Saturday, October 28, 2017

21 Horror Movies That May Interest Orthodox Christians

Orthodox Christianity is often talked about as being mystical and strange, which lends itself well in the horror genre. Greek and Slavic folklore also provide for it unique creatures and frightening tales. Most do not realize how many Orthodox themes or items of interest uniquely to an Orthodox audience are shown in horror films, which is why I compiled a list of some of my favorites below. Most of these can be found and streamed online (feel free to contact me if you can't locate them). If you are a horror movie fan, I recommend them all. If you don't like horror movies, I recommend none. View at your own discretion.

1. The Devil Rides Out (1968)

Basic Plot: Devil worshipers plan to convert two new victims.

Orthodox Interest: (spoiler alert) The devil is defeated in a Greek monastery.

2. Thirteen Ghosts (1960 & 2001)

Basic Plot: When Cyrus Kriticos, a very rich collector of unique things dies, he leaves it all to his nephew and his family. All including his house, his fortune, and his malicious collection of ghosts!

Orthodox Interest: Depicts the haunting of a Greek family.

3. Black Sabbath (1963)

Basic Plot: Boris Karloff hosts a trio of horror stories concerning a stalked call girl, a patriarch who has become a vampire-like monster, and a nurse who is haunted by her ring's rightful owner.

Orthodox Interest: Though the movie contains three stories, the one most interesting to Orthodox viewers would be "The Wurdalak", which is based on a short story of the Russian author Aleksey Konstantinovich Tolstoy. It is a 19th century Russian vampire tale.

4. Strigoi (2009)

Basic Plot: When the villagers killed Constantin Tirescu, they thought it was justice. Vlad Cozma thinks it was murder. Now Constantin thinks pickles might go nice with blood.

Orthodox Interest: A comedic look at the Romanian folk belief in vampires.

5. Isle of the Dead (1945)

Basic Plot: On a Greek island during the 1912 war, several people are trapped by quarantine for the plague. If that isn't enough worry, one of the people, a superstitious old peasant woman, suspects one young girl of being a vampiric kind of demon called a vorvolaka.

Orthodox Interest: A Hollywood film from the 1940's about the Greek folk belief in vampires.

6. Beyond the Hills (2012)

Basic Plot: Two young women grow up together in an orphanage. One finds refuge in a Romanian convent and the other moves to Germany to start a new life.

Orthodox Interest: Inspired by the true case of a disastrous 2005 exorcism at a Romanian monastery.

7. Black Sunday (1960)

Basic Plot: A vengeful witch and her fiendish servant return from the grave and begin a bloody campaign to possess the body of the witch's beautiful look-alike descendant. Only the girl's brother and a handsome doctor stand in her way.

Orthodox Interest: Takes place in 17th century Moldavia, loosely based on Nikolai Gogol's short story "Viy".

8. Viy (1967)

Basic Plot: A young priest is ordered to preside over the wake of a witch in a small old wooden church of a remote village. This means spending three nights alone with the corpse with only his faith to protect him.

Orthodox Interest: Based on the horror novella by the Russian writer Nikolai Gogol, first published in the first volume of his collection of tales titled Mirgorod (1835). Many Orthodox themes are presented here.

9. Rasputin the Mad Monk (1966)

Basic Plot: Thrown out of his monastery for licentious and drunken behavior, Rasputin travels to St Petersburg to try his luck. Through a dalliance with one of the czarina's ladies in waiting he soon gains influence at court with his powers of healing and of hypnotism. But he also makes enemies who wish to see him dead.

Orthodox Interest: Depicts the mysterious charismatic monk Rasputin through the lens of a Hammer horror film.

10. They're Watching (2016)

Basic Plot: The renovation of an old house in a village somewhere in Eastern Europe will bring the crew of an American home improvement TV show up against superstitions, misunderstandings and bloody violence.

Orthodox Interest: A comedic look at Eastern European folk beliefs, that includes Orthodox themes.

11. The Vanquishing of the Witch Baba Yaga (2014)

Basic Plot: A descent into Eastern Europe's haunted woodlands uncovers the secrets, fairy tales, and bloody histories that shape our understanding of man's place in nature.

Orthodox Interest: A documentary on a popular tale of Slavic folklore.

12. The Case of Mary Ford (2013)

Basic Plot: A supernatural drama that straddles the old world and the new. We open in New York City 1913. Recent Greek immigrant Mary Ford is accused of killing her lover. Mary claims the real murderer is her husband. But her husband is already dead. Maria's defense relies on the story of how she came to America. Her tale begins five thousand miles away to her birthplace in the old world, a village on the shores of the Black Sea in Greek Asia Minor. Here, a web of jealousy, intrigue, mystery, deceit, murder and finally escape leads us to a dramatic climax, in which love endures beyond the grave.

Orthodox Interest: A modern film of the Greek vrykolakas.

