Congratulations! Since you’ve expressed interest in this piece, we recognize that you are a prime candidate worthy of all the horror glory our community has to offer! As honorary members of the incredible horror fandom, you can count yourself as a member of one of the world’s largest growing cults. The genre welcomes people of all races, ages, genders, religions, nationalities, you name it!
We’re an accepting crowd that forms a loyal community dedicated to gore, the strange, mayhem, monsters, the unknown, and the supernatural. Grab your white gowns, your juice of choice, and all of the town virgins as we worship 12 Creepy Cults taking the modern horror era by storm. Beware, there are spoilers ahead for you outsiders who haven’t yet caught up on your scriptures.
12. The Paimon Cult of Hereditary (2018)
All hail King Aster, right? Some were moved by Ari Aster’s film debut Hereditary, like my 22-year old sister who screamed into the dead of night from Toni Collette nightmares weeks after we saw the film together. Others claimed to be underwhelmed or indifferent to the emotional horror. Mixed reviews aside, we all have to agree that Hereditary was an impressive explosion within the horror genre.
After the death of Annie Graham’s eccentric and estranged mother, her family experiences an extensive range of grief, terror, and continued trauma all at the hands of the hip, new spirit in town. The crowned Goetic (a practice that includes the conjuration of demons) entity is looking to cash in on the male host he was promised, clearly unhappy with the female one he was defaulted. Promising the soul and body of others, especially your own family members, might be considered unfair, but Paimon’s coven considers it pure dedication. Given the level of intensity Hereditary’s hype reached, it’s safe to say we were all under Paimon’s influence whether we wanted to be or not.
11. The Lunar Cult of House of the Devil (2009)
Being sacrificed to the devil was one of the last things I expected to happen to me while babysitting as a teenager (unless I was going to sit for that one particular family down the block…), but now that I’ve seen Ti West’s retro-tastic House of the Devil, I’m a little more appreciative of the choices I’ve made to earn a steady income.
Poor Samantha Hughes is desperate for work when she happens upon an ad for easy money: one night of babysitting…or so she thought. The family that hires her, the peculiar Mr. and Mrs. Ullman, do not have any children, but instead need Samantha to care after their ailing matriarch for one evening. Samantha agrees, but bites off way more pizza than she can chew. After an eerie few hours of impending doom, Samantha figures out that The Ullmans want more from her than babysitting on the night of a very special lunar eclipse. What they want is her body, Rosemary’s Baby-style! A terrifying showdown between her and the satanic worshipers ensues leaving her with a figuratively full stomach under the light of the full moon.
10. The Invitation Cult of The Invitation (2015)
Karen Kusama’s slow burn The Invitation made cults hot again. Like dinner parties, they seemed to be a thing of the past, but are now more popular than ever, and done up in gusto. It’s a modern film centering around Will, a grieving father who attends a dinner party hosted by his estranged ex-wife, her new boyfriend, and their friend, Pruitt who are all equally strange. As Will is plagued by memories and suspicion, his paranoia mounts and he is unable to control his feelings toward the hosts’ motives. If you think the tension is built up enough, the third act kicks it into fourth gear.
The Invitation is not only a well-made, intriguing horror-adjacent film, but a necessary arch under cultism. Will’s experience is a portrait of trauma and a character study as to the type of people who look to cult communities for relief. In the end, Will learns that a lot of people, a lot more than just the dinner party’s participants, have experienced tragedy of some kind. The Invitation looks at those who struggle with addiction, depression, PTSD, mental illness, and all other dilemmas and how the acceptance, counsel, and understanding of a cult’s unified bond helps them move forward towards the light of that slow burning candle.
9. The “Jonestown” Cult of The Sacrament (2014)
By far, one of my favorite films on this list is Ti West’s The Sacrament. West sure does like his cults, huh? That’s okay, because we do too! The Sacrament is not only one of the best films dedicated to the story following a cult, but is also a great found footage take on the experience of observing a secluded, religious following under the control and gospel of a Jim Jones-like leader. When four Vice reporters visit their friend’s sister who’s joined a compound-based cult called Eden’s Parish, one that strikes a realistic setup to Jonestown (complete with a power-tripping, egomaniac leader at the mic), things go from intrigue to horror real fast.
All seems well and peaceful until a secret plea for help alters their plans. Of all the days to visit the commune, Judgement Day is the least ideal. All of the members have a date with death by drinking the cyanide laced juice committing a mass suicide that simulates mass sacrificial tragedies we’ve seen for ourselves in reality. A logical reason for the community’s death is still never quite clear, but then again, is it ever?
