The subject of Hell incorporated in horror films has always been an area of intrigue. While we can make assumptions about what this dreaded place might look or be like, the mere thought of a single location dedicated to evil and darkness has always been food for nightmares. There are films that lean towards the biblical interpretation and those that lean towards the unsettling festering chaos. All in all it has long been a perfect subject for the fantastical proving alot of creative freedom to generations of movie makers.
Hell, simply is not the place you ever want to be or experience.
Removing hell based comedies from that statement (that often take humorous liberties of their own), Hell is supposed to be the arena for ultimate suffering, despair, pain, and mayhem. It is home to the devil and his minions who reside purely to receive newcomers and subject them to the ultimate in horrific experiences.
On that note we present a special feature article to the “Top Horror Movies that Go to Hell” (Hell in Film Depictions) that we feel really provide more than adequate presentations of Hell realized and brought to the screen. In preparing this list, I will say there have been a few that I’ve seen thorough the years that have left notable impact. That is not to say that Hell is a place that “should” be realized with elaborate CGI FX and wizardry but as a viewer experience.
There will be plenty of digitally created Hell environments and plenty more to come, however once in awhile a film comes along that really digs into the darkness with diabolical intent
To begin, my first 2 choices come directly form the “Extreme Cinema” side of things with 2 horrifying deadly entries into the Hell realm.
(not in ranking order)
01 – No Reason (2010)
First is a film by gore FX wizard Olaf Ittenbach called “No Reason”. “No Reason” is a movie that at present you can order overseas but that has yet to find proper US distribution. While the film requires subtitles it ultimately excels in practical effects visual imagery that has to be seen to fully experience. My recommendation here is just to check it out to get the full gist of the hellish ride it takes viewers into as its final act digs deep into Hells worst nightmares full of all sorts of dark and torturous circumstances.
02 – The Burning Moon (1992)
Olaf Ittenbach has been long heralded as a master of extreme cinema. His library of works proves this statement over and over with all sorts of horrific practical effects-based scenarios that rest heavily on gore and violence. In “The Burning Moon” a dying serial killer is welcomed into hell as he is tortured by demons. The scene is as nasty as they get really driving home the full impact of Hell’s domain. It’s brilliantly twisted chock full of unsettling imagery and creatures that is sure to leave a mark.
03 – L inferno (1911)
2 An ol classic by film standards, you may have come across snippets of images over the years used in illustration or documentaries that cover the subject of Hell. This classic silent piece from 1911 contains iconic imagery inspired by “the Divine Comedy”. From it, “Dante’s Inferno” has long been a reference point for hell-inspired films with this Italian masterpiece serving as one of the earliest ones. Incredible black and white imagery backed by some great set pieces make for one classic unforgettable ride. The final act brings us to the famed shot of 3-headed Satan devouring souls in the lowest level of Hell.
04 – Hellraiser II: Hellbound (1988)
You would expect every Hellraiser film to depict hell in some form or the other, though it was Hellraiser II: Hellbound that really took us into the abyss to visit the lair of the cenobites and the dreaded underworld per way of the “Lament Configuration,”. It is here we meet the entity the “Leviathan” that hovers above Hell as Pinhead and this minions are left to inflict pain and suffering. Hellrasier II was the teaser that left us wanting to know even more about the Cenobites underworld, though “that” form of follow-up film never seemed to materialize. Even so, we get a really dark and boding look at Hell and some of its many intricacies. Long live Pinhead and Cenobite Dr. Channard. A memorable Hell ride indeed!
05 – Event Horizon (1997)
The movie “Event Horizon” was one of the biggest cinematic dupes I’ve ever come across. Marketed as a science fiction film with horror overtones, Event Horizon ended up being that classification in reverse as it provided some truly chilling moments. The setting, tone, and presentation is as cold as the ship it resides on delivering one of the most effective Hell scenes ever created. Injected in as video recordings and flashbacks, we get more Hell in 5 secs than most films ever hope to achieve. The Event Horizon as we find out is a ship that has crossed over into Hell (called “pure chaos” in the film) only to return in tact with its crew missing. A rescue mission is sent out to investigate its disappearance only to find out its dark secret.
