Type in “visitor from hell” on Google and you get about 12,900,000 results in 0.17 seconds. There are ghost stories, a site for a traditional Irish band called Visitor from Hell and stories about unpleasant house guests. But I was more interested in actual visitors from hell. Celluloid demons, tortured souls and devilish characters that somehow manage to slink back from the depths of movie hell to visit us here on Earth.
Nicolas Cage, who emerged from hell in 2004’s Ghost Rider, comes back from the depths for the second time this weekend in a movie called Drive Angry, playing a dearly departed father back on this mortal coil to avenge the death if his daughter. According to that movie, hellions rarely escape and return to Earth, but a quick look at other hellhound films reveals a different truth.
Lots of actors have played Earthbound versions of Satan. In The Private Lives of Adam and Eve, Mickey Rooney played Old Scratch as a piano-playing jokester in red long johns and a straw hat with horns. Tim Curry played the Devil on TV in an episode of Dinosaurs called “Life in the Faust Lane,” and years before he became an Academy Award-winning composer, Danny Elfman did a strange Cab Calloway impression of Satan in the very odd film Forbidden Zone
But the most diabolically playful Devil to hit the big screen has to be Jack Nicholson as Daryl Van Horne in The Witches of Eastwick. As a mysterious character who grants wishes to three excitement-hungry widows, Nicholson made the wicked character unforgettable, but he wasn’t the first choice for the role. Bill Murray was.
Probably the most famous representation of hell on Earth came in the form of one of the devil’s underlings, Pazuzu, who inhabited the body of poor little Regan (Linda Blair) in The Exorcist. The images of Blair spitting pea soup and doing a 360 head spin have become the film standard for possession.
Not all of hell’s citizens are out to do us harm, however. Director Guillermo Del Toro turned his favourite comic book into two fiendishly fun action movies—Hellboy and Hellboy 2: The Golden Army—starring Ron Perlman as the World’s Greatest Paranormal Investigator, a red skinned demon named Hellboy who helps mankind by bumping back against the things that go bump in the night.