8. The Blood Cult of Apostle (2018)
Netflix has curated an impressive selection of viable resources, more recently and specifically being Gareth Evan’s (The Raid) period piece, Apostle. Set in early 1900’s Europe, a jaded man of the Christian Cross (arguably cult 1 of 2 in this story), Thomas, travels to an isolated island on a mission to rescue his kidnapped sister from dangerous cult. It is only when he arrives that he finds out exactly how the members live off of the land. The land strives off of blood, human blood, acquired by bloodletting and sacrifice of those who disobey the rules set by charismatic clan leader, Prophet Malcom.
In the vein of The Crucible, when members begin pointing fingers at one another and power is dangerously shifted in a matter of hours, all hell truly breaks loose. The true source of the land’s fertility is revealed, relationships are tested and broken, and the concept of religion itself turns into a nurturing weapon of mother nature.
7. The Hollywood Cult of Starry Eyes (2014)
Show business seems to be the proxy of choice when it comes to soul collecting and group think organization on the west coast. Hollywood has always been the mouth to hell for budding actresses, aspiring actors, and everyone else looking to “make it big” in the entertainment business. To those chasing the dream, reaching fame and stardom is worth losing everything, even their souls. Is it a matter of luck, talent, or the devil himself? What price would you pay?
The Hollywood hills run rampant with the liquid gold that is desperation, aspiration, and determination. Cults in need of a pure, willing virgin soul to sacrifice to their god only need to go so far as posting a casting call. I wonder which celebrities are still the owners of their own souls? (I have my doubts about Tom Cruise, personally.)Dennis Widmyer & Kevin Kölsch’s Starry Eyes shines the spotlight on sweet, innocent Sarah whose only wish is to be a star. When she experiences the harsh exploitation of Hollywood and encounters the fortuitous promises of a cult dedicated to the demon named Astraeus, Sarah gets one hell of a ‘transformation’ that would inspire jealousy from the most evil of entities, like Tyra Banks.
6. The UFO Cult of The Endless (2017)
Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s Spring was a low-key hit, but their follow up film, The Endless, succeeded in ways the modern horror genre idolizes. This slow, but steady push of two brother’s worlds colliding is an interesting portrayal of dependency, family, and the bonds that imprison or free us from the reality we reside in. In a unique portrayal, Benson and Moorhead write characters who have already once escaped the life of a cult, one similar to those described right here in this list. What they dare to write further is about what happens with they return.
Justin and Aaron escaped a UFO death cult as young boys, thanks to Justin’s perseverance and irreverence. As adults they struggle to fit in, can’t pay their bills, and often find themselves disagreeing over minor instances. When a random, mysterious videotape lands at their doorstep, Aaron immediately wants to return, but Justin is more than fairly hesitant. What the brothers find when they return to the camp is phenomena beyond their wildest beliefs, strange matters of time loops and holes, and everything the cult had promised. The scariest part is not what happens when they return to —, it’s their droning daily lives that has is filled with the most common of struggles. Benson and Moorhead allow us to take a peek behind the curtain to see what happens to the survivors. Do they remain victims or do they leave their past behind?
5. The Death God Cult of The Ritual (2017)
4 guys walk into the woods…
Okay, so this isn’t exactly a bar joke, but it sounds like one at first. David Bruckner’s Netflix hit, The Ritual, caused swarms of viewers to convert to streaming upon release and quickly proved to be more than a horror gag. Based on Adam Nevill’s novel of the same name, The Ritual centers on a group of men traveling the Scandinavian forests following the tragic death of their friend. When one wrong turn leads directly to another… and another after that, the men quarrel their way deep into the wilderness and are soon entrenched in Nordic lore.
Behind the trees lurks something more ancient and sinister than anything they’ve encountered before. When they begin to lose trust in their eyes and in each other, the woods exposes its secret. The men are not only being hunted by this supernatural beast, but it’s the devout congregation enslaved to it that the men should truly fear. Nature needs a sacrifice, in one form like that of random occurrence, or by forced brutality. The Nordic beast can only be satisfied with the latter.
4. The American Cult of The Purge Series
Gods, demons, and other supernatural deities are often the focal point of a cult’s worship, always giving us that sliver of doubt and relief that it’s all not real. When it comes down to more common, realistic elements like racism, greed, and power, reality sets in and those obsessed with obtaining the possible are true, terrorizing threats.
