The Last Horror Blog: Our Favorite Horror Movie Priests

The Last Horror Blog: Our Favorite Horror Movie Priests

Jul 24, 2015

Actor Michael Pena is the latest Hollywood talent to don the collar to take on the forces of darkness when Mark Neveldine’s The Vatican Tapes opens in theaters nationwide today. However, Pena’s portrayal of Father Lozano, a Catholic priest tasked with saving the soul of a young woman from satanic forces is just another in a long line of similar portrayals in horror film history.

Join us today in revisiting some of the greatest men (and one woman) of the cloth – the saviors you want to have around whenever Satan comes knocking.


Clancy Brown: Hellbenders

This underseen (and underappreciated) horror comedy follows the antics of The Augustine Interfaith Order of Hellbound Priests – a group of priests committed to blaspheming as much as possible in order to fight the forces of evil.

Clifton Collins Jr. is the main star of Hellbenders, but it’s Clancy Brown as Angus who really steals the show – he’s crass, he’s vulgar, he’s hilarious, and he’s totally capable of kicking some unholy ass when the situation calls for it. Brown will forever be synonymous with The Kurgan – the villainous character he brought to life in Highlander – but Angus is a performance I think people would enjoy if they’d actually had a chance to see it. (Trailer is NOT SAFE FOR WORK)


Wu Ma: A Chinese Ghost Story

Not every religious figure who battles the forces of evil is Catholic – or even Christian. Wu Ma plays a Daoist priest who wants to beat the crap out of evil in Ching Siu-tung’s rapturously entertaining 1987 classic A Chinese Ghost Story.

Ching’s film focuses on Leslie Cheung’s humble tax collector, who runs afoul of an ancient evil when he falls in love with the enchanting Joey Wong after meeting her at a temple. Cheung soon learns that Wong is a spirit trapped by an evil tree demoness, and he enlists Wu Ma to help set her free.

Unlike American priests, this Daoist is not only good with the religious stuff – he’s equally adept with a sword. Wu shines in the role, even breaking out into some Chinese rap at one point.

One of the landmark Hong Kong films, A Chinese Ghost Story ushered in an entire wave of genre features based on old folklore – but it’s Wu Ma who really helps make the original film so unforgettable.


Father Delaney: The Amityville Horror

I’m not convinced that 1979’s The Amityville Horror is really worthy of the cult status so many of my fellow horror geeks have bestowed upon it, but I do think Rod Steiger is pretty great in it even though he has a limited amount of screentime.

Steiger plays Father Delaney, the local clergyman who has the misfortune of being asked to bless the Hell House at 112 Ocean Avenue. What does the good Father get for his troubles? Stomach sickness, blistery palms, near fatal car troubles…oh, and blindness.

While Delaney doesn’t play a huge role in saving the Lutzs from the evils of Jody the demonic pig, he sure does suffer for the team. That alone makes him worthy of being on the list for me.


Father McGruder: Dead Alive

Before Peter Jackson was making ponderously long movies about Middle Earth, he had a nice little career going making hilariously gory genre films. His 1992 effort, Dead Alive, is one of the most hilarious and over the top splatter flicks ever caught on camera. It’s got zombies chopped up by lawn mowers, for crying out loud.

Still, maybe the most memorable moment in the entire film revolves around Stuart Devinie’s Father McGruder, a kung fu priest who kicks zombie ass and has the film’s most memorable line when he all but screams “I kick arse for The Lord!”

An unforgettable character in an unforgettable movie, I’d pick McGruder to be on my team any time I have to take on the Dark Lord.


Sister Gloria: Night of the Demons 2

You can’t have this sort of list without including at least one nun – and I’ve selected Sister Gloria from Brian Trenchard-Smith’s low-budget, but wildly entertaining, Night of the Demons 2.

Brought to life by Jennifer Rhodes, Sister Gloria is probably the coolest nun ever. She knows martial arts, she can use rosaries and rulers as weapons, and she’s as comfortable sending demons back to hell as she is warning sinners about the dangers of premarital sex.

Night of the Demons 2 is the kind of film they really don’t make anymore – a micro-budgeted B-movie with a whole lot of heart. A good portion of why the film succeeds is because of Sister Gloria. She’s unforgettable.


Donald Pleasence: Prince of Darkness

Donald Pleasence reunites with John Carpenter in this 1987 film, yet another Carpenter project that was way ahead of its time (see also: The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China).

Pleasence, who’d already been Dr. Sam Loomis in Halloween, and the President in Escape From New York, tackles what might be his most improbable role in this outing – Catholic priest.

The clergyman invites a group of physics students to test a mysterious vial he discovers in the basement of an empty church. The legend claims it’s the corporeal embodiment of Satan himself. Things get crazy deep and metaphysical as the team begins to examine the strange green fluid in the vial, and Pleasence plays a key role in helping thwart a very bad situation.

It’s no secret that I adore Donald Pleasence (I keep an action figure of Loomis in my office, where he squares off against Michael Myers every day…), and Prince of Darkness is arguably the actor’s most underrated performance. It may appear casting against type to put Pleasence in such a role, but he proves what a pro he was by being totally believable as a man of God.


Father Merrin: The Exorcist

There really couldn’t be anyone other than Father Lankester Merrin at the top of this list. Max von Sydow’s demon-battling priest is just one of many things that make William Friedkin’s The Exorcist such a classic. While everyone likes to focus on the effects and Linda Blair’s amazing performance as young girl possessed by a demon named Pazuzu, it’s von Sydow (and Jason Miller’s turn as younger priest Damien Karras) who really make the film work.

Much has been written about the lengths Friedkin went to in order to create what many consider the greatest horror film of all time, so we’ll not rehash that here. And while all of those things are amazing/fascinating in their own right, it’s von Sydow’s calm demeanor during one of the most frightening exorcism sequences ever captured on film that makes the film so utterly captivating.

You can’t go wrong facing off against the forces of evil with any of these holy folks on your side, but if you had once choice, and you could pick anyone, Father Merrin would be my recommendation.


So, that’s my list – who’d I miss? Who would you put on your evangelical dream team? Leave us some comments below.

Categories: Features, lists, Horror
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