(Welcome to The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, a series that takes a look at slightly more obscure, under-the-radar, or simply under-appreciated movies. This week we get a bit devilish and go looking for great movies starring Satan or his imps.)

Satan. Beelzebub. Lucifer. Ol’ Scratch. Big Red. Old Horny.

The name might change along with the look, but the one constant in Satan’s numerous onscreen appearances is that he’s something of a jerk. He’s always spreading evil, stealing souls, and being a general pain in the rear end for no reason beyond a simple desire to cause suffering. The devil is a fairly frequent visitor to the silver screen, and he’s unbound by genre, gender, or general guidelines – because he’s the devil.

Tim Curry’s devil (Legend, 1985) is big and imposing, Robert De Niro’s (Angel Heart, 1987) is mysterious and fond of eggs, Elizabeth Hurley’s (Bedazzled, 2000) is playfully wicked, John Carpenter’s (Prince of Darkness, 1987) is a mathematically inclined jar of swirling goo, Bill Cosby’s (The Devil and Max Devlin, 1981) is currently serving three to ten in a Pennsylvania State Correctional Facility – the list of memorable appearances by the devil is legion. But what about the lesser known ones? The onscreen devils that haven’t passed over from hell into the undying hellscape that is pop culture?

Keep reading for a look at some of the best movies you haven’t seen starring the devil… or reasonable facsimiles thereof.

I Trapped the Devil (2019)

The holidays can be a difficult time for people, and family often makes it worse. Steve finds this out the hard way when his Christmas plans are interrupted by a surprise visit from his brother and sister-in-law. What are those plans you ask? Well, Steve has the devil locked in a room in his basement, and he needs to watch over the bastard because he’s pretty sure someone is coming for him.

Fans of slow-burn horror will want to seek out writer/director Josh Lobo’s feature debut as it introduces the characters, reveals the setup, and then lets the tension grow minute by minute en route to a deadly finale. Is the person in the basement actually the devil? I’ll leave that for you to discover, but Steve’s belief is more than enough to infect the house and its occupants with doubt and fear which in turn begins to fester in viewers too. Scott Poythress and A.J. Bowen do great work as brothers unable to bridge the distance that’s grown between them – and the devil in the basement certainly isn’t helping in that regard.

One of the film’s strengths is in its approach to our very perception of evil. Our desire to find someone or something to blame for the horrible things that happen to those we love can lead to all manner of mental gymnastics – something the film captures well through the elaborate display of newspaper clippings linked together by conspiracy-colored string. It’s easier for some people to accept a supernatural, external force affecting our lives than it is to believe in random chance or the banality of man’s own evil deeds, but belief and experience aren’t always aligned. Especially when, you know, the devil is locked up in your basement.

I Trapped the Devil is not currently available but will be released by IFC Midnight on April 26th, 2019.

Errementari (2017)

A blacksmith living in a small town in 19th century Spain is shunned and feared for the secrets and nightmares locked away behind his gate. Two people enter his life – one is a government agent suspecting the blacksmith of hoarding ill-gotten gold, and the other is a young orphan girl made accidental witness to a nightmare. Also in the mix? The devil named Sartael that the blacksmith keeps locked and chained in a cage who claims he’s owed the man’s soul. It was his bad luck to make such a deal with perhaps the meanest man alive.

This Spanish fable explores the life of a very bad man whose deal with the devil brings him safely home from the war only to reveal why such deals are a fool’s errand. The film makes his presence a threatening one, but just as we come to accept him as the antagonist the story shifts and surprises with new introductions and revelations. It’s a blend of thrills both historical and supernatural, character growth, and a blackly comic heart. It’s great fun for folks who don’t mind darkness pouring from every corner of their morality tales.

This is also a minor cheat on my initial list premise as the devils here are mere demons and not the big red one. I’m allowing it, though, because Sartael is both referred to as “the devil” and looks the part with his red skin, sharp horns, and a pitchfork. He’s made a deal for a human’s soul too, and as the film moves into the third act more little devils – and one not so little – make their appearance too. Lots of terrific practical effects work fills the screen leading to an ending that nearly demands a sequel. For the record, I’m demanding one too.

Errementari is currently streaming on Netflix as one of the service’s Originals.

Father’s Day (2011)

A serial killer with a particularly nasty M.O. has returned after a ten-year hiatus, but now he’s back to assaulting and killing unsuspecting dads. A pair of now-grown siblings whose own father was murdered by Chris Fuchman team up with a priest and a male prostitute to stop the madman, but they discover a startling truth. The killer is actually a demon, and their fight with the unholy beast will bring them all the way to hell.

You know how people say a movie isn’t for everyone? Well, that’s true about every movie, but it’s even more true about this one. The entire thing is a wildly offensive ride built on inappropriate bones (and at least one boner), but it’s not designed solely to shock and disgust. There’s a smart dissection of revenge movie tropes beneath the latex, T&A, grisly violence, and fake blood, and for those in the right mindset there are also plenty of laughs. It’s an Astron-6 production, and while their best film remains The Editor (2014) I’ve got a soft spot for this ridiculous romp.

Like Errementari above, the demon at the heart of the film isn’t actually the devil, but Satan does make an appearance at the end in an unlikely guise – both in character and the choice of performer. The demon elements are gooey, gory, and every bit as abrasively over the top as the rest of the film as our heroes head into the bowels of hell. The abrasiveness spills over into the visual style of the film too as its low budget and intentional “grindhouse” look might prove challenging for some viewers. Most viewers even. But it’s their loss as this is the kind of movie that entertains every time you watch and continues to delight as you attempt to summarize it for friends, family, and passersby.

Father’s Day is available to stream and on Blu-ray/DVD.

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