“Salvation is a last-minute business, boy!”…
…says Rev Harry Powell in Charles Laughton’s 1955 masterpiece Night of the Hunter.
10 .From Dusk til Dawn (1996) Harvey Keitel (aka Jacob Fuller) battles like a righteous Christian dude in this great cult flick. Although officially an ex-preacher, he finds his faith once again when he needs the Almighty’s help to fight off hoardes of unfriendly vampires in a remote Mexico bar. Harvey Keitel – what a guy. From brutal dope fiend in Bad Lieutenant to mild-mannered ex-clergyman in FDTD, he’s done the lot, and he particularly excels in this role, calmly disposing of the bloodsucking freaks when he has to - "In the name of the Lord!". His Holy Water works a treat too. This film is SUCH a must-see, just so you can have an opinion on it. Some hate it, some love it. Why anyone hates it is anyone’s guess because it’s got pretty much everything you need - gore, comedy, gangster violence, a Tarantino script, titties, and appearances by the legends that are John Saxon and Tom Savini. Need I say more?
9 .Dawn of the Dead (1978) “We must stop the killing…or lose the war”
This was Jesse Del Gre’s only appearance in a film. Maybe old men with one leg find it hard to get roles, but he probably wasn’t an actor. His one scene is quite early in the film when Roger and Peter first meet in the basement of the tenement building. He stumbles through the smoke-filled doorframe asking if he can be allowed to pass. His words are ominous and sinister as he tells of how many have died in the building – “in the basement of this building, you will find them. You are stronger than us, but soon, I think, they will be stronger than you…” For a man who landed only one part in a film, he got the one which we all know and remember. If you’re interested, when you watch Dawn of the Dead next, notice how he could be so-easily exiting a room full of spliff-heads as the smoke billows out the door and he looks up wearily, rubbing his eyes saying “Please to let me pass.” Definitely a stoner, that padre. Oh yeah, and one of his legs is a piece of wood. Can’t say fairer than that.
8 .The Amityville Horror (1979) A family moves into a house where one year prior a teenager murdered his entire family for unknown reason.
Ok, ok. I know what you’re thinking, but for what The Amityville Horror lacks in implausibility, it makes up for in sheer atmosphere and evil menace. The house, for a start, looks evil – I mean, the place has got EYES! And who better to play an intensely scared priest as the one, the only Rod Steiger aka Father Delaney. Every effort made on either side for contact between this priest and the Lutz family is diabolically sabotaged to the point where it just gets rather frustrating. The scene with Delaney and the flies is unpleasant, but in terms of the overall film, you just can’t understand why the family just don’t get the hell out of there. Great Lalo Schifrin score. All Lalo Schifrin’s scores are great, like the one for Amityville II – The Possession…which is just the same as it is for the Amityville Horror. I hope he didn’t get paid twice, though if he did he probably deserved it. He really should’ve scored more horror films.
7 .They Live (1988) A hard-working man discovers that aliens are all around us but can only be seen by wearing “special” sunglasses.
“This world may have blinded me, but the Lord has let me see!”
Raymond St. Jacques has such a cool role in They Live but unfortunately it's quite minimal. He is part of the underground resistance who use his church as their operational base. He’s blind, which adds a certain intensity to the character’s general demeanour. His last scene in the film is a real shocker – one of the moments in an otherwise funny film in which Carpenter gets brutal. This is a comedy action picture with a serious and intelligent message.
6 .The Devils (1971) Naughty nuns and religious corruption in 18th Century France. Nice.
They must have thought about locking Ken Russell up and throwing away the key at some point. It’s obvious he was dying to provoke a strong reaction with this OTT film?! This is such an insane and relentless movie and offers us the opportunity to see Oliver Reed in one of his most memorable roles. His performance as Father Grandier is nothing short of exceptional as he shags, boozes, and gets rather badly burned at the end. Reed always had a tendency to over-act somewhat and this is no exception. Ever noticed how his reaction to a line from another character is always the same – head turns quickly accompanied by a dirty look, followed by whatever line, delivered with trademark gusto?! Well, he managed to make a career out of it and fair play to him. His final 20 minutes in The Devils makes such a powerful impact. You almost need such an intense scene to get those masturbating nuns out of your head. Not strictly a horror film, but it is horrific.