13. Vlad Tepes (1979)

Basic Plot: Vlad Tepes, otherwise known as Vlad the Impaler and Dracula, fights the Ottoman Turks on the battlefield and the Hungarian Boyars in his court.

Orthodox Interest: A Romanian film that depicts Vlad the Impaler more as a national hero than a vampire villain.

14. Dark Prince: The True Story of Dracula (2000)

Basic Plot: Romanian Prince Vlad Tepes leads his people to battle the Turks, who are led by his brother, in order to regain his kingdom.

Orthodox Interest: The narrative of the film is presented as evidence given at a hearing following Vlad's alignment with the Roman Catholic King of Hungary. At the end of the film, Vlad is excommunicated by the Orthodox Church shortly before being assassinated by Radu and having a vision of Lidia calling his name. As a result of his condemnation by the priests, Vlad is found to have risen from the grave and gained eternal life, free to roam the earth (as he has been denied entrance to both Heaven and Hell) implying that he has now become the very vampire for which his name is famous - Dracula.

15. Dracula in Istanbul (1953)

Basic Plot: The screenplay was based on a 1928 novel by Ali Riza Seyfi called Kazıklı Voyvoda ("Impaler Voivode"), and is more or less a translation of Bram Stoker's novel, but there is no Renfield character and Güzin, the "Mina" character, is a showgirl given to performing in revealing outfits. Drakula/Dracula is played by balding Atif Kaptan. Both the novel and the film make an explicit connection with the historical Vlad the Impaler, the Prince and three-time Voivode of Wallachia.

Orthodox Interest: Besides this being the first Dracula movie associating Dracula with Vlad the Impaler, it also depicts him leaving Transylvania for Istanbul instead of England.

16. The Ritual (2015)

Basic Plot: A small European town, where sisters Ayia and Mirra live, gets struck down by an unknown disease which takes many lives. Following their mother's death, the younger sister falls ill. Having realized that conventional medicine is useless in the face of the sister's disease, Ayia seeks help from Father Herman, a parish priest and a close family friend. In his house she finds books that are very far from the conventional religion. She gets to know that only penetration into Mirra's sick subconscious mind and discovery of the true cause of her disease will give her a chance to save her sister. Ayia is ready to go through this terrifying ritual, dive into the depths of the subconscious mind, and face the demons residing there.

Orthodox Interest: A woman seeks help from an Orthodox priest.

17. The Haunting in Connecticut (2009)

Basic Plot: After a family is forced to relocate for their son's health, they begin experiencing supernatural behavior in their new home, and uncover a sinister history.

Orthodox Interest: Depicts an Orthodox priest who is played by Greek/Canadian actor Elias Koteas, who is meant to be a respectable replacement for the Warren's to this tale based on a true story. Producer Andrew Trapani had this to say about Koteas playing the role of an Orthodox priest, who in the movie is called upon to help in the family situation due to the fact that he is sensitive to paranormal activity by being sick with cancer, like the lead character Matt, and has spent years studying the occult. “He’s blowing everyone away with what he’s bringing to this character,” Trapani says. “It’s a very fresh approach to a familiar archetype of a priest or an exorcist coming into a supernatural situation and dealing with a family. So the character’s got an Old World mentality and is coming from an Eastern, Greek Orthodox philosophy, but is chronologically younger than the typical exorcist.”

18. The Exorcist (1973)

Basic Plot: When a girl is possessed by a mysterious entity, her mother seeks the help of two priests to save her daughter.

Orthodox Interest: Though the priests in the film are Catholic, the main priest of the movie is named Father Damien Karras, a Greek, and the demon speaks Greek to him on one occasion. Some believe this character is based on a Greek priest from Florida named Father Mark Karras, who is said to have performed over 150 exorcisms. Though he seemed to have been born Greek Orthodox in Greece of a prominent priestly family, it seems like he belonged to another Greek Christian organization. His profile can be read here. (Note also that the prequel and sequel to The Exorcist trace the origin of the demon to an early Byzantine church in Africa.)

19. The Bride (2017)

Basic Plot: The unusual practice of photographing dead relatives during mid-1800s rural Russia will link a Philology student with her husband's abysmal family history.

Orthodox Interest: A modern Russian ghost story with some Orthodox themes.

20. The Miracle (2009)

Basic Plot: A drama based on a true incident in 1956 Russia, where a young woman who danced with an icon of Saint Nicholas was frozen into immobility.

Orthodox Interest: Based on the true and terrifying story of the miracle of Saint Nicholas in Russia in 1956, which the Soviets tried to suppress.

21. Silent Hill (2006)

Basic Plot: A woman, Rose, goes in search for her adopted daughter within the confines of a strange, desolate town called Silent Hill.

Orthodox Interest: The town of Silent Hill is based on the real town of Centralia, Pennsylvania. This town was consumed by an underground mine fire when many Russian Orthodox worked as miners there. The church in the movie is based on the Ukrainian church that still stands in this abandoned town. Today you can also visit the Russian Orthodox Cemetery in Centralia, though the church did not survive the fire.