Hallowing Halloween (4): Believers Everywhere
Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s current FX series The Strain has infected its fans with a not-so-rare zeitgeist virus based on the premise that a privileged few who seek wealth and influence ally with ages-old forces of evil (in this case a vampire overlord). The Believers (1987), directed by John Schlesinger from a screenplay by Mark Frost, is a chilling antecedent in that tradition, which also includes Rosemary’s Baby and The Possession of Joel Delaney: your seemingly benign friends and neighbors might be involved in dark, mystical practices that might prove lethal. Just as he explored the underbelly of New York City life in Midnight Cowboy, Schlesinger gives us a Big Apple filled with dread, in which upper-class cultists pervert the Afro-Caribbean Santería religion for self-serving means, via which human sacrifices within their own families enhance their hold on power through voodoo-influenced rites. Martin Sheen plays an NYPD psychologist haunted by personal tragedy who enters into this sinister world through his investigation of ritualistic deaths, and as a result his gifted son (Harley Cross) becomes a target. He soon finds that these people can get to you – and there’s nowhere to hide. The tightening grip of menace ensnares his police colleagues, including Robert Loggia and Jimmy Smits in shattering performances, and the power of faith for both good and sinister ends is dramatized with throat-clutching impact. Helen Shaver, Harris Yulin, Lee Richardson, Elizabeth Wilson, Richard Masur and Malick Bowens co-star as predators and victims in the conflagration. Indeed, there’s no more disturbing horror than that of the everyday, and goosebumps are raised with escalating intensity in Twilight Time’s hi-def Blu-ray of The Believers.