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John’s Horror Corner: Belzebuth (2017), a mystical murder mystery.

July 7, 2020

MY CALL: This morally intense Mexican horror film is steeped in religious mysticism and supernatural mystery. Its content may test your moral comfort zone, but it remains true to itself and never gratuitous in doing so. MORE MOVIES LIKE Belzebuth: Deliver Us from Evil (2014) and HBO’s The Outsider (2020) come to mind as similarly strange films revolving around mysticism (or religion) and mysterious murders.

Disclaimer: A screener was provided by a PR-Media group. However, I was not paid or compensated to write this nor were there any conditions to my receiving the screener other than my solicited review and the timing of its posting.

Short Summary: “In BELZEBUTH, Special Agent Emanuel Ritter leads a police investigation into a series of shocking deaths. But after a priest from the Vatican finds a link between the murders and an ancient demon, a descent into horror ensues.

Where can WATCH NOW?
AMAZON Prime or Shudder. Just CLICK HERE.

SOLICITED REVIEWS: On occasion I accept requests for solicited reviews. But make no mistake, I have a day job, limited time and I’m not a professional. My favoritism to accept solicitations leans towards those who offer a physical screener, but that favoritism does not de facto earn a favorable review—but a “fair” review. Examples of my solicited reviews include Iron Sky: The Coming Race (2019), The Haunting of Sharon Tate (2019), The Unseen (2017; aka Amourosis), The Belko Experiment (2016) and The Barn (2016).

While not directly showing us anything on-screen, we face a thematically brutal murderous sequence that will make any new parent squeamishly reel. And this mean-spirited, soul-crushing early scene culminates in an intensely graphic throat-slitting suicide accompanied by very impressive blood work and visuals. Yup, this is intense, and the blood work here is oddly artistic.

Now, years after having his newborn viciously torn from his life, Detective Ritter (Joaquín Cosio; The Strain, Rambo: Last Blood, Narcos: Mexico) leads the investigation of a horrible school shooting in which a young boy murdered numerous kindergartners.

As Vasilio the Vatican-excommunicated exorcist, Tobin Bell (Saw I-VII) channels his trademark dire Jigsaw persona with raspy warnings of the evils to come. Both Vasilio and a government paranormal specialist (Tate Ellington; Sinister 2, The Endless) join Detective Ritter in a race to prevent more prophesied tragedies against the innocent.

Featuring mass murder-suicides against and by children, swallowing the barrel of a gun and scalpel-slicing arterial bloodspurts… this film is not pulling any punches. Despite the unnervingly alarming nature of the violence thematic to this story, the content is handled tactfully in terms of what we’re shown yet still unapologetically in terms of how it will make you feel.

But now that we know the theme of this film, you will get nervous any time you see kids on screen and fear what horrors will befall them. The abrupt shock and the dread leading up to the events are clearly this film’s strength. Whereas the paranormal aspects and the mystery behind the killings are less compelling. This film is also brandishing some strong religious (i.e., sacrilegious) themes. So if that bothers your moral sensibilities—you’ve been warned.

Coming from a background of comedy, Mexican filmmaker Emilio Portes (Pastorela) directs his first feature horror film and flexes is discipline by including not a hint of humor. Portes made some interesting choices. One component I quite appreciated was that our stars are not young, overly stylish CG-chic men… but older men (along with our nerdily presented Tate Ellington). I also found the opening scenes to be very impactful both in cultivated dread and grounded though still dire emotional performances.

Moving towards the end, the revelations of the finale didn’t overly impress me (not bad, but not thrilling for my particular taste). But really, I should leave you to judge the end for yourself. Horror endings can be so tricky; and our reactions, so fickle. Some people simply prefer slashers over exorcisms or mettlesome demons over mindless zombies. I think your enjoyment of the final product will depend on the horror flavors you fancy to top your scary sundae. This movie starts out very intense, shocking, provocative and promising. However, not personally being thrilled by most attempts at religious mysticism, I wasn’t as impressed with the ending.

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