Belzebuth out now on DVD from RLJE and Shudder is a stylish and creative take on demonic possession with great effects and truly unsettling moments.
The Spanish/English film set primarily in Mexico between the border of the United States and Mexico is surprisingly scary. A Shudder Exclusive that tackles the possession trope with a great deal of aplomb. The premise is simple, but a nice twist and well placed scares deliver a final product that is truly memorable. A Mexican police officer investigates a series of horrific murders against children while struggling to deal with a tragedy of his own. Along the way he meets an American paranormal investigator who has history with the Catholic Church and a excommunicated priest that seems anything but holy. Writer’s Luis Carlos Fuentes and Emilio Portes who also directs pack a powerful punch.
The cast is good with the core three actors being standouts. Joaquin Cosio does a remarkable job toggling between heartbroken father, exasperated investigator, desperate man, and spoiler alert………true evil. He is asked to do a great deal as Detective Emmanuel Ritter. He portrays each component of Ritter’s journey with believable subtlety until he unleashes the beast. It is great performance that could easily have destroyed the movie if not done as competently as Cosio. Tate Ellington as paranormal investigator Ivan Franco is intensely likable even as he is making absurd requests in a ridiculous FBI-like rain slicker. His nerdy innocence allows for a through line of sincerity to what could have been an over the top plot. Tobin Bell was born to do horror movies. The man is just creepy. Whether he is devising ingenious death traps in Saw or playing a evil priest, or demon hunter, or savior of the world he is terror personified. His whispery graveled voice is equal parts air and malice.
The effects are well done. The scares are almost all psychological in the beginning with a much heavier focus on practical prop work later that is very effective. The most successful effect work comes midway through during a pivotal scene during an ill advised investigation. There is a particularly disturbing use of a ceramic crucifixion cross in a derelict church that must be seen. For those who have a fear of these religious icons it is not something you will soon forget.
Belzebuth feels urgent from the opening credits. In large part this is due to the infant and child deaths that come hard and fast. The scenes are long enough to increase the pulse and frustrate the viewer with their inability to save the fictional children. It is an especially effective bit of writing that becomes even smarter as the twist unfolds by the end. This is not your typical End of Days or demon story, but something entirely fresh. It is rich with religious and pseudo science making the many components of the story meld together in an interesting way. The many casually dropped bits of exposition sprinkled throughout the film piqued my interest and kept me guessing. Here are the three biggest questions left as the credits rolled.
What is EVP and can one take a physical movement and translate it to sound?
In Belzebuth, Ivan Franco seals a room with nothing but objects that could be haunted by a school massacre and EVP equipment. After recording for several hours he distills the silence down into sound-waves which are then translated into children screaming which lasts for six seconds once every hour. To say the final sound file is chilling is downplaying things. Anyone who has ever casually watched a Ghost Brothers or Ghost Hunters International episode is very familiar with the extremely limited and not nearly as scary sounds generated. EVP or Electronic Voice Phenomenon are sometimes referred to as Spirit Boxes. They are all forms of Instrumental Transcommunication a term coined by German physicist Ernest Senkowski. Basically it is using electrical devices in unconventional ways to communicate with the dead. Radios, televisions, recorders are all examples. There is even software the layperson can purchase to turn a smart phone into an EVP device.
Is the third coming of Christ foretold?
This depends on who and what you believe. Most Christians believe the first coming was the life of Jesus Christ in Israel. The Book of Revelations from the Bible explains the second coming begins the final days of our world as we know it. What follows is the 1000 year Kingdom and the third and final coming of Christ ends that kingdom dispatching the wicked to Hell and the worthy to Heaven. In Belzebuth, Father Canetti(Bell) explains that Jesus has come two times prior and this small child is the third coming. This seems to indicate that the End Times had already started 1000 years ago. Which means we have basically all been living in purgatory all this time.
With all the crime, poverty, and war, not to mention environmental degradation it is hard not to argue with this possibility. If you aren’t willing to accept we are already goners, many philosophers, scientists, and theologians have predicted a second coming with the most compelling dates being 2024 and 2057. The unsealing of the twelve signs begins the seven year cycle leading to Christ’s return in 2024 and the American Eclipse in 2017 and 2024 mark the beginning and end of the seven year period.
The 2057 date is propped up by a physics principal coined the Omega Point and predictions by famous futurist Ray Kurzweil who believes an event called the Singlarity. Simply put evolution and progress is destined to spiral into destruction. The Singularity is the point in which man’s intelligence is no longer the most dominant force. Basically the moment an AI becomes self aware. Think Terminator and Sky Net. Many futurists believe we are within fifty years of the Singularity. Potentially scary stuff!
Were people really crucified as exorcisms?
Shockingly the answer is yes and recently in fact. The Tanacu Exorcism in 2005 took place in Romania where a young nun who may have been mentally ill or possessed was tied to a cross and had exorcism rituals performed until she was deemed healed. Shortly after she fell very ill and an ambulance came which administered a lethal dose of adrenaline upon finding no pulse. The young priest and many of the nuns complacent in the death were charged and sentenced to prison as a result. In 2010 four members of the Seventh Day Adventist kidnapped a held a teenage girl in a bound position like Christ for one week in France. One of the four kidnappers was the girl’s boyfriend who believed she was possessed by a demon. She was rescued and all four are facing kidnapping and torture charges.
Belzebuth is a good film with great acting and smartly paced scares. My only complaint with this interesting film is the run time. At nearly two hours it is a marathon of an experience that would have been better for a small amount of editing. That is a small complaint though for this interesting film that bathes in tension as much as the blood of children. Get your own copy of the Blu-ray now. It makes a great addition to your Spanish language horror collection.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.