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A bit disjointed, but overall a good film
Brandt Sponseller17 January 2005
After his wife dies, police psychiatrist Cal Jamison (Martin Sheen) moves with his son, Chris (Harley Cross), from Minnesota to New York City. There, he quickly becomes embroiled in a bizarre string of occult-related murders of children and apparent suicides of adults.

If you enjoyed The Serpent And The Rainbow (1988), Angel Heart (1987) and Rosemary's Baby (1968), there's a good chance you'll enjoy The Believers as well, as it bears quite a few similarities (although it's certainly not a rip-off). In my view, it's not quite as good as those other three films, which are all 10s in my book, but it is well worth watching.

The principle flaw, which probably arises from trying to condense a novel--in this case Nicholas Conde's book, The Religion--into a screenplay, is that The Believers quickly brushes over some developments so that it's occasionally difficult to follow, especially towards the beginning. We can sense that there's much more to the story but that there just isn't time to show all of it to us.

However, a characteristic of the subgenre of occult/voodoo horror films is a prominent surrealism and dream-like narrative flow, so what might be more of a flaw in another kind of film can be more of an asset here. The Believers also benefits from a great cast--Sheen is a delight to watch (and listen to) as a psychiatrist who can fly off the handle in rage at the drop of a hat, and Jimmy Smits is wonderfully insane every time we see him.

The Believers is also worth checking out for its cinematography and set design. The set for the climax is a visual treat and integral to the plot. And the tag scene after the climax is remarkable for its visual change--beautiful, wide-open spaces and bright colors. It's just too bad that the sequel set up by director John Schlesinger never came to fruition.
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Building Belief
docdespicable15 January 2005
Back when this hit theaters, I missed it for some reason - I think the ad campaign left me rather nonplussed. In any case, I gave it a miss, only to take the chance on it some years later on video. And I have to say I was impressed! This is NOT a movie for the impatient viewer. Opening with family tragedy, it then takes necessary time to introduce its characters, really introduce them and give the audience time to get to know them and care about them. During the "character study" portion, there are only rare implications that something sinister is in the offing.

Other reviews have stated that the movie is slow, that it drags, that it's padded out with perhaps unnecessary exposition, but I must disagree - to believe THE BELIEVERS, one must "believe" a bit oneself. A film that drops the viewer into a breakneck chase from the outset has its place and its advantages in storytelling, but almost invariably such movies are about the chase, rather than the people. THE BELIEVERS is about the people, which separates it from the typical batch of "supernatural thrillers". Here we get the whole story, rather than a sort of synopsis, wherein we get only the "high points", those scenes which contain the most action or gore or both. TOTAL RECALL is an excellent example of this type of film, done well; one need only look at any of the horror/slasher franchise films to have an idea of this type of film done at a dead run, for money and the most shock value. They can be fun, but I'm not sure they qualify as art.

What makes THE BELIEVERS so disturbing is that, at its best, it *builds belief* in the audience. This might seem redundant, since, going in, we demonstrate a willingness to believe that is initially missing from the main charter(s); but in this case, we no longer have the emotional distance to simply watch and say, "Oh, I saw that coming," or "Blah - never in a million years." By the time Helen Shaver goes through her ordeal with that unsightly blemish, nothing about it seems far-fetched at all! Performances are, generally, successful. Young Harley Cross is excellent as young Chris, and the rest of the cast is populated with familiar faces or faces that were destined to become very familiar indeed, such as Jimmy Smits. My sole complaint comes from certain scenes with Martin Sheen - emotionally, he goes from conversation to screaming in an instant, and it just doesn't seem appropriate to the scene, especially when one considers that he's playing a psychiatrist - a professional group who are specifically trained in keeping their cool in the heat of a situation. Some of the dialog, too, occasionally comes out sounding like they shot the rehearsal.

THE BELIEVERS is not without flaw - nevertheless, enough good remains that it rewards the patient viewer with a rich storytelling experience!
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Realistic and truly scary.
spacemonkey_fg22 February 2006
Title: The Believers (1987)

Director: John Schlesinger

Cast: Martin Sheen, Jimmy Smitts, Robert Loggia

Review: I've always been intrigued by movies about Voodo, Santeria and Witchcraft. I could go on and on about how part of my early childhood was spent in that religion and what not. But I'm not going to. Its something I like to leave safely tucked away in my past. Anyhows, this film, The Believers, depicts a couple of Santeria/Voodoo rituals that felt very, very genuine. I always keep a keen eye open to see just how truthful films can see if the filmmakers did their homework right or not. Well, in the case of The Believers Id say they did their homework alright and got a straight freaking A man.

