It’s October, and for a lot of people today, that means candy, costumes, and scary movies. But for Catholics, that trio doesn’t always go over so well. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with candy and costumes (well, most costumes, at least), but horror movies often get a bad rap in our circles. A lot of Catholics say they glorify evil and promote dangerous occult practices, so we would do well to stay as far away from them as possible.
But is that really the case? Is the entire genre really that bad? I don’t think it is. Sure, there are some horror films we should definitely avoid, but that’s true in every genre. Horror doesn’t have a monopoly on spiritually or morally bad movies, and if we know where to look, there are actually quite a few that have very Catholic messages. So if you’re looking for some good horror films to watch this Halloween season, I’d like to give you a few recommendations. I’m a huge fan of the genre, and here are five of my favorite scary movies that align really well with our Catholic faith.
1) The Exorcist
Despite its reputation as one of the scariest horror movies of all time, The Exorcist is also one of the most Catholic. For starters, it acknowledges the existence of a spiritual world beyond what science can discover, and it affirms that the Catholic Church possesses the weapons we need in order to fight the supernatural forces that technology and medicine are helpless to defeat.
On top of all that, The Exorcist also tells a beautiful story about a man’s struggle with faith and his ultimate redemption. One of the main characters in the movie, Fr. Damien Karras, loses his faith early on in the film, but by the end of it, he dies in a state of grace. It’s a touching journey that shows how God can use the devil’s schemes to save his lost children, and if that’s not the entire purpose of Catholicism in a nutshell, then I don’t know what is.
2) The Conjuring
Admittedly, this pick might be a bit controversial. The Conjuring is based on the late Ed and Lorraine Warren, a husband and wife paranormal investigator team most famous for their involvement in the Amityville case (made famous in the movie The Amityville Horror), and to this day, they remain highly controversial in Catholic and secular circles alike. So if you know who the Warrens are and you just can’t get into a movie based on them, I totally get it.
However, I didn’t know much about them before I saw this film, so I have no problem disassociating it (as well as its sequels) from the real-life Warrens, and if you can do that too, then The Conjuring will offer one of the best, most Catholic horror experiences you’ll ever find. While it fumbles the ending a bit, on the whole it’s a great story about God triumphing over the devil, so if you want a horror movie that will nourish your soul while scaring you silly, you can’t do much better than this one.
3) Deliver Us from Evil
Much like The Conjuring, this next film is also based on a real-life paranormal investigator, New York City police officer Ralph Sarchie (although much more loosely). In this movie, Officer Sarchie starts out as a lapsed Catholic, but through a string of related cases culminating in an exorcism, he comes to realize the truth of his childhood faith.
Aside from the general message, there are two things about Deliver Us from Evil that make it a truly Catholic horror film. For starters, it emphasizes the importance of repentance for our sins and reconciliation with God. In most possession movies, the priest performs the ritual, the victim is freed, and everyone goes their separate ways, but this one is different. It emphasizes that we can’t fight evil if we’re estranged from God, so it highlights the importance of practicing our faith. It even includes a scene where Sarchie goes to confession for the first time in years. How awesome is that?
Secondly, the film also features one of the best cinematic priests I’ve ever seen. Sarchie is helped along in his reversion by a Jesuit priest named Fr. Joe Mendoza, and this guy is awesome. He shows that priests aren’t just boring old men who try to snuff the joy out of people’s lives. Rather, he feels like a real 21st-century person, and he makes no pretense of being perfect. He shatters the preconceived notions that many people today have of the clergy, and he does it while remaining faithful to the Church from beginning to end. He’s worth the price of admission alone, and when you add in all the other things Deliver Us from Evil does right, you get a top-notch pick for your October watchlist.
4) The Girl with All the Gifts
The Girl with All the Gifts is a British zombie movie from 2016 that takes the typical zombie apocalypse scenario and adds a unique twist, setting it apart from its countless mediocre peers. Instead of focusing on the zombies we’re all familiar with, this film is actually about “second generation” zombies, kids whose mothers became infected with the zombie contagion while they were still pregnant. As a result, the children formed a symbiotic relationship with the contagion, and it gave them some zombie-like tendencies that they struggle to control.
Like many of the best zombie movies, the antagonists in this one aren’t actually the monsters. Rather, the real bad guys here are the people who don’t recognize the humanity of these second generation zombies. They treat the children like garbage, and some even want to experiment on them, so one little girl has to show them that her kind really are human. She has to prove that she’s more than just an animal, so at its core, this is a story about our shared humanity and the equal dignity we all have because of it. It’s about the value and the right to life of every human being, so even though The Girl with All the Gifts doesn’t explicitly deal with religion, it’s hands down one of the most Catholic horror movies of this millennium.
5) A Quiet Place
The most recent film on this list, A Quiet Place is another one that conveys a very Catholic message even though it doesn’t explicitly deal with God or the faith. In this story, the world has been overrun by monsters that hunt by sound, so the few remaining humans have to live in almost complete silence. The movie follows one family, the Abbotts, as they try to survive in this new world, and it’s all about the love they have for one another. In particular, it’s about the love the parents have for their children, and in a special way, it’s about the father of the family, Lee Abbott.
Unlike the Peter Griffins and Homer Simpsons of the world, Lee is a great role model for men everywhere. He dedicates his life to his family, and he shows them a tender love that really exemplifies what a Catholic man should strive to be. He’s the perfect antidote to the incompetent father trope we’re blasted with just about everywhere we look in pop culture today, so you might even want to wait and save this film for Father’s Day instead. But whenever you choose to watch it, I highly recommend giving A Quiet Place a shot if you haven’t seen it (or watching it again if you have!). It really hammers home the importance of family, sacrifice, and human life in a way that few other Hollywood productions do, so it’s truly one of the most stealthily Catholic movies ever made.