Friday, October 19, 2007

Believers (2007)

There are many different beliefs out there, with each cult, religion and following claiming to have the absolute truth. Each says their way is the only key to life everlasting. Most people dismiss cults, religions and belief systems that aren’t their own, but haven’t you ever wondered if, just what if, the supposed “crazies” were actually right? What if the End Times ARE here? What if the Hale Bopp comet really took the Heaven’s Gate crew to a better place? What if Jim Jones, David Korsesh and all the other suicide cults were, in fact, correct? To some, these are preposterous questions to even ponder, but the film Believers, co-written and directed by Blair Witch co-creator David Myrick, really makes you think about those questions and reevaluate your own beliefs.

Paramedics Dave (Johnny Messner) and Vic (Jon Huertas) answer an emergency call from a young girl (Saige Ryan Campbell) who says her mother (Deanna Russo) has lost consciousness. When they arrive at the deserted area, they try to save her life, while the daughter, named Libby, warns them that “they” are coming. Before they can administer CPR, a group of men with guns pull up and forcefully take Libby and her mom, then kidnap Dave and Vic. The men soon find themselves prisoners in an isolated building and begin learning more about the people that kidnapped them. The group is actually a secretive cult that follows their leader, The Teacher (Daniel Benzali), who claims he has cracked a mathematical code that tells when the world will end. The cult believes that they alone are responsible for perpetuating the human race, albeit from across the universe after their “rebirth.” Dave and Vic are kidnapped on the cult’s eve of “departure” from Earth. Vic, a devout Catholic, and Dave, an atheist, find their personal beliefs challenged as the cult members begin preparations for their “rebirth.”

Raw Feed has really put out some fine releases lately. The surreal and eerie Sublime was released to DVD a while back, and now comes the tense and thought-provoking Believers. I was really quite surprised at the high quality of Believers. I expected it to pander to the lowest common denominator and take a sensationalist and tabloid-esque look at cults, but instead it took the intelligent high road. By taking a more subtle approach, the film actually becomes more terrifying.

Director Myrick wisely leaves the cult shrouded in mystery, and builds dread with the eerie atmosphere and cult members themselves, who seem to know a little two much about the two paramedics. Strange experiments happen behind closed doors, one involving bringing Libby’s mom back to life, all the walls (and even some of the cult members) are scrawled with mathematical formulas and a sinister and distorted voice plays over a speaker system in the compound. Everything is kept dark, dim and grimy, which takes its psychological toll on both the two paramedics as well as the audience.

The acting is another thing I wholeheartedly enjoyed. Both Johnny Messner and Jon Huertas put on excellent performances. Their two characters are complete opposites and each makes his struggle with the cult’s beliefs distinctly his own. Daniel Benzali is sufficiently creepy as The Teacher, soft-spoken and utterly convincing as a leader. All of the characters are well-developed and we actually care about what happens to Dave and Vic, even when we are intrigued by the cult’s beliefs.

It’s refreshing to see a horror film that relies on atmosphere and an original story that doesn’t require buckets of blood to make it frightening. Believers is a thought-provoking, intelligent horror film that avoids the current “gore core” trend and succeeds in being genuinely frightening, with an ending that’ll knock your tin-foil hats off!!

Believers comes highly recommended to those that enjoy “thinking horror” like Sublime and Bug, or for those that want some psychological thrills.

Available on Amazon!

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