The Believers is about a police psychologist called Cal Jamison (Martin Sheen). He is trying to cope with his wives recent death and trying to continue on with a normal life. When he suddenly realizes that his son has been targeted by practitioners of "Brujeria" or witchcraft. They need his son to perform one of their rituals. Of course he opposes and goes on a terrifying journey to try and stop them.

What I found chilling about this film is its faithfulness to the whole Santeria thing. Having a background in this I could tell what was real and what was Hollywood Hocus Pocus bullshit, and let me tell you 90% of this film was highly accurate as to some of the rituals.

Heres the thing about this type of movie. It can very easily turn into an unrealistic film that simply exploits the religion and uses its mythology to scare people who know nothing about it. But in the case of The Believers, they made a very good effort to demonstrate that Santeria is just another religion. Its people who believe in different things that the rest of the world don't believe in. And it doesn't have to be evil simply because its different.

Of course, like everything, there's a dark side to the whole thing and in this movie its called "Brujeria" or Witchcraft. As it is explained in the film, its a form of Voodoo that is used for evil purposes and that its rituals involve amongst other things the sacrifice of children. The people in the film at first think that the ones committing the murders are people who belong to Santeria...when in fact they don't. So I liked the fact that the movie didn't stoop to the low point of exploiting the beliefs of people who practice Santeria.

The movie is frightening, because it feels real. These religions and the people who believe in them are out there. They exist. And the ignorance about their beliefs instantly translates to fear amongst people who know nothing about it. Of course the movie does take advantage of peoples ignorance about it and uses it to make people think one thing...when in fact its another. But I have say, the movie will prove to be quite frightening. It has some genuinely tense moments in there.

Jimmy Smitts, an unknown at the time, steals the show as Tom Lopez. A local who is frightened that "they" will get him. "They" know who he is and "You don't know what they can do!" Those sequences with Smitts going loco are excellent and will heighten any bit of fear that was already crawling up through the back of your spine. Also there's an evil Priest character played by Malik Bowens that is 100% concentrated evil. A memorable scene involves his eyes changing color and starting to dance as he is possessed by a spirit. So you can rest assured that we get some good solid performances in this flick.

In conclusion I'll say that this movie is scary in the same way that The Exorcist was scary. In the same way that Angel Heart and Serpent and the Rainbow were scary. Its all tied up to something that exists in real life. Of course the film, as is the case in almost all of these films dealing with Voodoo or Santeria, ventures into fantasy territory. But Ill say this, The Believers is the one that feels the most genuine out of all the movies dealing with this subject matter. So its worth a look see. Only if you want to be really scared of course.

Rating: 5 out of 5
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preppy-330 April 2002
Widowed police psychiatrist (Martin Sheen) and his young son (Harley Cross) move to NYC and get involved with a cult that believes in human sacrifices--small children especially.

Exceptionally well-made, deadly serious horror film is not for everybody. It's way too long, has some very disturbing scenes (quick closeups of a dead child's mutilated body; animal sacrifice) and it's serious tone can wear one down. Still, it's a complex, one of a kind horror film. Name all the major studio films that deal with cults, voodoo and children sacrifices--there aren't any! It's surprising this even got made.

Sheen is very good as the father, Cross is exceptional as his son. Also Robert Loggia turns in strong support as a police chief. The only bad acting is by Helen Shaver as a landlady who Sheen falls for (for some reason). Also there's a pretty needless ending.

All in all though, a good horror film, but remember--it's STRONG stuff!
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Good horror film
fleagles6 June 2000
Scary, good thriller about a dangerous faction of Santeria, a Latin-American based religion which believes in animal sacrifice, which here is offerring children as sacrifices in New York. Martin Sheen is very good as a police psychologist who moves to New York with his son after his wife's bizarre death, and must deal with the very strange doings occuring around him. The fine cast includes a younger Jimmy Smits, Robert Loggia, Helen Shaver, and Harley Cross. Director John Schlesinger provides good shocks, and good the movie has a fine late 80's New York feel, even though most of it was filmed in Toronto!
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Cool, underrated occult flick
JCrewPsycho198018 June 2003
Martin Sheen is in top form in this one and I don't know why it isn't considered one of the better horror movies. I was a kid when I saw this so it had a better effect on me then but I recently saw it on cable and really dug it. Also recommended is the classic Serpent and the Rainbow.
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jotix1005 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
"The Believers", a 1987 film, directed by John Schlessinger, an unlikely candidate, offers an action packed movie that involves the rites of santeria and African witchcraft in the middle of Manhattan. The film, which is based on a novel by Nicholas Conde, which we never read, was adapted by Mark Frost, who shows an incredible affinity for the material that might seem foreign to most of the viewers. The action never lets up; the movie is one of the scariest movies in recent memory.

