And now for something completely different! The publication of Dark Light: Dawn marks my first foray into the supernatural-horror realm. It’s actually more of a hybrid, with plenty more traditional action-thriller elements mixed in for good measure, toward creating a blend of science and superstition. The dominant theme is the whole issue of good vs. evil, specifically that proverbial battle’s very origins and how they connect to mankind’s ultimate destiny. So to commemorate the book’s publication, I thought it would be fun to look at past films, books and/or TV shows that have successfully explored similar mythology. The crème de la crème, in other words, that I can only hope Dark Light: Dawn stacks up well against.
The Exorcist: Rightfully considered the scariest film ever made, William Peter Blatty’s one-sitting, much-imitated horror tale was adapted by William Friedkin into a masterwork of elegantly paced terror. An exploration of faith set against an archetypal battle between good and evil and featuring some of the most famous scenes and one of the greatest openings in film history. But it’s Jason Miller’s faith-challenged priest Damian Karras who carries the day, ultimately a victim of his own newfound belief that evil does indeed exist but, then, so must good.
Rosemary’s Baby: Ira Levin rewrote the rules for the modern horror thriller in this classic that were similarly rewritten by Roman Polanski in the film version. Mia Farrow passed on joining then husband Frank Sinatra in The Detective to play the role that made her a star. She appears in every single scene of this terrifying treatise on urban paranoia where the neighbors next door are witches, in league with the devil himself to steal her baby. And that final scene, when Rosemary meets her baby for the first time, remains one of the most powerful in film history, narrowing the gap between good and evil.
The Omen: A terrifying film experience in every respect, with Gregory Peck’s Robert Thorn racing to solve a supernatural mystery that begins, and ends, with his own son. The wondrously dark action sequences and set pieces are equaled only by an ever-rising tension distinguished by pitch perfect pacing. Truly haunting in all respects, as it puts us in Thorn’s shoes, coming to the horrifying realization of evil’s existence as an entity in itself, a force of nature.
The Stand: Stephen King’s post-apocalyptic tale becomes a pop culture lesson in the battle between good and evil. Randall Flagg, the devil himself, aka “The Walkin’ Dude” who finds his time has finally come if he can just brush aside some stubborn survivors clinging to hope. This is the master’s greatest masterpiece, populated with memorable characters from both sides of the spectrum from Trash Can Man to the ageless Mother Abigail. My #1 favorite book of all time, but the film versions just haven’t measured up.
Devil’s Advocate: The final scene with Al Pacino brilliantly chewing up the scenery makes the movie worth watching for that alone. But the notion of the devil incarnate grooming his successor from the princely office of a top Manhattan law firm, under the name John Milton, is just too perfect to resist. Featuring arguably Keanu Reeves’ finest performance ever as the devil’s son and reluctant heir, this quasi-courtroom thriller takes the whole notion explored in Rosemary’s Baby post-modern in draping Satan in Armani instead of scales and a tail.
Supernatural: This television hit has survived a decade on the air by both exploring and rewriting the traditional good vs. evil mythology. Over the years we’ve been treated to a monster of the week, yes, but also angels and demons as well as Satan and the Almighty themselves making cameo appearances. Great pulp fun, steeped in noir and populated by heroes and villains who brilliantly manage to sell their roles.
Preacher: The pop culture AMC hit is kind of Supernatural on steroids: same ingredients colored in even darker shades—primarily red, given the over-the-top cartoon violence. The whole notion of the ultimate battle between good and evil for mankind’s very soul being staged in a small, sleepy Texas town is inherently irresistible and the series takes itself just seriously enough to work thanks to a roster of wildly colorful characters who sell its backwater take on an ancient mythology. Just where are the Texas Rangers when you need them anyway?
The Seventh Sign: Demi Moore’s tortured turn as a potentially doomed pregnant woman dominates this creepy, understated (and underrated) tale of God finally losing His patience and unleashing his wrath on a humanity that has lost its hope and its heart. The opening montage that marks the beginning of the end is taut and timeless, raising questions characters from a young rabbinical student to an ancient sinner seeking final peace are left to provide us answers for.
Okay, those are my picks. Now, how about yours? Any you’d like to add?
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