Googling "cult movies" does not help
April 10, 2021 8:35 PM   Subscribe

I really loved "Midsommar" and am now really enjoying a horror novel about a fictional religious cult. Are there other movies/shows/books about "creepy stuff that happens in cults"? (It has to be fiction though. I don't want to watch anything about real people getting hurt.) Thanks!
posted by AngerBoy to Media & Arts (40 answers total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
One obvious thing is 'The Wicker Man' (1973) which has a swell soundtrack!
posted by ovvl at 8:51 PM on April 10, 2021 [18 favorites]

If you can find it, I recommend Mysterious Two. Here, it's a cult of UFO chasers led by a pair of charismatic speakers. It's a very tense film, a lot of the tension arising from your uncertainty about just what "The Two" are up to and what will happen to their followers.
posted by SPrintF at 8:59 PM on April 10, 2021

Best answer: As far as search terms go you could try "Folk Horror" which will get you a fair number of movies with pastoral settings that feature pagan cults. The Wicker Man and Blood on Satan’s Claw are the big ones that inform the genre.

As far as general cult movies go:

The Endless
The Invitation
Children of the Corn
The Other Lamb
The Believers
posted by forbiddencabinet at 9:05 PM on April 10, 2021 [10 favorites]

Martha Marcy May Marlene is pretty good.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 9:08 PM on April 10, 2021 [8 favorites]

Truth Seekers on Amazon Prime has a cult subplot. It's influenced by the X-files and Kolchack and has Simon Pegg in it. It's supernatural but a bit campy. I really enjoyed it.
posted by stray thoughts at 9:14 PM on April 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

Equinox on Netflix!
posted by farkleberry at 9:29 PM on April 10, 2021

The found footage anthology horror sequel(!) V/H/S 2 has a great segment called “Safe Haven” about a cult in Indonesia.
posted by ejs at 9:55 PM on April 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

kill list has a cultic connection.
posted by 20 year lurk at 9:56 PM on April 10, 2021 [2 favorites]

Wicker Man (already mentioned) sounds like what you're looking for.

Ticket To Heaven also comes to mind.

This movie is based on a book called "Moonwebs" about a Canadian who was sucked into the Moon cult.

posted by philip-random at 10:02 PM on April 10, 2021

The Third Day.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 11:13 PM on April 10, 2021

Hot Fuzz plays cult for larfs.
posted by BobTheScientist at 11:15 PM on April 10, 2021 [4 favorites]

For a medieval version, I seem to recall that the antagonists of the Black Death (with Sean Bean!) were a cult.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 11:40 PM on April 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

Population 436 has a good bit of the localized weird that everybody except the stranger is in on.
posted by zengargoyle at 12:37 AM on April 11, 2021

The astonishingly-good-for-a-Kevin-Smith-movie movie "Red State" revolves around a very intense family-church-cult.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 1:10 AM on April 11, 2021 [2 favorites]

The VVitch isn't technically about a cult (were the Pilgrims a cult?), but it has that "isolated with a strange presence" vibe that Midsommar and Wicker Man both have. Maybe Witchfinder General, but that's mainly fun for Vincent Price...
posted by kingdead at 1:59 AM on April 11, 2021 [7 favorites]

Yeah, cult vs religion vs just psychos is a pretty thin line. Bone Tomahawk might fit or The Hills Have Eyes (2006 film) may or may not fit depending on where you want to draw the line between psychosis, cult, and religion. Go figure. Is The Texas Chain Saw Massacre a religion or a cult or a family of psychotics?
posted by zengargoyle at 2:41 AM on April 11, 2021

The Ritual, based on a book by Adam Nevill.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 3:30 AM on April 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

Emily St. John Mandel's novel Station Eleven centers on a traveling troupe of actors after the collapse of civilization, and the rise of a cult led by a self-proclaimed prophet.
posted by evilmomlady at 5:27 AM on April 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

the ninth gate. tw: polanski, depp
posted by 20 year lurk at 5:33 AM on April 11, 2021 [2 favorites]

Donna Tartt's The Secret History might scratch some of your itches.
posted by Johnny Assay at 6:05 AM on April 11, 2021

I think Hereditary fits the bill, and it’s by the same writer/director too.
posted by ambulatorybird at 6:12 AM on April 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

No one's mentioned Rosemary's Baby yet? (Unfortunately also Polanski but! both this and The Ninth Gate were based on excellent books, so if you want to read them as an option, there's that.)
posted by cobaltnine at 6:16 AM on April 11, 2021 [4 favorites]

Strong second for The Wicker Man (the 70s one) and The Invitation. I liked The Sacrament, which is fictional, but is based on Jonestown, so not sure if it’ll hit too close to a real tragedy for you.
posted by SoftRain at 8:42 AM on April 11, 2021