Much has been said about the plot and what is at the center of the story. What Mr. Schlessinger got was an amazing film that takes us into unknown territory into an evil world that is hard to imagine in such an urban setting.

Cal Jamison, after suffering the terrible loss of his wife, takes Chris, his young son, into Manhattan, where the young boy is the target of an occult force that wants to harm him from unknown reasons that aren't well understood until the last sequences of the movie. We watch, horrified, how these evil practices contribute to unnerve the skeptical Cal, who must come to terms with it when it becomes clear that he and the young boy are more involved in what the higher ups of the cult want from them.

Martin Sheen's work in the movie as Cal Jamison, is one of the best things he did in his distinguished career. His Cal is totally credible as we know how he will react when Chris is in danger. Helen Shaver is fine as Jessica, the woman that steals Cal's heart. Young Harley Cross is perfectly sweet as Chris. Veteran actors Robert Loggia, Richard Mazur, Jimmy Smits, Elizabeth Wilson, Lee Richardson, and Harris Yulin are seen in the film.

We would recommend to watch this film with company. It's not for the faint hearted.
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saw this in 1987, still memorable...
MarieGabrielle6 February 2008
Covering the subject of cults, religion, Santeria or other beliefs is always intriguing and educational. The acting especially by Martin Sheen as N.Y. psychiatrist Cal, is very good.

Cal loses his wife in a tragic accident, and returns to New York City where he is a psychiatric consultant for N.Y.P.D. There are some excellent scenes with Jimmy Smits, as an affected officer who goes mad, and Robert Loggia, as a veteran cop who is also affected by the "Believers", and their group.

Harris Yulin is menacing and fits the bill as leader of an 80's group, ostensibly just a charity group, until Sheen uncovers something much worse.

The end is rather abrupt and predictable, but the acting is first-rate (especially for Sheen) and this is worth a viewing. The theme alone has many possibilities, the ignorance and unawareness of how many different religions actually exist, and are in practice all over the world. 9/10.
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Some nice moments , but overall a disappointing movie
Maziun15 September 2014
A good director John Schlesinger ("Midnight cowboy" , "Marathon man") plus good actor Martin Sheen ("Apocalypse now") plus interesting subject - voo doo. This is one promising combination , isn't it ? Unfortunately the ending result is rather bad.

Martin Sheen gives a good performance. The movie does give you a some knowledge about voo doo. There are some nice thrilling scenes (the beginning , the ending , the scene with the snakes and the scene with the bees). Those are the good things in this movie.

The movie isn't unfortunately scary . It isn't horrifying enough just to insert images of bloody headless chicken corpses and African tribes performing silly dance rituals. The movie can't decide if it wants to have supernatural elements in it or to be a thriller. "The believers" is also too long and have too many sub plots. There is also too much soap opera in a movie that should be scary and dark. There is no tension or atmosphere and aside from Sheen the acting isn't anything special. The dialogues are forgettable and the screenplay is rather bad convoluted.

