As of today, I have seen Jacques Tourneur’s excellent The Curse of the Demon at least half a dozen times. (The film, released by Columbia in 1957, is also known as Night of the Demon.)
I regard films involving demonology as potentially the scariest of horror films. After all, there are ways to overcome vampires, Frankenstein monsters, mummies, werewolves, and zombies; but no one can overcome Satan himself. The script is based on a famous short story by M. R. James entitled “Casting the Runes.” You can find a copy of the story by clicking here.
Dr. John Holden (Dana Andrews) is a skeptical investigator sent from the U.S. to England to speak at an international conference on the paranormal, shortly after one of the other speakers dies gruesomely outside his home. It is suspected that Dr. Julian Karswell, a British Satanist, was involved.
Karswell meets Holden in the British Library Reading Room, where he chivalrously reaches down and hands Holden a file he has dropped. Inside that file is a strip of paper with an ancient runish curse that Holden will die at 10 pm several days hence.
As the time approaches, Holden and the niece of the dead investigator try to understand what is happening and to cleverly circumvent it.
Along the way, there are weird sequences when Karswell summons the powers of darkness to scare Holden and convince him that he is a goner.
This is a film worth seeing multiple times. Watch out that you don’t bite your tongue while munching on popcorn during the scarier scenes.