Get ready for a spooky, spine-tingling, faith-filled movie night with these films, which are streaming now.
If recent polls and lists are to be relied upon, The Exorcist still looms large as one of the best and most frightening motion pictures ever made. Not bad for a film where the Church and its priests are depicted as the good guys. Still, as we’ve discussed before, there are other scary movies out there besides Friedkin’s masterpiece that manage to put forth a positive portrayal of Catholicism. Here’s five more horror flicks currently available for streaming that deliver the chills and thrills while managing to maintain some semblance of a Catholic sensibility.
The Rite (HBO Max)
Though The Exorcist remains the undisputed champion of possession movies, there are others worth a watch or two. The Rite is loosely based on Matt Baglio’s non-fiction book of the same name detailing the experiences of Father Gary Thomas as he travels to Rome to train as an exorcist, both in the classroom and on the job. The film’s accuracy in its first half, both in its presentation of the Church’s teaching on demonic possession and its depiction of a young priest discovering his calling, brought praise from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which declared that the movie “resoundingly affirms faith and the value of priestly ministry.” Alas, their excellencies were understandably a bit cooler on the second half, where some liberties with fact are taken and the special effects kick in. Faith affirming or not, Hollywood will always believe it needs to add some razzle-dazzle to the truth in order to sell tickets.
The Conjuring & The Conjuring 2 (Netflix and HBO Max)
Inarguably one of the most popular horror franchises of the past decade, The Conjuring series follows Lorraine and Ed Warren as they investigate various paranormal happenings, often at the request of Church officials. As played by Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson, the Warrens are happy, faithful Catholics who read their Bibles, pray their rosaries, act charitably to most everyone they meet, and perhaps most shocking, remain completely devoted to one another. Admittedly it’s a little surprising to see such characters as the leads in a major Hollywood movie franchise, but as the series’ creator James Wan has stated, since the real-life Warrens upon whom the characters are based were such devout Christians, it would be a disservice to the story to present them as otherwise. While some of the later movies in The Conjuring series are somewhat less successful in their representation of religion, it’s hard to go wrong with the first two.
Jacob’s Ladder (Paramount Plus)
The dark and somber Jacob’s Ladder tells of a hapless postal clerk who is not only tormented by memories of the death of his son, but also by flashbacks to a barely remembered incident in Vietnam. As the mystery of what happened to him during the war unravels, our hero begins to experience visions of demons who seem intent on tearing his soul apart. Or are they really trying to accomplish something else? There have been numerous films exploring the concept of Purgatory, but what sets Jacob’s Ladder apart is that it delves a bit deeper into the subject matter than most others. The film acknowledges that it’s not just petty sins that can hold a soul back from going straight to their heavenly reward, but also any unhealthy attachment to the good things in this life. Those too must be released before one can move on into eternal light.
At its core, Devil is a simple locked room mystery in which a small group of people are stranded on an elevator with the knowledge that one of them is a murderer. However, since the film is written by none other than M. Night Shyamalan, there is naturally a twist. The killer, it seems, is the devil himself who has come to claim the souls of the guilty in gruesome fashion each time the lights on the elevator go out. The problem for the potential victims, of course, is how to figure out which passenger is Old Scratch before he eliminates everyone else onboard. Although Shyamalan is Hindu, his Catholic school education informs most of his movies, and Devil is no exception. There is a lot of talk about sin and guilt tossed around in the movie, and its ultimate conclusion appears to be that the best chance we mere mortals have of combatting the infernal is confession, repentance, and forgiveness. That’s good Catholic material there.