Alan Parker's "Harry Angel" is far superior to "The Believers". It's dark , scary , has good performances and interesting story. "The Believers" is not a complete waste of time , however it is overlong, slightly pretentious with a flat detective story. There are some good elements here , however it is a disappointment. I give it 4/10.
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Then I saw his eyes, now I'm a Believer!
Coventry2 January 2014
What happens when an acclaimed A-listed director like John Schlesinger ("Midnight Cowboy", "Marathon Man") and an acclaimed A-listed actor like Martin Sheen ("Apocalypse Now", "Badlands") decide together to cash in on the contemporary popular trend of making a religiously themed horror movie? Sadly – but predictably – this results in a pretentious, dreadfully overlong and ridiculous piece of melodramatic soap-opera schlock! Back in the era of pioneering cinema, there were a handful of titles – "I walked with a Zombie" and "White Zombie" to name just two – that put forward the theme of voodoo as something uniquely macabre and nightmarish, but ever since the 1980's, many directors mistakenly assume that it is horrifying enough just to insert images of bloody headless chicken corpses and African tribes performing silly dance rituals. Schlesinger makes the exact same mistake and, atop of that, also adds far too many family drama sub plots and redundant detective elements. The opening sequences are supposed to be tragic and heart-wrenching but (and maybe it's just me?) I found them quite imbecilic and banal. Police psychiatrist Cal Jamison loses his wife in a far-fetched kitchen accident – malfunctioning coffee machines and spilled milk do not go well together – and moves to the center of New York with his 7-year-old son. What follows is an irritating series of clichéd situations, since daddy falls in love with the new landlady but obviously doesn't want to neglect his traumatized little boy. Meanwhile, his job also drags him into a spider web of intrigues regarding the Santerío-religion. This strange religion worships African spirits in the shape of Christian Gods (or something like it, I don't know) and has quite a few of influential disciples in NY. The lives of innocent young boys are sacrificed in favor of obnoxious rich adults and, because he sticks his nose too much in the voodoo business, Jamison's own son is suddenly in danger as well. Unlike Alan Parker in the superior "Angel Heart", John Schlesinger didn't have the balls to show any controversial themes or shocking images. However, if you happen to fancy tedious and confusing dialogs, dull sentimental interludes, a complete lack of atmosphere or tension and weak performances from usually reliable actors (besides Sheen also Robert Loggia, Harris Yulin and Jimmy Smits), then you absolutely must see "The Believers". I'm required to admit there are two memorable highlights as well, though. There's one marvelous, but misfit, scene with eerie little spiders crawling out of a woman's jaw and also the casting of Malick Bowens as the sinister voodoo priest. His evil stare was the only thing preventing me to stop watching this garbage before it was actually finished.
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Unbelievably dumb, far-fetched
jkochoa496629 December 2011
Wow is this movie dumb! You will hate the superstitious Latin characters they have running around yelling and carrying on in over the top Latin accents. Sheen is a concerned father and police detective investigation some child murders in NYC. These murders are linked to a voodoo/santoria type religion that seems to be 'believed' by an unbelievably big underground community in New York City! A scary black guy with albino contacts lurks around scaring the bejesus out of the increasingly frightened latins who can only speak broken English, shriek and writhe in increasing desperation for Sheen/someone/anyone to listen to them and their need for pro-tect-C-own. There are bizarre suicides, deaths, mind control trances (at just a glance), animal sacrifices, oh, and other European American believers who wear suits and ride around in limousines who are apparently in charge of this 'religion'. I also left out a kidnapping, curses, electrocutions, and Sheen's character's rebellious, uncontrollable little kid who is constantly in danger and behaves not unlike he's suddenly had a bad reaction to angel dust!
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voodoo doo-doo
secretron26 September 2001
In all fairness, I went into seeing The Believers with a glimmer of hope. A fervent horror fan, I looked forward to seeing a rare intellectual thriller. All the pieces were in place - a good cast (led by a usually stellar Martin Sheen), a renowned director (John Schlesinger) & the story of a police psychologist trying to pick up the pieces after his wife's premature & accidental death who gets involved, along with his son, in some occultish freakishness.

So where did The Believers go wrong? About halfway through, when Sheen's lonely Dad inexplicably & unbelievably takes up with the loopy landlady across the street (Helen Shaver). Not only is this an unwanted distraction to the plot, but the relationship moves WAY too quickly to be taken seriously in a 2-hour horror movie.

There are some scary moments, one coming within the first 5 minutes of the film, but the film loses its momentum as the discovery of what all this voodoo madness is all about unfolds. Like The Serpent & The Rainbow, logic & reason effortlessly give way to dark idols & poisoned dart silliness. The film's ominous conclusion tries too hard & becomes almost laughable.

Sheen is solid, but spends more than half the movie screaming at, to or for his son (another never-to-be-seen-again child actor who is 10 times more annoying than cute, making you wish that the bad guys eat him up before Martin starts filming Wall Street). Shaver sleepwalks through her thankless role, tho she's involved in one of the film's creepiest moments. A good supporting cast, including Robert Loggia, Richard Masur & a young Jimmy Smits are wasted.