No film or series has recently made more of a statement regarding group-think and modern day issues like James Demanaco’s The Purge and its subsequent trio of sequels is a very sobering what if? that proves mob mentality is just as deadly as it is infectious. The New Founders of America, NFFA for short, seems like the type of political group whose logo could be found on the bumper of a pickup truck, a group that litters the town in plastic yard signs come election season, one whose rally video is shared by a coworker on Facebook.
This organization values wealth and genetics, eventually overthrows the government as we know it (I guess it can get worse), and puts a plan into place eradicating undesirables from the nation by allowing all crime, including murder to be legal for 24 hours. While many may confuse their purpose with being religiously motivated, we must pay attention to who the members are truly praying to: the NFFA. They worship themselves hidden behind christian inspiration to serve their agenda when needed. Too close for comfort? I thought so too.
3. The Teenage-Satanist Cult of The Babysitter (2017)
I’m not sure what a hotter topic is in the horror genre right now, cults or babysitters, but McG’s The Babysitter gives us a flaming hot dose of both. Burning its way onto the horror scene like the new blossoming girl next door, this purposeful dark humor satisfied a lot of modern horror cravings. Tropes are obliterated, blood is spilled, and decades of eternal youth and beauty.
Cole is in love with his much older babysitter, Bee. She has it all: she’s beautiful, smart, fun, and she has a pretty sweet ride. Think she has it all? Well, she does, but it comes with a pretty bloody price tag. Bee recruits other students in her high school to to participate in a satanic ritual that will give them everything they want. She basically forms The Breakfast Club of cults, except these students possess millennial drive and determination. Cole witnesses their evil sacrifice and from there its a battle of wills to destroy one another before the parents get home. Demonic worshiping always comes at a price and the motives always vary, but The Babysitter’s only reason is simply that a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.7
2. The “Heaven’s Gate” Cult of The Veil (2016)
Netflix is full of hidden gems and one of my absolute favorites is Phil Joanou’s The Veil. It is similar to The Sacrament as it follows the story of one central leader who convinces his clergy of followers to commit mass suicide in hope of reaching the holy land. The Veil, however, has a special secret ingredient mixed in its lethal deep sleep cocktail.
Determined documentary filmmaker Maggie Price is hellbent on locating missing footage recorded during the mass suicide of the members of Heaven’s Veil, a religious convent lead by Jim Jacobs. With the help of the sole survivor, Maggie’s brother, and a small film crew, she discovers more about the tragedy of Heaven’s Veil, but seems to have stuck her nose into something she can’t figure out. What makes this cult so different than the others? Jacobs‘ ultimate destination was not exactly a paradise of a different world. It’s an interesting plot twist that really plays up the third act of a what-would-be average or unoriginal film on Netflix. The Veil’s cult sure knows how to flaunt its true motives for the camera.
1. The Children Of The New Dawn of Mandy (2018)
There had to be some powerful magic of the occult at work when Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy was conjured up. As a neon-lit, adrenaline-injected, revenge-fueled ode to love and loss, Mandy depicts one of this generation’s most memorable cults and the man who eviscerates them. Hippie narcissistic cult leader, Jeremiah Sand, and his band of “Jesus Freak” disciples cross paths with Red and Mandy, a couple living a tranquil existence away from society. When Sand sees Mandy for the first time, he covets her for his own and is bent on converting her to be one of his followers, something Mandy downright refuses. His acts of violence against her and Red are colorfully brutal, but in good old Cage style, Red seeks revenge on each and every member.
He serves up justice for his lost lady love, giving us all a reason to gather behind him and cheer him on. The Manson-esque cult is taken of guard, but their horde of undead soldiers puts up a good, carnage-filled fight. Instantly, our hero of the decade, Red, superstar director, Cosmatos, and glorious idol, Mandy, turned us into vengeance-seeking, Cage-loving, rebellious art-house worshipers.
Nic Cage really is our god now! Kneel.
Now that you have been exposed to the multitude of cult groups that have taken over our genre the last decade, it’s time to make a choice. From novice teenage occultists to powerful ancient beings, some of these cults are far out of this world and others seem like they create the genetic makeup of our own country. Some entice you to think outside of the box, others lure you into their grand conformity. Each is special in their own unique way, each knows how to reel in just the right kind of follower.