The Believers (1987)
Director: John Schlesinger
After his wife's baffling death, police head shrinker Cal (Sheen) takes his son Chris (Cross) up to New York City, where all is clean and nice…NOT! Some really nasty stuff is going on in the big apple and it isn't the beggars or the cab drivers. Children are being found dead on altars left and right while folks near Cal are mysteriously stricken with awful illnesses. Just when you thought New York couldn’t get any worse…it really, REALLY does!
I see this film at least once a year and it never fails to crawl under my skin and creep the shite out of me. There's a thick aura of uneasiness that is stuck to this movie and no matter how many times I watch it, that dread-filled vibe always gets to me.
I love gore, blood, guts and beheadings in movies as much as the next fucko, but that's because there's a part of me that knows it’s for play. It's all shites and giggles. This movie, on the other hand, felt way too real for me to enjoy on a "blood and guts" level, and that's one of the main reasons why it affects me so much. It helps that Schlesinger approaches the narrative in a mucho grounded fashion, therefore allowing us, the audience, to slip into this dark tale and live the nightmare alongside the leads.
Another reason why this picture worked on me so well in that groovy horror fashion is that it tosses little children into the mix. I don't know about you guys but seeing decaying RIP kids is NOT my idea of fun times at the out-house (dead hookers on the other hand; they be fun). Tag to all that, the voodoo angle that upped the plausibility factor (since the religion exists for real), a steady pace, some extremely horrifying images, a strictly A-list cast and one frightening brother in the guise of cult Shaman Palo (Bowens) and you get a genre exercise that scared me senseless.
On the down side, I was never crazy about the finale (it's a tad silly) and saw most of the films ugly plot "twists" coming from miles away. But those slightly negative elements never came close to ruining the fascinating, unpleasant (in a pleasant fear flick way) and spooky ride on which I was taken. A voodoo cult is in town boys and girls and they're not here for the ball game! Hand over that chicken...let's party!
The violence is mostly suggested but what is hinted at isn't pretty. Your imagination will fill in the blanks. We do get gruesome "hex" effects, a bloody stabbing and dead children (ouch).
Martin Sheen (Cal) is a great actor…I had forgotten that…he commands the screen and has such presence. I felt for his character and was rooting for him like a cheerleader off her periods. Robert Loggia (McTagger) does the raspy, no bull, junkyard dog again and I adore him for it. Thanks. Jimmy Smits (Lopez) finally proves to me that he’s a real actor…having only seen him on that cop show, I was blown away by his performance. Harley Cross (Chris) is not as annoying as most of the child actors out there. Helen Shaver (Jessica) does ok as the token girlfriend but is it me or is she not pretty enough to hang around "Sheen"? Malick Bowens (Palo) is scary…period…very!
T & A
Shaver shows us a tit…nobody cares…
Schlesinger sets a gloomy feel, delivers entrancing aerial shots, uses sound to great effect, keeps the suspense going and I for one have never seen New York look and feel so grey.
Chilling piano score and some "mumbo jumbo" chanting. Effective.
IMAGE: The 16.9 Widescreen image has a hazy definition and my top widescreen bar kept quivering (might be my TV though). It's adequate but nothing special.
SOUND: The Stereo Surround on the other hand comes through, with the score booming clearly and dialogue emoting crisply.
EXTRAS: We get the Theatrical Trailer and a Teaser Trailer.
"The Believers" is a well acted, well paced, unsettling horror movie and it's definitely NOT a popcorn flick. Mark my words: don’t watch this one with a bunch of friends, drinking lots of "Kool-Aid". Watch it preferably late at night, in the dark, by your lonesome and get ready for a large order of "chills" to smack into ya. Or better yet, check it out with your mate/loved one, so that once the end credits stop rolling, you can look into each others' eyes and say: "Honey, what in God's name is wrong with this world we live in?" Then you can fuck hard and forget all about it.
Harley Cross (Chris) did a movie called "The Boy Who Cried Bitch" about a murderous kid. It’s supposed to be a dark, psychological horror film. It’s not on his CV and has been shelved by the studio. Some copies are out there and if you have one…hook The Arrow up. I’d love to see it.