I have heard good things about First, Become Ashes. However this comes with a huge warning that it's kind of an erotic sex abuse cult situation. So if you read the Goodreads reviews they are basically a bunch of one-star and a bunch of five-star reviews so take a look and see if it's for you (it was not for me) because if it is, you'll really like it. Another cult book I really enjoyed was the whole run of the Planetfall series, but #2 After Atlas really does have a lot of interesting cult throughlines (basically a person whose dad joined a cult and he was one of the ones who left the cult, then he has to go back to the cult to solve a mystery....) and you can read it as a standalone.
posted by jessamyn at 9:06 AM on April 11, 2021

The book Flicker has a culty thing going on. It’s about movies. I can’t say more without spoiling the plot, but I really enjoyed it.
posted by Night_owl at 9:42 AM on April 11, 2021

Sound of My Voice
Eyes Wide Shut
Holy Smoke
posted by nanook at 10:27 AM on April 11, 2021

The entirety of the 1978 TV miniseries version of The Dark Secret of Harvest Home is on YouTube. Not as good as the novel, but nothing really is and it has Bette Davis.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:03 AM on April 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: As mentioned above Folk Horror is the genre you want to be looking for (Previouslies and a previous Ask me). The core works of that genre (though there are many other examples) are Wicker Man, Blood on Satan's Claw and Witchfinder General. Of those, Midsommar was particularly influenced by the original Wicker Man. There's no shortage of religious cults in horror films (there's loads of Witch and/or Satanist cults in films) but not all have as part of their horror the Folk Horror aspect of the isolation of the geography and a third party encountering an atavistic religion which leads to their doom which might be more what you're looking for.

In any case here's a bunch not mentioned above, slightly randomly chosen, not necessarily Folk Horror and certainly not exhaustive:
Cult of the Cobra (1955)
Night of the Demon (1957)
Night of the Eagle (1962)
Eye of the Devil (1966)
Curse of the Crimson Altar (1968)
The Devil Rides Out (1968)
Jonathan (1970)
Twins of Evil (1971)
Werewolves on Wheels (1971)
Necromancy (1972)
Messiah of Evil (1973)
Psychomania (1973)
La casa della paura (1974)
La papesse (1975)
Race with the Devil (1975)
The Devil's Rain (1975)
To the Devil a Daughter (1976)
The Sentinel (1977)
The Dark Secret of Harvest Home (1978)
The Legacy (1978)
Eyes of Fire (1983)
Invitation to Hell (1984)
Rawhead Rex (1986)
The Lair of the White Worm (1988)
Bless the Child (2000)
Savage Messiah (2002)
The House of the Devil (2009)
The Borderlands (2013)
Colonia (2015)
Holy Hell (2016)
Sacrifice (2016)
Errementari (2017)
Hagazussa (2017)
Hastrman (2018)
Seven Stages to Achieve Eternal Bliss by Passing Through the Gateway Chosen by the Holy Storsh (2018)
Perempuan Tanah Jahanam (2019)
Satanic Panic (2019)
Spiral (2019)
The Lodge (2019)
Antlers (2021)
posted by Ashwagandha at 11:09 AM on April 11, 2021 [13 favorites]

Death of Me (Netflix). Kind of a spoiler, though. I found it problematic in some respects, but I guess lots of movies featuring a cult from a culture different than the protagonists’ own can come off as othering.
posted by liet at 12:32 PM on April 11, 2021

Loving Ashwagandha's list, esp inclusion of The Devil Rides Out, The Lair of the White Worm, Night of the Demon and Errementari. I would absolutely add A Field in England to that list.
posted by glasseyes at 1:30 PM on April 11, 2021

Last Days by Brian Evenson is about about an ex-cop investigating a murder in a cult of people who believe they get closer to god through the acts of voluntary amputations. Definitely "creepy stuff that happens in cults".
posted by slimepuppy at 2:03 PM on April 11, 2021

Lambs of God
posted by 15L06 at 2:17 PM on April 11, 2021

A Darker Place by Laurie R. King
posted by bq at 2:24 PM on April 11, 2021

Response by poster: Some fantastic answers in here - I now have a beautifully-curated watchlist that should take me a few years to get through!

Thanks everybody, especially those who helped me learn the phrase "Folk Horror" - that has made subsequent online searches much easier.
posted by AngerBoy at 3:53 PM on April 11, 2021

If you're open to a podcast, The Old Gods of Appalachia might suit you.
posted by workerant at 5:47 PM on April 11, 2021

How about The Stepford Wives book & movie ( the original 1975 version- not the remake!)
posted by Champagne Supernova at 9:09 PM on April 11, 2021 [2 favorites]

thirding The Endless!

oblique shoutout to the multimedia folk horror canniness of the Scarfolk Council.
posted by bendybendy at 10:05 AM on April 12, 2021

I glean that you might be looking specifically for horror movies--which this is not, but The Master is about a cult, loosely based on Scientology.
posted by polecat at 1:51 PM on April 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Serpent Club posted some articles for their Folk Horror February, including a list of over 100 films.
posted by Dirk Squarejaw at 8:32 AM on April 13, 2021

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