Sommerleigh Pollonais, Horror Head Writer
The devil is in the details. The Devil made me do it. We’re gonna have a devil of a good time! Can you guess where I’m going with this? Yes my lovelies, this week I’m taking my measuring stick (damn, that sounded dirty) and lining up some of my favourite performances where actors get to portray the horned-one himself, The Devil! DUN! DUN! DUN!!!
All kidding aside, I know this might be a topic that some people may find uncomfortable. I have friends who love horror but refuse to watch any horror movies with religious iconography in it because, in their words, “it feels too real”. So let me start by saying, I’m leaving religion at the door here. I respect everyone’s beliefs and I’m the furthest thing from an expert when it comes to that stuff. I’m just looking at performances that, good film or bad, made a lasting impression on me. So with that out of the way, here are my TOP 5 FAVOURITE DEVILS IN A HORROR MOVIE:
#5 Gabriel Byrne in End of Days
End of Days is one of those you movies you either like or you don’t, and most of the people who enjoyed it (guilty as charged) tend to be hardcore Arnold Schwarzenegger fans. While I readily admit it’s a hokey movie with more action than horror to it, one of my favorite elements here was Gabriel Byrne ( The Usual Suspects/Miller’s Crossing) as The Man (which is what he’s credited as in the movie) or, for those of you paying attention, El Diablo!
Byrne is totally having fun with the performance, playing the devil trying to get laid before midnight in 1999 so he can bring about the, ahem, End of Days. And my favourite scene was watching him try to tempt old Arnie to the darkside. This is The Terminator we’re talking about, so things don’t go as planned. And all I’ll say is, this is one of those cheesy, over-the-top movies you have to see for yourself to believe. Oh, and the giant devil in the feature image is The Man in his final form.
Favourite devilish line: “Something good happens, ‘It’s His Will’. Something bad happens, ‘He moves in mysterious ways’.
#4 Viggo Mortensen in The Prophecy
The Prophecy is hands and hooves down one of the best, yet least known, horror movies out there. A bunch of movies and even television shows have tried, with varying degrees of success, to come up with an entertaining story of angels fighting demons. And, while the sequels to this movie aren’t great, The Prophecy is the one film I think that stands above them all.
A big part of that success has to do with Christopher Walken as the archangel Michael and Viggo “Aragorn” Mortensen as Lucifer. A lot of movies tend to portray the devil as seductive or sexy (the television show Lucifer is a big example of this) but here, he’s the furthest thing from it. First of all he seems like he smells awful. Have you ever watched a movie and felt like you could actually smell a scene? That happens to me every time I see Viggo in this movie. Mortensen doesn’t have a lot of screen time here and shows up closer to the final act, but he makes a hell (pun intended) of an impact. And by the time he’s done, you might find yourself saying a little prayer under your breath, just to feel safe again.
Favourite devilish line: “I can lay you out and fill your mouth with your mother’s feces, or we can talk.”
#3 Max Von Sydow in Needful Things
So we’ve had a menacing devil and a terrifying one so far, how about I throw in a mischievous one? Needful Things was the movie adaptation of the Stephen King (who else?) novel of the same name. It is a simple story of a small town with small town people going about their lives and dealing with small town drama, until one day a man calling himself Leland Gaunt moves into town and opens up a little shop. This isn’t your ordinary store though, as Gaunt seems to know the deepest desires of each shopper and sells it to them for what on the surface seems like a small price. Until it isn’t.
Critics swing left and right when it comes to this movie, but one thing they seem to all agree on (as do I) is Von Sydow’s performance as the man who reveals himself to be so much more than just another antique shop owner as the destruction he helps sow unfolds. It’s the kind of performance that stands out and remains memorable long after you might have forgotten everything else in this movie. A performance so good, Dan Harmon did an entire Rick and Morty episode that satirised it. And can I just say how awesome Rick and Morty is! Sorry, but I can’t help it, I’m a die hard fan.
Favourite devilish lines:
Buster: “I just killed my wife. Is that bad?”
Leland: “Hey, these things happen.”
#2 Robert De Niro in Angel Heart
It’s a bloody shame this movie didn’t get the accolades it so rightfully deserved upon its first release in 1987. Thankfully it’s never too late, and Angel Heart has gone on to become a critical darling and a cult classic, in huge part because of De Niro’s performance as Old Scratch.
Going by the name Louis Cyphre (get it? Lu-cifer? You get it) he hires a private investigator named Harry Angel played by Mickey Rourke (The Expendables/The Wrestler) to find a singer named Johnny Favorite, only for Harry to figure out the hard way exactly who he’s working for and why his client wants to find the singer (SPOILER ALERT, it’s soul collection time!)
De Niro plays the devil here in a more reserved way than most of his counterparts. Well at least until he reveals exactly who he is to Rourke and then all bets are off. Eerie settings, fantastic dialogue and a grounded atmosphere that only makes De Niro’s performance that much more frightening, if you haven’t seen Angel Heart you’re missing out not just on one of the absolute best performances by Mickey Rourke, but on a great genre flick as well.
Favourite devilish line: “That’s it Johnny… take a good look. No matter how cleverly you sneak up on a mirror, your reflection always looks you straight in the eye.”
Honourable Mention: Elizabeth Hurley in Bedazzled
I know, I know, this isn’t a horror movie per se or even a thriller, but it does have one of the most memorable versions of the devil (and one of the sexiest) ever brought to screen. Hurley absolutely slays as The Devil trying to take poor Brendan Frasier’s soul, so leaving her off a list such as this one wouldn’t just be wrong, it would be downright sinful.
#1 Al Pacino in The Devil’s Advocate
If there was ever an actor born to play this part, it’s Al Pacino.
In a movie that stars the likes of Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron, Pacino overshadows them head and shoulders every time he pops up on screen. The movie itself is quite good, with great visuals (for the time) solid atmosphere and an interesting premise, but I can’t imagine it would’ve been as well received as it was if not for Pacino’s terrifying, yet totally charismatic performance.
This might be a weird thing to say, but if the devil were to actually take form and walk around, I’m thinking he would look, talk and act a lot like Pacino does here. That’s just how convincing he is in this role. From his facial expressions to his epic line deliveries, Pacino doesn’t just play the devil here, he becomes him. And, as messed up as that sounds, it’s one hundred per cent a compliment.
Favourite devilish quote: “Vanity, definitely my favourite sin.”
So that’s my list. What’s your favourite devil performance in a horror movie? For my Top Scariest Santas in Horror Movies you can click here. And for more than 170 horror movie lists and reviews you can click here.
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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