In her monthly column, guff-film buff Diane Spencer sorts the cinematic wheat from the chaff, then throws all the wheat away. This month she kindly rounds up the very best onscreen satanic rituals. Contains spoilers and Rik Mayall (just for a change).
So it’s Halloween. YAY another pagan festival bastardised by Clinton cards and their ilk. Superstar of the night has got to be The Devil. If you invoke the Devil, you better have something relevant to say/do/offer. Ideal offerings kinda depend on what Devil you call up.
What?! Yes. The original meaning of the word Satan was ‘messenger of God’. You could have ‘a’ Satan, as in a messenger of God. This was in the time that God liked to send Gabriel round with a trumpet to flatten cities and steal the firstborn children. God before the inquest, as I like to call him.
Also, depending on which mythology you start with – maybe you’re heading into the realms of voodoo – you’d better know whether you should have high-quality rum or a goat on offer (I mean, you make different options for your vegetarian guests right… RIGHT?!).
Then, if you really insist on calling up the Devil, you must admit he exists. There can be no Devil without God, therefore you accept the existence of God. Now, you have to accept you know about the existence of God, who can offer heavenly bliss for eternity, and yet you’re choosing to back the three-headed dude and accepting some circle of hell where depending on what your major vice was, you might be frozen in a lake of ice, or drowning in a lake of boiling blood.
This is, of course, in reference to Dante’s Inferno, which contains a useful map. So if you are planning to call up the Devil, he does make it round your house, you offer him the right rum and after 40 years of earthly bliss you get dragged to hell by Mephistopheles, at least you’ll know your way around.
Anyway, here are some of my favourite films and television programmes that celebrate the Devil, who historically had absolutely nothing to do with All Hallows Eve (Fuck you Clinton Cards and all your kind).
Bottom (BBC, 1995) Episode: ‘Terror’, produced by Ed Bye
Richie and Eddie are two violently deranged no-hopers who share a flat in Hammersmith. The humour is loud, brash and full of slapstick but they are very British in their attempts to carry on no matter what. In this episode they decide to call up the Devil so they can get a shag. This beautifully illustrates the utter ridiculousness of it all – they have to make a pentangle, but they have no pens, so they make a penciltangle. They have no pumpkins, so they make exploding carrots. They have no cowls so they wear their dressing gowns.
This episode also features Rik Mayall wearing a Halloween outfit that leaves nothing to the imagination – it’s essentially a pair of tights that he keeps defecating into. It’s nostalgically wonderful, silly, violent and funny.
The Ninth Gate (Roman Polanski, 1999)
You can tell Roman Polanski is involved. This film is about a professional arsehole and bookseller played by Johnny Depp. There’s a book that can conjure up the ninth gate of hell and there are rich insane people who are trying to work out how to make the book ‘work’. Everyone is trying to use the book to open the ninth gate. Why you would want to is beyond me but then again, I’ve always been a sheltered soul.
During this particular satanic ritual, everyone is rich, in black velvet capes wearing pentagrams and has only turned up to have sex. It ends with the hostess being strangled with her pentagram and the entire house being burnt down, which some would argue is a modicum of success.
After pissing off a cloudy-eyed gypsy and evicting an old woman from her home, a wannabe bank manager gets her comeuppance. You’re not supposed to view it like that but my sympathy is somewhat split between the protagonist and antagonist. Once the wannabe bank manager is cursed, she seeks professional devil-busting advice, and this particular ritual involves a talking possessed goat. I’m not kidding. Ba-dum!
Constantine (Francis Lawrence, 2005)
To those who haven’t seen the film, John Constantine is a chain-smoking psychic with crazy tattoos who performs regular exorcisms in an attempt to banish as many demons as possible back to hell, because once he committed suicide and went to hell briefly before they revived him. Oddly enough he didn’t enjoy it much, and is now working to earn points with the big guy for that stairway to heaven.
For those who have seen the film, yeah, I know I said favourite satanic rituals but he does conjure the devil with more success than most, in that not only does the Devil turn up, but they have a conversation, then the Devil cures his cancer. OK, it’s not much of a ritual, admittedly and I wouldn’t recommend it to any first-time triers as it is essentially slashing one’s wrists in a basement. But as we see throughout the film, Constantine is also a travel agent, able to book short breaks in hell, travelling to them via the medium of bathtubs, so he knows what he’s doing.
I enjoy this film’s depiction of hell as an alternative universe that overlaps our own; I do not enjoy Rachel Weisz’s American accent, which flits from American to British to pirate to farmer.
End of Days (Peter Hyams, 1999)
Want to get your kiddiewinkles into Satanism early? Waiting for their teenage goth phase seem too long? Never fear! In this film, you can see how Satan’s offspring will drink snake blood straight out of the womb. This baby comes pre-tattooed, bearing a satanic mark, because what is religion without pointless symbols?
Scroll forward many years and ‘Christine’ is a young lady who has been groomed to be Satan’s babymaker (think Kate Middleton with a shorter haircut). Around this time, Gabriel Byrne is possessed by the Devil in a restaurant toilet. This is a slightly more appropriate Devil entrance, I think and it is up to Arnold Schwarzenegger, ex-cop and dead family man, to stop him from having sex with his chosen babymaker – yes, that’s the role of women in this. What is appealing about how this film is written is how the Devil treats his acolytes with contempt, sadistically killing them for any trivial mishap which under God’s employment plan would contain be a couple of hail Marys at best.
If you want to conjure the demon “Hafaffaffafaafafaaaafaaffff” just read this article six times, watch these clips six times and smack your head on a wall six times yelling his name, then the demon “Hafaffaffafaafafaaaafaaffff – keeper of the migraine” will appear. Happy Halloween.4567 Views
Diane Spencer is a standup comedian and writer. Her favourite genres include comedy, horror and sci-fi. Loves halloumi.