Jesse’s Top 5 Supernatural Thrillers

Written by Jesse Gelinas July 23, 2014

CHristopher Walken and Amanda Plummer in "The Prophecy"

I’m a big fan of movies with a theological twist. Religious and spiritual flairs on dark, broody thrillers can make for some great cinema. So it only makes sense that these supernatural thrillers tend to be among my favourite genre films. And you won’t find a better crop of these supernatural thrillers than in the 90’s. With angels, demons, ghosts, and monsters abound, it was a great time for the genre.

5. The Devil’s Advocate (Hackford, 1997)

The Devil's Advocate, a 1997 supernatural thriller

“I’m a FAN OF MAN! I’m a humanist; maybe the last humanist.”

This movie tends to be pretty divisive. On the one hand, you have Keanu Reeves being his usual boring self in a muddled mess of Grisham style law jargon, and psychological horror. On the other hand, Al Pacino turns in a fantastically over the top performance as John Milton, a seedy law tycoon who also happens to be the Prince of Darkness. I’m of the mind that regardless of the movie’s semi-uneven tone, it still holdsĀ together pretty well. The movie is full of creepy scenes, engaging moral dilemmas, and loads of quotable dialogue. So, if you want “a little inside information about God”, this supernatural thriller is a good place to start.

4. The Ninth Gate (Polanski, 1999)

he Ninth Gate, a 1999 supernatural thriller

I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to smoke around the priceless artifacts.

Out of all the Polanski films to choose from, I’ve re-watched this one the most. Johnny Depp does great as Corso, a rare book dealer hired by Frank Langella to find a tome allegedly written by the Devil himself. What follows is a dark, twisted journey across Europe against the backdrop of occult rituals with murderous stakes. Fearing for his life, and accompanied by a seemingly inhuman protector, Corso has to race to discover the secret of the Nine Gates. Depp is the best thing this supernatural thriller has going for it. But a solid mystery, cool cinematography and a sweet score make the film well worth your while.

3. Fallen (Hoblit, 1998)

Fallen, a 1998 supernatural thriller

“Remember this, Hobbes. What goes around… really goes around.”

Mixing crime drama with demonic horror, “Fallen” follows Detective Hobbes (Denzel Washington), trying to figure out how Edgar Reese could be murdering people again when he was just executed. How, you ask? Turns out the demon that possessed Reese has moved on and is carrying on his work through other hosts. This supernatural thriller contains some fantastic performances from Denzel, John Goodman, and James Gandalfini. There’s also a brief but memorable scene from Elias Koteas (of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” fame) as Edgar Reese. The mystery here isn’t in who the killer is, but how to stop a killer that can transcend flesh, physical reality, and even death.

2. The Prophecy (Widen, 1995)

The Prophecy, a 1995 supernatural thriller

“I’m an angel. I kill firstborns while their mamas watch. I turn cities into salt. I even, when I feel like it, rip the souls from little girls, and from now ’til kingdom come, the only thing you can count on in your existence is never understanding why.”

“The Prophecy” holds a special place in my heart; I’ve been watching it since I was a young boy. And I enjoy it more and more as the years go on. In this supernatural thriller, there’s a war in Heaven over the fate of humankind, and the archangel Gabriel (Christopher Walken) is on Earth to ensure the darkest, most evil soul in existence fights for his side. Walken steals the show with his unmistakable swagger and terrific dialogue. Elias Koteas (again), Virginia Madsen, and Eric Stoltz round out the cast, and Viggo “Aragorn” Mortensen shows up in one of my favourite portrayals of Lucifer in film.

1. Angel Heart (Parker, 1987)

"Angel Heart", a 1987 supernatural thriller

“No matter how cleverly you sneak up on a mirror, your reflection always looks you straight in the eye.”

Few movies can balance substance and style as well as Alan Parker’s “Angel Heart.” Mickey Rourke (pre-boxing career) plays Harry Angel, a New York P.I. hired to find an old crooner named Johnny Favourite. The client, a mysterious man named Louis Cyphre (read it aloud a few times) seems just as interested in Angel’s past as he does in finding his target, but you won’t know why until the end. This supernatural thriller takes us to the dark, voodoo-ridden underbelly of New Orleans, and manages to keep you guessing and disturbed with its violent imagery and razor-sharp dialogue. It’s a noir-ish detective story with a demonic edge.

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About Jesse Gelinas

After years attempting to escape the Matrix, Jesse has accepted his fate as a writer and Senior Editor. Now that's he finished with his film degree, it gives him something to do while waiting for the machines to get careless.

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