A New York psychiatrist finds that a voodoo cult, which believes in child sacrifice, has a keen interest in his own son.
The 80s were a good decade for film. Some of my favorite movies of all time came out in the 80s. But one thing the 80s lacked, were a plethora of satanic cult films. It seems that Hollywood was big into this bloody horror cult films back in the 70s, but when the new decade arrived, there were only a handful of them being made. By the 80s, most people knew or had seen several of the films that had come out that dealt with these horrific cults that sacrificed people, but director John Schlesinger wanted to tell a new tale involving a cult in modern times.
Based on Nicholas Conde's book called 'The Religion', this cult film named 'The Believers' is fairly similar to a few satanic themed movies from the 70s. 'Rosemary's Baby', quickly came to mind in that a group of wealthy social climbers in New York City might be involved in some messy business. Satanic ritual business that is. The main flaw with 'The Believers' is that the story doesn't give a rhyme or reason for any of the violent scenes in the movie. It's as if we are supposed to just go with what these crazed people are doing without explanation. But there is enough character development and creepy moments throughout the film to keep the pace alive and the suspense building, even if the climax is a bit far fetched.
After Cal Jamison (Martin Sheen) and his young son Chris (Harley Cross) witness a terrifying accident involving their wife/mother, the father/son duo decide to pick up the pieces by moving from Minnesota to New York City. Cal uses his practice to become a psychologist for the New York Police Department, helping officers get through tough times. Most of the officers seem to have some bad situation, but one officer seems to have it much worse. The officer in question is Tom Lopez (Jimmy Smits), who confides in Cal that a satanic cult is after him.
Meanwhile, a series of gruesome child murders are plaguing the city, and the wealthy top 1 percent of New Yorkers might be in on it. Things heat up when Cal's son is the cult's next target in their child sacrifice. It's an interesting tale that mixes voodoo, witchcraft, and 80s economics. I feel like Patrick Bateman from 'American Psycho' would fit in with this cult, because its members are very well off and successful. In fact, one of the main points to their cult is that all of this sacrifice and witchcraft is to help them become wealthier and more successful (and get homes in Locust Valley). It's something that other satanic cult movies haven't covered yet, which was nice to see.
The way 'The Believers' flows is quite interesting. For most of the film, the director keeps us on the edge of our seat with some very suspenseful moments with images that won't soon leave your mind. But in other moments, there are fight scenes and flashes of violence that come across as silly and over-the-top. It just doesn't mix well with the overall tone of the film. And that is what makes this movie suffer, all the way up to it's M. Night Shyamalan-style ending.
Sheen and Smits turn in solid performances and really sell their paranoia very well. 'The Believers' is still a decent satanic cult film but it's pacing throws us into a chaos, which we may never escape. But it's worth the ride.
'The Believers' comes with a good 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This image looks great, gritty, and very organic. Twilight Time did a good job, handling this new transfer. Detail is quite vivid and sharp throughout, even in the darker sequences. Closeups reveal fine details in the actor's faces such as individual hairs, scars, wounds, and wrinkles. That being said, this does not look like it has been through the digital car wash, which is a good thing.
There is a fine layer of grain, giving this movie that nostalgic and filmic quality it had in the 80s. It's grit is still in tact. Colors are good as well, however nothing in particular will really shine and pop off screen, but it isn't that type of movie. And the skin tones are a little bit murky from time to time as well. Black levels though, are deep and inky, giving a good balance to the whole picture. There is still a little bit of dirt, but it's rare, and I think it adds to the grime and grit of the movie too. Other than that, there are no other video problems to speak of, earning this video presentation some solid marks.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo audio mix. Since this is a very suspenseful horror film, the sound must be perfect. I wish this was in 5.1, because I think by having the surrounds in full use here could benefit the viewer even more with the creepy sounds of the cult. But this 2.0 mix does the job nicely. Sound effects are realistic and lively at times, specifically during the last twenty minutes of the film.
During the suspense building moments, the sound effects and ambient noises work there way up to a crescendo, sending shivers up your spine. They are very delicate, which was good to hear. Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow. There are no instances of any pops, cracks, or hissing either. The score by J. Peter Robinson always adds to the suspense while never drowning out any dialogue or sound effect. The LFE is great and the dynamic range is wide, leaving this audio presentation with solid marks.
Isolated Score Track - You can listen to just the score on the DTS-HD 2.0 audio option.
Trailers (HD, 4 Mins.) - A couple of trailers, one of which is for the film.
'The Believers' is not for everyone, but it's a damn fine film that still holds up thirty something years later. The suspense and thrills are at an all time high throughout, but the final act might border on silly. In any case, it will definitely leave an impression. Martin Sheen and Jimmy Smits turn in solid performances as well here. The video and audio presentations are both great, but the extras are less than desired. I was hoping for something more than just an isolated score track and a trailer. If you're a fan of satanic cult films or suspenseful thrillers, this is one you should add to your shelf. Recommended.