The Believers (1987)

Genres - Horror  |   Sub-Genres - Supernatural Horror  |   Release Date - Jun 10, 1987 (USA)  |   Run Time - 114 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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This picturesque occult thriller features some fairly creepy scenes and ratchets that dread up slowly and methodically, but its innumerable red herrings, jumbled mythology, and wooden acting mark it as an inferior effort from John Schlesinger, whose earlier suspense piece Marathon Man proved so effective. What starts out as a nicely restrained chiller slowly devolves into a rag-tag collection of clich├ęs whose swipes from Rosemary's Baby are only the most obvious deficiencies in imagination. Good performances from Jimmy Smits and Elizabeth Wilson can't compensate for the cheesy mid-'80s yuppie soullessness of Helen Shaver and Martin Sheen. The special effects -- especially those involving Shaver's run-in with a particularly nasty skin condition -- are memorable and well executed, as is the suspenseful climactic showdown. But the endless scenes of chicken feathers, candles, and incense are a bit much, as are the religious inaccuracies of the script. Santeria, the voodoo cult that figures so heavily in the plot, is actually a Latin American religion with 100 million followers -- not a cult that gruesomely sacrifices young children. Even worse, the script seems to jumble together African mysticism, Latin American neo-Christianity, and any other faith practiced by people who aren't white. If that were its only fault, the political incorrectness might be forgivable. But it's actually only a footnote in the film's long list of faults. Fondly remembered for its special effects and its disquieting atmosphere, The Believers is still something less than satisfactory.