Belzebuth is a Spanish speaking horror film that focuses on the Mexican culture and religious attributes that tends to bend the rules of philosophies especially when dealing with the concept of the resurrection of Satan and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ in a nearly 2 hour demonic possession flick. This lengthy creation comes from director Emilio Portes, which he wrote with Luis Carlos Fuentes, it also marks his horror feature film debut, and clearly they spent every dime of their $3.6-million budget earning both awards from numerous film festivals and distribution on DVD, Blu-ray and VOD via Shudder and RLJE Films.
The movie seems to portray itself in two distinct proportions, the first half contains shock, which any season horror viewer knows can’t be sustained for the duration of 120-minutes, but using of the brutalization scenes early on does grab one’s attention; however the second half becomes a bit muddled which makes it difficult for a quality possession story. There have been plenty of these sorts of demonic films over the past decade, but it’s often the story-telling that keeps the audience thoroughly engaged, or at least entertained. One other thing that this movie does, it creates its own mythos, many Christians believe that the second coming of Jesus is his actual return, but in the story it is a little boy who will grow up and reveal himself as Jesus.
Diving further into the story, and I’ll try once again I’ll try not to reveal to much of the central plot. We’ll pick it up five years after a brutal crime which included a series of children being murdered (off screen) and has Detective Emmanuel Ritter (Joaquin Cosio (The Strain [TV Series]) at the center of the murder investigation and growing panic from parents and ravaged by the media. He finds himself confronted by Ivan Franco (Tate Ellington (Sinister 2 )) from a secret government agency, a trained paranormal investigator from the Vatican, a priest, he appears similar to the character Jack Crow in Vampires (1998) portrayed by James Woods except instead of vampire hunting he seeks an ex-communicated priest Vasilio Canetti (Tobin Bell (Saw )). By the mid-point when Ivan and Ritter discover the dark realm of the devil, hiding in a desolate church and school building where things become apparent what movie the filmmakers were referencing by the dialogue. It surrounds a broken crucified Jesus statue speaking to them while Ivan tells Ritter not to listen to the Prince of Lies, obviously referencing The Exorcist (1973) in which Father Merrin shouts at Father Karras. Finally, as the movie reaches the late portion of the third act, the story of Christ reborn as a child tad more murky but the it centers more on a story of possession rather than facing off with Canetti, which Bell does a solid job in portraying a dedicated man was on his own mission to defeat Satan and provide a path for the lord. Now if it seems, that I skipped some major plot points, I did, as one needs to take the opportunity to view the film for themselves, and ponder some belief questions, for example can evil be cast away and placed in its own prison on the an individual’s earthly plain, well I suppose one needs a solid understanding of their faith.
Portes, makes many wise decisions, first by never showing the actual slaughtering of children on screen, it is the true “no-no” unless perhaps with a zombie child, namely in unrated films, but if one remembers Pet Sematary (1989) when Gage is accidentally run over only a bloody sneaker is tossed onto the ground, the point taken, the emotions transcend on the screen; however it leaves the imagination to work out the details. Although not all is pleasant, there’s far too much dialogue and meaningless content, a few more rewrites and time spent on editing, to shave the overall movie to 90-minutes would work much better for a horror thriller. One doesn’t need to strive to the level of The Exorcist, one exists already, venture into a new path, but tell it cleanly. Some of the special effects work very well using the statue of Christ to speak; however it becomes a tad comical too quickly allowing the devil to use other devices rather than limited to just one piece. Lastly, though two minor issues, if the story is surrounded around the little boy as if Christ is reborn, then why doesn’t the mother or child have a larger role, she mostly sobs into a distant role of the film, and second the cover is misleading one thinks of Rosemary’s Baby, with the baby coach however there’s no baby so that is a tad confusing as well.
There’s something uniquely interesting about possession thrillers, if constructed well, like this movie they can provide new levels of discussion, and add some jump scares (though not necessary) if one ratcheted the tension from the first act as was done quickly and repeatedly. The one major flaw besides excessive length which feels like a marathon for the average horror viewer and wears a bit thin on them too; is that final act of the movie never equals the opening agonizing scenes.
IMDb Rating: 6/10
Baron’s Rating: 5.0/10