detective as he searches for a missing girl among a group of Celtic pagans, the movie is an example of arthouse horror that even newbies can enjoy.
Aside from some haunting imagery, what makes The Wicker Man work is lead character Neil Howie's deeply sympathetic situation, as well as an excellent villain in Christopher Lee's Lord Summerisle. In fact, the movie has been quite the tough act to follow, and both the 2006 remake and Hardy's decades-later follow up The Wicker Tree pale in comparison.
Before Paranormal Activity made found footage one of horror's most popular subgenres, Spanish zombie film, [REC] proved that it could work on the international stage. Although the movie never left limited release in America, it was a hit with critics and horror fans, who praised it for being a genuinely frightening experience and a great horror movie for people who don't scare easily.
In contrast to its American remake, Quarantine, [REC]'s zombie outbreak is tinged with religious themes, including the fact that it's essentially a case of contagious demonic possession. This helps the movie stand out from other zombie stories that stick to purely biological or vaguely supernatural origins, and it makes sense given Spain's highly Catholic heritage.
Based on Stephen King's debut novel, Carrie tells the story of a shy, awkward teenage girl with extraordinary abilities, and how the abuse she receives from those around her comes back to bite them. Buoyed by an excellent performance by Sissy Spacek, the movie was hugely successful and has influenced countless films in both the horror and teen genres.
RELATED: 10 Horror Movies With Satisfying Karmic Justice
Carrie's religious themes mainly come in the form of Carrie's mother Margaret, a religious fundamentalist with her own warped take on Christian doctrine. While not a flattering portrayal, Margaret serves as an effective foil to her daughter, whose kindness ironically makes her far more Christ-like than her sanctimonious mother.
The directorial debut of Rose Glass, the highly psychological Saint Maud is a female-directed horror movie with a unique voice. Following a recent Catholic convert who makes it her mission to save her nursing patient's soul, the film debuted at TIFF in 2019 but had its theatrical release delayed by COVID-19.
One might be surprised to see Saint Maud top the list given how new it is, but it's easy to see why it received such positive reviews. Morfydd Clark gives an excellent performance as a young woman haunted by her past and desperate for a purpose, and the dark tone and visuals build quiet tension all the way up to the disturbing conclusion.
NEXT: 15 Best Supernatural Horror Movies According To Reddit
Pierce Brenner is a freelance list writer for Screen Rant. He graduated from California State University, San Marcos in 2019 with a BA in History, with a minor in Film/Video Production. Pierce’s childhood love of Disney, Pixar, and Star Wars sent on him the path to movie fandom early, but it was The Lord of the Rings trilogy that inspired him to become a filmmaker. His love for film knows no bounds, and he’ll watch anything from prestige epics to 70s/80s exploitation. Currently writing a script for a horror-thriller feature.


About Summ

Check Also

Ennél szívmelengetőbb filmet nem láttunk mostanában a Netflixen – Index.hu

Use your Google Account Forgot email?Not your computer? Use a private browsing window to sign …