The Satanic Panic, which began in the 1980s and spread through the 1990s, is a moral panic related to satanic ritual abuse and the fear that society is being tainted by the devil. It all started with a book published in 1980 by psychiatrists Lawrence Pazder and Michelle Smith, entitled Michelle remembers. The book makes several unproven allegations of satanic ritual abuse that began to grip the nation and led to a massive moral panic.
The satanic panic really took the world by storm. From the McMartin preschool trial to spreading deep-seated conspiracy theories. In the 1980s, people began to take a closer look at pop culture and the media to make sure their children weren’t being exposed to “Satanic influences.” This led to groups forming to ban things like Dungeons & Dragons, rock and metal music, and various TV shows.
Satanic panic is still somewhat prevalent today, mostly in the form of unsubstantiated claims by conservative Christians and online forums like QAnon. The Satanic Panic is an error-based insanity fueled by a lack of education and understanding. That said, it has resulted in a catalog of films inspired by folly. Let’s look at some of the best.
7 The Incantation: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021)
Also called The incantation 3this is the eighth installment in the summon universe and premieres in 2021. The film stars Patrick Wilson (insidious) and Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel) reprising their roles as paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. The film is based on the 1981 murder trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson, which marked the first time in US history that a murder suspect claimed demonic possession in his defense.
Farmiga and Wilson are great as always, but that aside The devil made me do it is a tired installment of the franchise compared to the others. However, considering references to the Satanic Panic, this film is full of it. It’s filled with the horrors of demonic possession and witchcraft, with the overarching theme largely being the fear of the devil himself.
6 We Summon the Darkness (2020)
We summon the darkness touched on pretty much everything that constituted the satanic panic. It’s the ’80s, there’s a satanic cult on a nationwide killing spree, and teenagers are traveling to see heavy metal shows. It even features Johnny Knoxville (donkey) as a sinister pastor.
The film has a few twists and turns that keep audiences entertained, and there’s also a clever sense of humor that counts We summon the darkness a really funny movie. Also, the 1980s backdrop adds to the mood and emphasizes the moral panic of the time. Despite these outstanding elements We summon the darkness has a 69% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and has received mixed, mostly average, reviews.
5 Trick or Treat (1986)
trick or treat is a funny 80s horror film that really doesn’t seem to get the love it deserves. The film plays on a familiar facet of satanic panic – the evil of rock music. Those who truly believed in the Satanic Panic thought that rock music was pure Satanism and used as a vehicle to deliver evil messages and corrupt children’s minds. The premise of trick or treat is that when someone plays a dead heavy metal rocker’s record (Tony Fields) backwards, it brings them back from the dead with the power to kill their critics and indeed anyone who might have offended them.
The film really captures the moral panic surrounding rock music and its connection to Satan, and even features cameos from rock legends Ozzy Osbourne and Gene Simmons. Both have been widely criticized for being disciples of the devil and for spreading twisted messages through their music and imagery.
4 Satanic Panic (2019)
Released in 2019, this comedic horror film explores the fear of satanic cults and ritual sacrifices. It’s about a delivery driver who delivers a pizza to a mansion in a very affluent neighborhood. But when the owner forgoes a tip, she enters the mansion to demand one. Upon entering, she stumbles into a secret cult gathering and the members kidnap her to use in a virgin sacrifice. This forces them into a nightly fight for their lives against a group of creepy, murderous cultists.
Satanic Panicis a very self-aware film that can poke fun at itself and embellish the ridiculous nature of the plot. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and while it’s certainly not an award-winning hit, it’s a fun late-night watch for fans of the horror genre looking for a little campy gore. It is somewhat similar to the 2019 horror film Ready or Notalso about a family that is in a satanic cult.
3 The Omen (1976)
The Omen originally debuted in 1976 and then big stars like Gregory Peck (Killing a mockingbird) and Lee Remick (Anatomy of a Murder). It’s about a child named Damien Thorn who is adopted by Robert (Peck) and Katherine (Remick). After a series of dark events and warnings from others, Peck begins to wonder if his adopted son might be the Antichrist.
The Omen was a box-office hit and became one of the top-grossing films of 1976. After the film’s success, it became a franchise with Damien: Omen II 1978; Omen III: The Final Conflict 1981 and Omen IV: The Awakening in 1991. The original was released in 2006 with Liev Schreiber (headlight) and Julia Stiles (10 things I hate about you) in the leading roles. There is also a prequel in development titled The first omenwith Arkasha Stevenson making her directorial debut.
2 The Exorcist (1973)
The fear of demonic possession and the need to call a priest to your home in the middle of the night to perform an exorcism is very much inspired by Satanic Panic. When The Exorcist Premiered in 1973, it was a huge hit and critics thought it was genuinely scary. It became a horror classic almost immediately. It has been criticized and controversial for some of its disturbing, grotesque imagery and content, and it has even been protested by a Christian group in London.
Since its debut The Exorcist has built a long-lasting legacy and continues to terrify and disturb viewers to this day. As with most successful films, a franchise consisting of five more films soon followed. It was supposed to be a remake of the original starring David Gordon Green (Halloween) set to direct. However, after backlash from fans of the original, plans changed and there will be three direct sequels to the original instead of a remake.
1 Hail Satan? (2019)
While the 2019 documentary isn’t some embellished, gory movie meant to scare you Hail Satan? has to be the best piece of satanic panic inspired media as it is actually educational and serves a higher purpose. It is a documentary about the Satanic Temple directed by independent filmmaker Penny Lane. It details the origins of the Temple, including interviews with members and co-founders Lucien Greaves and Malcolm Jarry, and also focuses on the organization’s political activism. The documentary features events and demonstrations of activism and shows the Temple’s commitment to upholding separation of church and state against conservative Christians.
Hail Satan? directly combats the perceived notions of satanic panic that were prevalent in the ’70s and ’80s by showing the behind-the-scenes operations of the Temple and giving audiences a glimpse of what the organization does and what it actually means to be a satanist. While it is instructive and important, given the political climate, Hail Satan? also manages to convey a playful undertone. All of these aspects combine to create a must-see documentary.