Ultimately, The Believers is ambitious, but this voodoo doo-doo doesn't give you much to believe. 5 out of 10.
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Very Creepy Horror Film, However The Finale Was Quite Disappointing!
callanvass18 June 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This is a very creepy Horror film, with amazing performances, however the finale was quite disappointing!. It will get under your skin throughout, and some of the stuff will make you flinch, plus the ending while does not make much sense, is pretty wicked!. Martin Sheen is simply Amazing here,and most of the characters were great, plus Malick Bowens will scare the crap out of you!. The Opening is very creepy, and the film has tons of shocking moments and scares, plus some of the violence is not pretty. I was confused a little bit at times, and the finale could have been a lot better, however i still liked it very much, and it helped that the film had such a talented actor in the lead in Martin Sheen!. This is a very creepy Horror film, with amazing performances, and i highly recommend it!. The Direction is very good!. John Schlesinger does a very good job here, with excellent camera work, great angles, great lighting, and keeping the film tense and scary throughout!. There is some disgusting violence here. We get some very disgusting/disturbing animal gore(Hated it),lots of blood,gory corpses,dead children(harsh),gory stabbings,slit throat(ATF),gory impaling, and more. The Acting is amazing!. Martin Sheen is AMAZING as always, and is amazing here, he is extremely likable, a caring father, was extremely convincing, had very good chemistry with Helen Shaver, and was just amazing overall, i was rooting for him all the way! (Martin Sheen Rules!). Harley Cross annoyed me here,as the kid however at least he was somewhat bearable, and managed to convince me a couple times. Helen Shaver is pretty good as Sheen's girlfriend i kinda liked her. Robert Loggia can play this role in his sleep, and is awesome here once again. Elizabeth Wilson does what she has to do well. Harris Yulin over acted to the extreme here and didn't convince me one bit. Lee Richardson is also good with what he had to do. Malick Bowens is EXTREMELY creepy here, those eyes of his his walk, it just gave me the creeps. Jimmy Smits did good here i liked him. Richard Masur is good with what he had to do. Janet-Laine Green is good in her scene. Overall i highly recommend this one!. ***1/2 out of 5
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Convoluted Voodoo Yarn.
AaronCapenBanner23 September 2013
Martin Sheen plays police psychologist Cal Jamison, who moves to New York with his young son after the sudden accidental death of his wife(vividly shown early on!) He soon is called into a case involving voodoo cult rituals involving the death of chickens, but soon discovers that they want to escalate things with sacrificing children, which will include his own son... Helen Shaver plays his potential love interest, who also becomes a target by the cult.

Mediocre thriller has a sensational opening, but soon becomes overly convoluted and unbelievable, though the actors are fine, and director John Schlesinger does create some effective atmosphere, the problems are too many to overcome.
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A great classic? Don't believe it!
The_Void19 May 2008
Voodoo is quite an interesting topic, and as such there are many movies on the topic, many of which are very good; which means that all the movies based on voodoo generally have a lot to live up to. The Believers benefits from a good cast, a reputable director and an obviously sizable budget - but unfortunately, it doesn't amount to a sum of it's parts, mostly due to the fact that a lot of it plays out rather slowly and is quite boring - which is fairly surprising considering that director John Schlesinger was the man behind classic thrillers such as Marathon Man. The film is based on a book by Nicholas Conde and focuses on a widowed father named Cal Jamison who takes his son to live in Manhattan. Cal gets a job with the New York Police Department as a psychiatrist for troubled police officers. It's on his first call out, to help save a suicidal police officer that he comes into contact with a strange cult that has skinned a child alive. From there, the film focuses on a series of strange and eerie events that all seem to focus on the people around the lead character...

The main problem with this movie is undoubtedly the length of it - the director obviously assumed that there was enough material to fill the nearly two hour running time, but unfortunately that isn't the case and the result is a film with a lot of dull moments. The lead role is taken by Martin Sheen who does a good job of fleshing out his character and getting the audience behind him. This, however, is not matched by the plot - which doesn't ever do enough to get the audience fully behind it, which is a shame as there are plenty of good ideas going on in it. The film can easily be compared to the likes of Angel Heart and Rosemary's Baby - but clearly it is not even nearly on the same level as the aforementioned classics. To its credit, the film does not flinch too much when it comes to showing blood and gore - skinned kids and spiders crawling out of a woman's cheek are among the highlights. Overall, The Believers is not a complete dead loss by any means; but it's not a great film either and I wouldn't recommend anyone goes out of their way to see it.
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Half good, half bad
udar552 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Despite featuring a wonderful cast and talented director, the black magic tinged THE BELIEVERS never lives up to its potential. It contains an intriguing premise that is eventually squashed by the killer of many a film – the cliché.

Based on the novel "The Religion" by Nicholas Conde, THE BELIEVERS presents the growing battle brewing in the back alleys and basements of NYC between Santeria (good magic) and Brujeria (witchcraft). While the good guys are only using their magic to protect, the bad guys are using it to ritually murder children. Okay, I'm with you. The mystery starts to unravel and it is engaging. But once we find out that the bad guys are affluent, predominately white yuppies, I call foul. Truly this cliché is as worn by this point in the late 80s as the other voodoo mumbo jumbo presented in the film.

