Based on Nicholas Conde’s book The Religion, The Believers is a movie that often goes where other films have the sense — or good taste — not to. Cats with their heads cut off, goats being killed, the bodies of kids being found sacrificed in rituals — if you’re coming into this one expecting a fun ride, beware. This gets pretty dark.
Think I’m kidding? The movie starts with the death of Cal Jamison’s (Martin Sheen) wife Lisa when she gets electrocuted by touching a malfunctioning coffeemaker as she also stands in a pool of spilled milk. Yes, you read that right.
This death moves Cal and his son Chris to New York City, where the elder Jamison finds work with the NYPD as a psychologist. One of his first patients, Officer Tom Lopez (father of Princess Leia, Jimmy Smits) has been infiltrating a cult but is now caught in the clutches of brujeria-influenced madness. Before you know it, Smits has literal snakes in his stomach and he’s cutting them out with a knife.
Robert Loggia shines here as Lieutenant Sean McTaggert, who is leading the case as they seek who is committing all of these ritualistic child murders. Could it be a conspiracy that goes the whole way to noted businessman Robert Calder (Harris Yulin, the judge who caused big issues for the Ghostbusters)? And when the cult targets young Chris, can anyone be saved?
Helen Shaver shows up as real estate agent/love interest Jessica Halliday and the film also features Elizabeth Wilson (the evil Roz in 9 to 5), Lee Richardson (who — along with child actor Harley Cross — also appears in The Fly II) and RIchard Masur from John Carpenter’s The Thing, the dad in License to Drive and the grown-up version of Stanley in the TV version of It.
This comes from a great pedigree, as director John Schlesinger was nominated for two Best Director Oscars for Darling and Sunday Bloody Sunday, winning one for Midnight Cowboy. He also directed another awesome thriller, 1976’s Marathon Man. And get this — Mark Frost, who would go on to co-create Twin Peaks wrote the screenplay.
I find it interesting that this film positions santeria as the good magic against the bad magic of the Caribbean. Even more intriguing is that this film influenced the santeria-based cult of Adolfo “The Godfather” Constanzo and supported by serial killer Sara “The Godmother” Aldrete in Matamoros, Mexico.
DISCLAIMER: Olive Films sent us this movie for review, but that doesn’t impact our opinion.