8 Intense horror movies about freaky cults


There is just something amazingly creepy about movies portraying cults. It’s something we know happens in our world, and we’ve seen over and over again how a charismatic leader can get even the smartest individual spellbound. What is it that makes people fall to their knees? These 8 movies explore just that, some from within the sect itself and some unfortunate people who happen to stumble upon it.

The Ritual (2017)

The Ritual nordic cult

A movie filled with one bad idea after the next, like going to the northern mountains of Sweden. Trust me- I’m Swedish and it’s not the best vacation (Förlåt kära vänner, I’m not much of a patriot). The Ritual has many of the same cliches you’d see in any other horror movie, such as stupid decisions, tensions arising between the main characters, and jump scares in succession. BUT, it still works. Director David Bruckner used the horror recipe we all know and (some) love, while adding some spice of his own – and the outcome is very enjoyable.

The story begins with a beer-soaked night where friends Like, Phil, Hutch, Dom and Robert sweep pint after pint. Before making their way to the next party spot they stop at a liquor store, but while busy choosing a bottle of vodka, the place is being robbed and Robert is killed. Six months later the friends are on their way to northern Sweden to hike the mountains and spread Robert’s ashes on the top, a journey that turns out to be something completely different and far more dangerous than the group of friends expected.

Something that very often disappoints me in horror movies is the anticipated revelation of the antagonist. I’ve countless times felt that they are either fake looking or just straight out silly. The Ritual gets it right! Making us fear what we can not see, and then climaxing with an epic revelation which also happens to be a stunning scene. I’ve heard some people disagree, wished it was left unseen – but I for one loved it!

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Rosemarys Baby cult classic

Rosemary’s Baby might not be a horror in the typical sense. It is one of those movies where the horror creeps through in everyday situations. Director Roman Polanski doesn’t linger in obvious thrills, but rather lets the things we’re familiar with be the groundwork for what truly chills you to the bone.

Newly weds Rosemary and her husband move into their dream apartment in New York, a house previously used by devil worshipers. It doesn’t take long until Rosemary realizes she’s pregnant, which causes her to have strange dreams and grow suspicious of everyone around her.

Who would have thought that a director who made a movie with big feminist overtones would later be known as another one of the world’s biggest scumbags? Despite Polanski’s dreadful reputation, the movie’s supposed curse, and its old age – Rosemary’s Baby remains a horror icon that everyone should watch.

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Eyes Wide Shut elite cult

Kubrick was not unfamiliar to harsh critics at the premiere of his films, but he did not live long enough to experience the scornful reception of Eyes Wide Shut. A movie that was marketed as a hot erotic thriller but is actually a slow, carefully built up study of humanity, with long scenes and carefully thought out conversations.

Bill and Alice Harford are a successful New York couple. He is a doctor, and she is in the art industry, and together they share a large Manhattan apartment and a daughter. While the couple is under the influence of marijuana, Alice discloses a sexual fantasy she had about a man they met the past summer. The jealousy triggers something within Bill, who begins to see sex everywhere and wants to revenge Alice and her daydreams. The obsession leads him on a night trip filled with prostitutes, nightclubs, and finally, a strange, exclusive sex party outside of the city.

Eye’s Wide Shut offers a different kind of discomfort than Kubrick’s other movies. It doesn’t have stone cold violence like A Clockwork Orange, or the frightening shock aesthetics of The Shining. Here the discomfort sneaks up on you with stealth and leaves you feeling haunted and mesmerised. Eye’s Wide Shut is Kubrick’s final masterpiece.

The Endless (2017)

The Endless 2017 movie

I’ve already declared my love for directors Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson several times, but in this movie their passion is beyond obvious. The duo not only wrote, directed, produced and edited the movie – they also starred in it. They’re either control freaks like no other, or more likely on a tight budget. Not only am I surprised and mesmerised by the duo’s dedication, but I’m also completely captivated by the result of their creation.

Justin and Aaron have the roles of two brothers by the same names, who managed to escape a suicide sect they grew up in. They might share a bloodline, but the brothers are very different. Aaron feels bored by their new life and doesn’t remember the sect in the way that his big brother describes it. One day they receive a mysterious package which contains a home video with a message from one of the cult members. But is it really a cult? The brothers decide to return, if only for a day, to get closure – but will they get it?

