PRIESTS FROM HELL: The 13 Scariest Movie Preachers2 comments
By C. Michael Forsyth
Clergymen provide us with spiritual guidance and emotional support, but when they go bad, they go very bad. Take a look at this roundup of 13 men of the cloth who went over to the dark side. Then vote on who’s the scariest movie preacher of all time.
BROTHER JUSTIN CROWE played by Clancy Brown in “Carnivale” (HBO, 2003-5). Powerfully built Brown has portrayed some frightening villains, most memorably The Kurgan in “Highlander.” Here he’s a fiendish, supernatural version of Father Coughlin, the hate-mongering Depression-era radio preacher. Brother Justin has the power to bring people’s sins and darkest desires to life in horrifying visions. He uses his radio show to brainwash the masses to do his bidding. But the Dust Bowl devil is not above resorting to physical means, mowing down uncooperative folks with a scythe.
CALEB, played by Nathan Fillion in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (Season 7, 2003). Before handsome Nathan made female viewers’ hearts flutter as Capt. Mal in “Firefly,” he terrified them as this sadistic sociopath with a pathological hatred of women. A defrocked priest, Caleb was chosen by the First Evil to lead its campaign to wipe out humanity. Able to channel its power, he possesses immense physical strength and is seemingly indestructible, making him one of Buffy’s most dangerous adversaries. The folksy, scripture-quoting madman has a real mean streak, gratuitously gouging out the eye of funny-guy Zander. Here he cuts short the career of a wannabe Slayer.
FATHER LUCAS, played by Anthony Hopkins in “The Rite” (2011). Welsh Jesuit Father Lucas is the Vatican’s top exorcist until he’s possessed by a demon himself. Incredibly, the supernatural thriller is based on real events as recounted by then exorcist-in-training, Father Gary Thomas. Yeah, sure. More believable is Hopkins’ acting. He resists the temptation to chew the scenery in favor of an understated, chilling performance. In this scene, the trainee (Colin O’Donoghue) is horrified to learn that his mentor is now batting for the other team.
REVEREND HENRY KANE, played by Julian Beck in “Poltergeist 2” (1992). Kane was the leader of 19th century doomsday cult who snuffed out the lives of his followers and became a ghostly Beast who keeps their spirits imprisoned. The character’s shockingly gaunt, skeletal appearance isn’t just good makeup. Actor Beck was dying of cancer during the shoot. Kane tries every trick in the book to gain entry into the Freeling family’s haunted house. In one grotesque scene, he transforms himself into a worm that the dad Steven (Craig T. Nelson) swallows with his tequila. The parasitic entity possesses the guy and tries to rape his wife before being vomited out as a hideous, scuttling monster. Watch these two memorable sequences: A Stranger and Let Me In.
REVEREND LESTER LOWE, played by Everett McGill in “Silver Bullet” (1985). With the over-hanging brow that made him a perfect caveman in “Quest for Fire,” McGill is a scary-looking dude under the best of circumstances. As the werewolf in this tale from Stephen King, he’s even more terrifying. And the odds are against his target: a wheelchair-bound boy whose dopey uncle (Gary Busey) arms himself with only ONE silver bullet.
ANTHONY TIPET played by Keith Szarabajka in “The X-Files” (Season 8, Episode 7). Tipet is the leader of a religious cult who preaches that the Via Negativa or “path of darkness” is the true way to reach Nirvana. With the aid of a super-amphetamine, he’s able to open his third eye—literally a disgusting eyeball on his forehead—and enter people’s dreams to murder them, ala Freddy Krueger. Tipet racks up 20 kills this way in addition to his wife, whom he simply bludgeons to death.
REVEREND HARRY POWELL, played by Robert Mitchum in “ Night of the Hunter” (1955). As this bogus preacher and serial killer who sports the words “LOVE” and “HATE” tattooed across the knuckles of each hand, Mitchum is even more menacing here than he was as a rapist stalker in “Cape Fear.” The charismatic Rev. Powell woos the unsuspecting widow of his former cellmate to get his hands on hidden loot from a robbery. After marrying and murdering her, he relentlessly tracks her two children. The atmospheric film was inspired by the true story of Harry Powers, hanged in 1932 for the murders of two widows and three children in Clarksburg, West Virginia. Here are two memorable scenes we’ll call Not My Dad and Sleepless Preacher
ZOMBIE PRIEST played by Tony Sedgwick in “28 Days Later” (2002). Mild-mannered bicycle messenger Jim awakens from a coma to find London is besieged by zombies (worse still, fast ones) and he takes refuge in a church. An ominous sign is that the words “The End is Extremely F—ing Nigh” are scrawled on the wall. Jim is relieved when a priest emerges—until the infected clergymen tries to eat him alive.
FATHER ZACHARY MALIUS, played by Charles Cragin in “Happy Hell Night” (1992). Friendly neighborhood priest Father Malius goes crazy and slaughters seven frat boys at Winfield College, then is committed to an asylum. Twenty five years later, fun-loving students from the fraternity stage a prank at the booby hatch, and Father Malius is inadvertently freed. It appears that he has not been entirely cured, because the psycho priest promptly launches a bloody spree of murder and mayhem.
CZAKYR, played by David Sawyer in “Children of the Night” (1991).Townsfolk in peaceful Alburg were delighted when a European clergyman came to minister to them – until he began to “interfere with” children and feed on their blood. Cornered, the false priest Czakyr commits suicide, taking his young victims with him. The locals bury him in a crypt beneath the church and flood it. But when a pair of teenage girls take a late-night dip in the water, Czakyr is awakened and attacks them, unleashing a vampire plague. Before long, the town has become a bloodsucker haven like Salem’s Lot.
CARDINAL PATRICK ROARK, played by Rutger Hauer in “Sin City” (2005). Shielding pedophile priests just isn’t good enough for this corrupt and sinister church official. He protects his nephew Kevin (Elijah Wood), a cannibal serial killer who murders women, eats their bodies and mounts their heads on his wall. Cardinal Roark joins in the grisly meals and frames Mickey Rourke’s tough-guy hero for one of the murders — sins he answers for in this scene.
BISHOP ANTHONY LILLIMAN, played by John Standing in “V for Vendetta” (2006). Bishop Lilliman is a twisted pedophile as well as a high-ranking official in a fascist party that has taken over Great Britain. Despite his penchant for young girls, the bishop doesn’t mind trying to rape twenty-something Natalie Portman when she comes to warn him of his impending assassination, as we see here.
FATHER ANTONIN, played by Jack Palance in “Deadly Sanctuary” (1969). In this version of the Marquis De Sade’s “Justine,” Father Antonin livens up monastery life by subjecting the title character to torture and sexual abuse. Palance is no stranger to over-acting, but this performance is over-the top even for him, one critic calling it “one of the most bizarre ever seen on film.” Perhaps he was trying to balance out the wooden star Romina Power, daughter of screen legend Tyrone Power. “She was a like a piece of furniture,” director Jesus Franco later grumbled. “It was as if I was making Bambi 2.” Well, Bambi 2 with nudity and sadism.
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The author of this article also penned the highly acclaimed horror novel Hour of the Beast.
C. Michael Forsyth is the author of "Sir Arthur Conan Doyle & Harry Houdini in The Adventure of the Spook House,""The Blood of Titans," "Hour of the Beast" and "The Identity Thief." He is a Yale graduate and former senior writer for The Weekly World News