The Believers – USA, 1987

‘Nothing can stop them, no one can help you. They know who you are.’

The Believers is a 1987 American supernatural horror feature film directed by John Schlesinger (Pacific Heights; Marathon Man) from a screenplay by Mark Frost (Twin Peaks, Scared Stiff), based on the 1982 novel The Religion by Nicholas Conde. The Orion Pictures production stars Martin Sheen, Robert Loggia and Helen Shaver.

Plot:

Following the seemingly accidental death of his wife Lisa by electrocution in Minneapolis (she touches a malfunctioning coffeemaker while standing barefoot in a pool of spilled milk), psychologist Cal Jamison (Martin Sheen) moves to New York City with his son Chris (Harley Cross).

Cal finds employment as a police psychologist for the New York City Police Department. One of his patients is officer Tom Lopez, who worked undercover in infiltrating a cult and now lives in fear of the cultists.

Meanwhile, a series of brutal, ritualistic child murders, supposedly committed by members of a Hispanic cult practising a malevolent version of brujería, is occurring. The paranoid ramblings of Lopez start seeming relevant to the case…

New release:

Olive Films is releasing The Believers on Blu-ray and DVD in the USA on June 25, 2019. The previous 2014 Twilight Time Blu-ray release is now only available via third party resellers.

Reviews [may contain spoilers]:

“What is initially a relatively subtle examination of primitive beliefs versus high-falutin’ rationalism devolves into pure Grand Guignol, with silly fight scenes and a frenzied hyperbolism that may actually provoke laughter in the more cynically minded.” Jeffrey Kaufman, Blu-ray.com

” …The Believers is well-crafted schlock that’s also deceptively heady. It might not have much to say about faith, nor does it ever quite shake its xenophobia, but it does make for a good reminder that the worst devils often wear a suit and tie.” Brett Gallman, Oh, the Horror!

” …the closing act is where any cracks begin to show. Whilst never less than tense and jam-packed with incident, it never quite goes for the jugular in the manner in which is hinted and can be accused of playing it safe, as opposed to truly obliterating our fraying last nerves…” Rivers of Grue

“Once we get to the half-way point in the movie and the basics of the plot are properly established and characters properly developed, the movie goes for the ‘too much of a good thing’ approach and what started as a cerebral occult thriller quickly becomes too over the top to really work.” Ian Jane, Rock! Shock! Pop!

“Featuring some taut direction, an urbanely creepy atmosphere, and a few memorable scares (such as poor Shaver’s face erupting with spider ants), The Believers is surely worth mentioning. However, a predictable climax and shallow post-script ending keep it from ranking with the great films of the ’70s that seem to have inspired it.” The Terror Trap

“It’s not all scary, but there’s one good bit where this bubo on a woman’s cheek bursts open and all these itsy bitsy spiders scurry out. The real mystery is what Schlesinger and Sheen are doing making this schlock.” Mark Sanderson, Time Out London

“Clocking in at nearly two hours, The Believers is overlong and clunky. The opening sets the stage nicely, but it just gets weaker and dumber as it goes along.  Like any ‘80s movie, it all ends with a showdown in an abandoned boiler room.” Mitch Lovell, The Video Vacuum

“Sometimes, Believers achieves the pervading paranoia-inducing mood it aims for, mostly because the plot is so bloody vague, and Schlesinger fills the film with relics, crucifixes, flower petals and — you know — symbols. But the film foreshadows elements that never reappear.” Desson Howe, The Washington Post, June 12, 1987

Cast and characters:

  • Martin Sheen … Cal Jamison
  • Helen Shaver … Jessica Halliday – Poltergeist: The Legacy TV show; Tremors 2; The Craft; The Amityville Horror; Starship Invasions
  • Harley Cross … Chris Jamison
  • Robert Loggia … Lieutenant Sean McTaggert
  • Jimmy Smits … Tom Lopez
  • Malick Bowens … Palo
  • Elizabeth Wilson … Kate Maslow
  • Harris Yulin … Robert Calder – Ghostbusters II
  • Lee Richardson … Dennis Maslow
  • Richard Masur … Marty Wertheimer
  • Carla Pinza … Carmen Ruiz
  • Janet-Laine Green … Lisa Jamison
  • Raúl Dávila … Oscar Sezine
  • Geoffrey Kellett … Paramedic

Technical credits:

114 minutes | Dolby | 1.85:1 aspect ratio

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