A movie that takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions. Joy and humour mixed with wonder and fear. The unique script is far from predictable and the Justin’s performance of the role he wrote himself is amazing. Together, the duo has once again done something big with a very tiny budget.

Kill List (2011)

Kill List 2011

Kill List is a slow paced genre hybrid that leaves it up to the audience to figure things out. Nothing is hand fed. Director Ben Wheatley builds up the characters in a way that you both emphasize and despise them. It’s a movie without heroes or villains, but something that feels very real and raw.

Jay is a broken man in the British middle class who struggles to keep up with bills as well as keeping his marriage to Shel alive. In a conversation with his best friend Gal, they both decide to resume their old jobs as hitman in order to earn some quick cash. But there’s something that is not right with the employer, or the victims he wants killed.

A nasty, disturbing mood lies like a thin layer over the entire film, offering up small, subtle clues of what is to come. When things finally culminates nothing is really what you think it is. This British horror thriller is as dark as they come, leaving you with feelings of hopelessness. But Kill List also leaves enough unanswered questions to willingly go through the despair that is this movie again and again.

Apostle (2018)

Apostle 2018 religious cult

Apostle offers an experience that is as unpredictable as it is daring. Every time you think you have a grip on what kind of film it is and what path it’s taking, director Gareth Evans fuels the fire, stirs the pot, twists the knife- and you know, all the other idioms for making you feel bat shit crazy.

The year is 1905 and Thomas has been ordered by his father to go on a risky mission and save his kidnapped sister. Due to the father’s wealth she was a suitable prey for the fanatic cult, led by the “prophet” Malcolm. Thomas assumes a new identity, crafts a plan and heads off to the shielded island of Erisden, outside of Wales. If there ever was a god, this island was certainly forgotten.

I admire a director who dares to take his time in the genre of horror, (I know, can’t stop talking about how horror directors rock my world), and this is exactly what Gareth Evans did. The first half of the movie is a slow-burner that offers deep insight into our main character, while also making us familiar with the creepy island and the cult that occupies it. Then the madness begins. And the madness. Oh, the madness is horror perfection.

Get Out (2017)

Get Out 2017

I’m always thrilled when someone takes a director’s seat and shakes up the horror genre, and Jordan Peele certainly did just that! Get Out is contemporary horror at its best, proving that cheap scares aren’t all that the genre is good for. Get Out is not that scary on the surface, but it is terrifying on a psychological and sociological level – which can be far more eerie.

A young interracial couple, Chris and Rose, are about to go visit Rose’s parents. Chris is worried that he’ll be judged for being black, but his girlfriend jokingly disregards it, emphasizing her father’s delight in Barack Obama as president. But once they arrive, the suppression of race is expressed in several subtle but disturbing ways. Chris begins to suspect that the family is hiding something sinister, and that he himself might be in danger.

Get Out forces us as viewers to confront our own prejudices about class and ethnicity with its razor sharp scenes, modern satire, and splattering horror. Director Jordan Peele delivers a brutal and cynical social commentary about racism, juggling many genres at once but never ever dropping the ball.

1BR (2019)

1BR modern cult

1BR is an entertaining horror flick with a modern and interesting take on cults. It’s not a masterpiece by any means, and while predictable, it did hold my interest throughout.

1BR follows Sarah who recently moved from the middle of nowhere to L.A. With her mom’s recent passing and her complex relationship with her dad, Sarah wants to start fresh. She lucks out and finds a nice one-bedroom apartment and feels like she hit the jackpot, but the idyllic neighbourly apartment complex soon starts getting an ominous feel. Strange noises keep her up at night and a threatening letter puts her on defense. Are the neighbor’s friends or foes?

I appreciate that the movie got to the point quickly while still keeping focus on the character development. There’s still much left to be desired and I appreciated the concept more than the execution, nevertheless a nice flick if you’re a horror enthusiast like me. It sets itself up for a sequel, which I would definitely watch.

Written By


I've always had a deep love and fascination for movies, being an especially strong advocate for the weird, foreign, underrated, under-budgeted and unfairly NC17 rated films of our world. Cinesister is the embodiment of this passion (which some might call an obsession).

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