5 .Braindead (1992) Rat-Monkey causes zombie epidemic in 1950s New Zealand
"I Kick Arse for The Lord!"
Jackson’s OTT gorefest pushed the zombie genre to a place it hadn’t been before, and features quite possibly the most ‘kick arse” (quite literally) Preacher ever portrayed on film. Stuart Devenie AKA Father McGruder displays fine kung fu skills and steals the show - if you were to see this scene in isolation, by God you’d be dying to see the rest of this blackly funny gorefest. It doesn't stop there though - after being bitten and infected, Father McGruder cops it off with a zombie nurse (surely the greatest zombie sex scene ever), has his lips ripped off from a passionate kiss, and then 'Father's the greatest zombie baby in movie histroy. Stuart Devenie also had bit-parts in The Frighteners (Museum Curator) and Meet the Feebles (as the voice of Sebastian / Dr. Quack / Daisy the Cow / Sandy the Chicken).
4 .The Fog (1980) A deathly fog threatens a Californian fishing village.
“We’re ALL cursed, Mrs Williams…”
Hal Holbrook aka Father Malone. Wow, it doesn’t get much better than this. As my EMB ‘accomplices’ will tell you, I have to confess to being a bit of a scarily enthusiastic Carpenter Freak, hence 2 entries on this list. Father Malone is the character with all the answers in this superbly creepy ghost story about a 100 year-old curse on a small coastal village, uncovering the truth through an ancient text which in the end, holds the key to survival. This ‘ancient text’ device is a common device in Carpenter’s plots. It’s a useful one too; it unfolds the truth for us, and also gives the characters we care about some hope for survival. Holbrook really looks the part as Father Malone. He’s a gloomy kind of guy and we can’t really blame him for this as he really has got some depressing news for the residents of Antonio Bay who are about to celebrate the town’s 100th birthday. His character is at the very epicentre of everything in this film. In the end he makes the ultimate sacrifice. Carpenter’s endings usually rock, and this is no exception.
3 .The Omen (1979) The Son of Satan himself is born to Gregory Peck and Lee Remick in this seminal devil flick which spawned a couple of inferior sequels.
“His mother was a jackal!”
If I were Gregory Peck, aka Robert Thorne, I’d have listened to this scary-ass looking preacher played brilliantly by Patrick Traughton - an ex-Doctor Who! His ominous rantings chill to the bone and he gets one of the best deaths in the film trilogy – impalement by church steeple. The Omen is a real shocker. You will believe that the pre-impalement storm is being conjured directly from the fiery pits of Satan’s lair. Nasty deaths abound in this truly terrifying film experience, and Harvey Nichols is one scary looking infant! Stop looking at me, Damien! The rest of the cast are first class – David Warner and Billie Whitelaw in particular. Sleep with the lights on after viewing.
2 .The Exorcist (1973) The devil possesses a 12 year-old girl, whose mother seeks help from the church after exhausting other avenues.
“Merrin!” shouts Belzeebub from the body of young Regan. That’ll be The Right Honourable Max von Sydow, veteran of Sweden’s greatest director Ingmar Bergman’s films, who plays the superbly creepy father Merrin in The Exorcist. The first segment of the film is all Merrin’s, as he is portrayed as an archaeologist working in Iraq who is righteously determined yet clearly falling to pieces both physically and mentally. A mention should be given to Jason Miller who plays Father Damien Karras. His heavy-set features are in themselves rather haunting and foreboding and his character is one of great depth and sorrow. Together, they are a wicked Exorcism team – so beware, all you possessed 12 year-olds! All together now: “The Power of Christ Compels You! The Power of Christ Compels You!”
1 .Night of the Hunter (1955) A scary looking preacher chases a young brother and his sister through rural 1950’s America on the hunt for their dead father’s stolen money.
“Salvation is a last-minute business, boy!”…
…says Rev Harry Powell in Charles Laughton’s 1955 masterpiece Night of the Hunter. If you ain’t seen this gem, you ain’t seen nothing. With ‘Love’ and Hate’ tattooed on his knuckles, Robert Mitchum cuts one scary figure in this strangely beautiful yet frightening vintage piece. Like Bruce Campbell in Bubba Ho-tep, Mitchum has classic lines coming out of his ass. His presence and charisma are nothing short of overwhelming and its no wonder that this is the role he is remembered for. One of a kind, thanks to Laughton’s genius and Mitchum just going for it.