As far as movie-monsters go, vampires, werewolves, and the creature-from-the-black-lagoon have long been out of favour.
Zombies’ time in the sun finally seems to be ending (their resurgence in popularity lasted a long time, they’re probably well-tanned by now).
Now the cultist is the in-vogue monster.
Our morbid fascination with cults and cultists, and the perverse ideologies that drive them, is hardly new (the earliest film on this list was made in 1968, and there are far earlier examples) but these fears feel relevant again; eight of the following films were released in the past decade.
A cult is terrifying when viewed from the outside; a collective, controlled by someone or something, driven by a religious or idealistic fervour to do horrible things for unfathomable purposes.
Often these films revolve around a protagonist, who either knowingly or unwittingly infiltrates one of these strange communities, realising only too late that they have no chance of escape - any allies they’ve made along the way inevitably turn out to be cultists, who betray them at the crucial moment.
In the following list we’ll look at some of the films that have best explored cults. Not every film is explicitly a horror, but there’s something skin-crawling about them all the same.
Our hero, Thomas (Dan Stevens), knowingly infiltrates a cult on a remote island, somewhere off the coast of Wales. The cult is holding Thomas’ sister captive – they have demanded a ransom, but Thomas hopes to rescue her once he gains their confidence and learns where they're keeping her.
The commune is led by the charismatic Prophet Malcolm (Michael Sheen), who founded the cult alongside two others. Another founder, Quinn, begins questioning Prophet Malcolm’s leadership after a series of dubious decisions; a power struggle is brewing.
Life on the island appears to be peaceful, but it isn’t long before Thomas discovers hints of the grim origins of the cult and the source of their prosperity - an enslaved god who grants the cult bountiful harvests in exchange for sacrifices. The god was content with animal sacrifices before but that is changing - now it’s demanding something more substantial…