06 – What Dreams May Come (1998)
Robin Williams in Hell? This fantasy drama is by all accounts an after life film. Chris Nielsen (Robin Williams) is sent to Heaven leaving behind his grieving wife Annie Collins (Annabella Sciorra). When he finds out that she must now reside in Hell due to a suicide, Chris sets out to rescue her (even knowing the odds in doing so). The film is complimented with a high production level experience that is rich in visual imagery and set design. Hell is presented in a highly surreal manner that is full of creepiness and bleak surroundings placing this film firmly as a strong contender for best Hell scenes.
07 – The Cell (2000)
Hell is realized by looking into the mind of a dark serial killer named Carl Rudolph Stargher (Vincent D’Onofrio). Now for clarification, the film does not take its main character directly into Hell, but rather into the mind and psyche of our focal antagonist who is inherently evil.
Hell is “implied” but not professed so much in the literal sense of one traveling directly to. It is presented thru circumstance of one’s mind crossing over into who is deeply tormented and consumed in darkness. The scenery, props and imagery is one of the best Hell-rooted scenarios ever put to screen falling heavily between the experience of a nightmare and being thrown directly into an environment that it resides in. Hell in “The Cell”, is regal, demented, cold, lonely and quite often beautifully envisioned. It is a must see that is a product of creator Tarsem Singh’s brilliant cinematic work and style.
08 – Constantine (2005) | Spawn (1997)
2 selections that I felt were basically on the same style of Hell domain-style presentations. The meat of these 2 films is completely grounded in CGI imagery. Constantine is the front runner of this batch which has often received mention for its pretty cool looking Hell sequence. The green screening treatment was obvious, but we’ll still give it props for effort. The background scenery is beautiful and distressed all in one.
Spawn had potential, though I tend to believe that the production ran out of money and had to go cheap in the CGI department. Some of the CGI in Spawn’s Hell sequence takes me back to the 80’s and it’s first stabs at computer generated segments. Per the screen shot, Malebolgia tends to look like a high school created Chihuahua demon. None-the-less Spawn attempted a decent Hell but fell flat on visuals.
09 – Baskin (2015)
This movie is hot off the frying pan in the sense that upon this article it has yet to be officially released. “Baskin” is definitely worth a watch for its unnerving decent into Hell that appears to reside in an old Turkish building that contains a lower Satanic dungeon. Hell in this case has all the right injections…. debauchery, gore, festive feasting upon flesh, weirdly dressed cretins running around, and a demented grand leader named “Mehmet Cerrahoglu”. The film resides somewhere between the assumption of a nightmare and an assumed arrival into Hell. Baskin remains ambiguous in “that” sense but thru sequences and characters, it’s a pretty safe assumption. Regardless Baskin is a great film that goes to Hell.
10 – Legend (1985)
Jack (Tom Cruise) descends into the domain of the Lord of Darkness (Tim Curry) (aka Satan) to rescue Lilly (Mia Sara) from the bowels of hell. The film itself was meant to appeal to wide range of ages presented as a dark fantasy adventure, so the Hell was a bit on the lighter side than you might expect elsewhere. However 2 things come to mind on this film. 1) the makeup of the main antagonist “Lord of Darkness” was the best devil head ever created. (In fact you might want to pick up the Lord of Darkness here) and 2) the Lord of Darkness’s Hell is creepy, elegant and hypnotic all rolled into one.
11 – Silent Hill (2006) | Silent Hill: Revelation 3D (2012)
Silent Hill is franchise of its own universe. The town of Silent Hill contains a dark underworld packed full of odd creatures and dark entities. The films don’t make any particular claim to its darker levels as being “Hell”, however one could easily make the connection as it being Silent Hill’s own “version” of Hell complete with demonic characters, abominations, and bizarre characters. Silent hill has been described as an alternate dimension, or an otherworld of sort that falls somewhere between a dream state and a decayed existence. Some refer to it as purgatory (a really harsh one for that matter) while others claim it to be a Hell that is reflective of the mind painting it. We get it….. simply an environment that is rooted in the fantastical bound by the rules of its existence. However perceived, we feel Silent Hill movies are films that capture the Hell essence extremely well whether or not meant in the literal sense.
The Void (2016)
A new entry in Hellish settings per directors Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski. The Void has mature visceral flavor to it that makes it among the better films released in 2017. With a smart use of practical effects and cult-like plotline, The Void is bound to be a Hell favorite for years to come.
We are currently investigating other titles to see if they qualify for this list. We’ll make sure to update it as needed!