Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Belial (2007)

Belial is a low-budget feature film from Potent Pictures based out of Philadelphia. For a small, low-budget film, it features spooky locations, solid direction and great acting. On the flip side, the story could use some bulking up and the ending is far-fetched. In the end, its lack of convincing plot and its poor pacing are what doom Belial.

Dangerous child-murderer Wesson Garr has escaped from prison and is suspected of being in the Philadelphia area. Three years ago he murdered a slew of children, claiming he was working for the Devil. He is now on the loose again and a large manhunt is under way to catch him. Meanwhile, 10 year-old Ian (Jerry Meyers) is a loner who lives with his single mom and is bullied at school. He is stuck home one weekend after his dad doesn’t come to pick him up, so he decides to cruise the neighborhood on his bike. He ends up on the outskirts of town at a huge abandoned high school and decides to explore it. Little does he know that the Garr (Rodney Gray) has also been exploring…and is now in the same building!

Belial features some great locations, including an abandoned prison and school. The dank, dark and dirty feel of the prison is a perfect setting for where Garr has spent the last three years of his life. The abandoned school, with its peeling paint, old murals, labyrinth of rooms and trash-strewn halls is the perfect setting for a killer to stalk a young child.

Belial shines in the acting department with Jerry Meyers as Ian. From the beginning of the film I could connect with the character and really felt sorry for the bullied Ian. I’m not sure if Meyers has had any acting experience in the past, but from this film it sure does look like he has! He plays the sad and confused Ian effortlessly and was believable the entire way through. The rest of the cast does a respectable job and Rodney Gray as Garr sure is an imposing figure!

The film also has solid direction and some great shots. Yet, the pacing is way off…the tension doesn’t really get built up, the film drags and yet the ending seems rushed. The rest of the film moves pretty slowly, and there are some shots that drag and drag. I understand the filmmakers were trying to build up tension and create an atmosphere of dread, but it just doesn’t work here.

The main thing that doesn’t work, though, is the story. First of all, the inclusion of the two cops into the storyline seemed out of place and unnecessary. Their characters are never developed (the only things we know about them is that one has lost his faith and the other is a wisecracking sidekick) and they are annoying to boot! The script could have used some tightening up as it seems there is a lot of repetition of dialogue, most notably between the two cops. The rest of the story has believability issues (how did no one notice a hulking psychopath in a bright orange jumpsuit walking around?), plot points are undeveloped (tell us more about Belial and Garr’s connection to it!) and the “twist” ending was kinda hokey and came out of nowhere. Also, if this film is about Belial, I want to hear about Belial! The short explanation given by the prison priest/psychologist just wasn’t enough.

If this film was developed more and had the kinks worked out of it, it could be much better. As it stands now, though, Belial doesn’t offer much in the way of spookiness or suspense.

Potent Pictures Official Site

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