In honor of our next Fright Club Live – where we unspool the unhinged French horror show Sheitan (French for Satan) – we decided to pick through all the performers who’ve played the dark lord onscreen. George Burns to Dave Grohl, we considered them all. Here, though, is our list of the best of the best.
5. Jack Nicholson (The Witches of Eastwick- 1987)
Old Jack really breathed life into the idea of wretched excess in this one, coming across equally as frightening and charming. Appropriate. He seems to be playing off of his own persona, but given the comedic nature of the effort, and the absurdity that this slovenly old cuss could seduce three stunning, intelligent women (Susan Sarandon, Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer) – well, it’s a charm Nicholson seemed to come by naturally, so why not exploit it here?
4. Peter Stormare (Constantine – 2005)
There are two reasons to remember this film – Tilda Swinton and Peter Stormare – and luckily they have one epic scene together. But Stormare manages to even outdo the effortlessly glorious Swinton – androgynous perfection as Gabriel – and that’s something to crow about. He’s been preparing to play the dark lord ever since he pushed Steve Buscemi into that wood chipper in Fargo. Once he got the shot, he was sinister, funny, frightening…and eventually undone by Keanu Reeves, which was almost enough reason to leave him off the list, but not quite.
3. Viggo Mortensen (The Prophecy – 1995)
There is no question this film belongs to Christopher Walken – as do all films in which he graces the screen. His natural weirdness and uncanny comic timing make the film more memorable than it deserves to be, but when it comes to sinister, Viggo Mortensen cuts quite a figure as Lucifer. Unseemly, gorgeous and evil, he seethes through his few scenes and leaves the celluloid scorched.
2. Robert DeNiro (Angel Heart – 1987)
De Niro’s well manicured and articulate Louis Cyphre perfectly balances Mickey Rourke’s handsome slob, and both fit beautifully into this sultry version of 1955. It’s really a beautifully made film, courtesy of Alan Parker, who adapted William Hjortsberg’s novel Fallen Angel and directed the film. Deceptively bloody, unusually classy, effortlessly creepy, Angel Heart stays under your skin. Maybe it’s the casual evil, the lurid atmosphere. Maybe it’s De Niro’s understated menace, with those long nails and that hardboiled egg.
1. Tim Curry (Legend – 1985)
Best Satan Ever. That voice, the sultry way he drawls out every syllable, the sweltering inappropriateness of his seduction, the look. Wow. This image clearly influenced both South Park‘s vision, as well as the Dave Grohl part in Tenacious D’s Pick of Destiny. But Curry pulls it off like no one else. Tim Curry is the world’s greatest sweet transvestite, the world’s greatest terrifying clown, and the world’s greatest Satan. Too bad the character is trapped in such a crap film.