That is too bad because THE BELIEVERS does feature several effective and disturbing scenes. Gruesome on screen images include snakes found post-mortem in Jimmy Smits' intestines and a boil on Shaver's face bursting forth tiny spiders. There are even some memorable sets such as the haunting empty theater turned ceremony chamber where Smits' psychotic cop character is introduced or the abandoned construction site in the film's climax (despite this candle lit structure being formula for the genre itself). As stand alone scenes and set pieces, they are quite effective. But placed in context with the rest of the plodding feature, they seem strangely out of place. This is doubly shameful given the Schlesinger's previous work. After all, he is responsible for one of cinema's best cringe inducing moments (the tooth drilling torture scene in MARATHON MAN).

In terms of acting, everyone is fine. Sheen, resembling an old Emilio Estevez, gets to scream a lot in the first hour or so. He is a bit more subdued in the end (after all, the cult drugs him) and he delivers the film's final k.o. with great subtlety. The film's best performances come from the Jimmy Smits and Robert Loggia as two cops snared by the occult shenanigans. Also good is Harley Cross as Sheen's preyed upon son. Cross stacked up the genre credits before he was even 15 with this, his role as the young Martin Brundle in THE FLY II (1989) and the lead in the still unreleased THE BOY WHO CRIED BITCH (1991).

Hollywood was flooded with occult flicks in the late 80s, second only to the underwater film craze. Titles such as THE BELIEVERS, ANGEL HEART, THE SEVENTH SIGN, THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK and THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW all hit cinemas with a year of each other. As it stands, THE BELIEVERS is one of the lesser entries in this list. Believe it or not.
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Blood Cult
sol24 September 2005
***SPOILERS*** Moving to New York City with his nine year old son Chris,Darley Cross, after his wife Lisa, Janet Laine Green, died in a tragic electrical accident psychiatrist Cal Jamison, Martin Sheen, got a job in the New York Police Department as a special therapist for cop's who have deep emotional problem's, that in many cases could lead to suicide.

Called to a deserted theater to talk a cop out of killing himself Cal get's his first taste of what was to happen to him his son Chris and to almost everyone else he knows by the time the movie "The Believers" is over. Officer Tom Lopez, Jimmy Smits, has become suicidal after finding this young boy skinned alive and murdered, on an altar at the theater, as well as having his police badge being stolen by those who committed this ghastly crime. Lopez is terrified that he'll be the next victim with his badge, like a voodoo doll, having a hex put on it by the boys killers.

Taken away to a psychiatric ward for observation Lopez later escapes and in a last act of desperation calls Cal for help but commits Harri Kari before Cal and the police can come to his rescue. Martin together with NYPD Let. McTarggert, Robert Loggia, go to this drug rehabilitation center where Lopez worked as a youth counselor on his off time. Meeting with the center's director Oscar Sezine, Raul Davila, it becomes obvious that Lopez and Sezine, both practitioners of Santeria, were being used as dupes for what the center was only a front for the practice of Brujeria,Spanish for witchcraft. Those oculists running the center were secretly using the youths there in their blood and murder rituals.

The A.C.H.E Drug Rehibilitation Center was founded by this rich weirdo Robert Calder, Harris Yulin, together with his spiritual adviser the even weirder Polo, Malick Bowens, an African Shaman Priest. Getting the pesky Lopez out of the way, by having him kill himself, these blood-worshipers were now ready to commit a series of murders of young boys to usurer in the Summer Solstice, June 21, which is a major holiday in their, Brujeria, religion.

Polo taking Let. McTaggert's NYPD business card, that he gave Sezine, and putting a hex on it causes him to go off the deep end and later blow his brains out. Cal's girlfriend Jessica, Helen Shaver, later at a party, and fund raiser for the A.C.H.E Center,in Calder's honor has her powder puff spiked, by Polo, where she develops a large blistering infection on her face that almost kills her. Cal's maid Carman(Carla Pinza), also a Santeriaist, feels that this Brujeria cult is after his son Chris and tries to protect him, with a number of Santeria rituals. Cal misunderstood what Carman is doing fires her thus leaving Chris, and himself, to face these dangerous and blood thirsty blood-worshipers maniacs all by themselves.

Cal is then tricked into leaving Chris with his long time friends the Maslows Dennis & Kate, Lee Richardson & Elizabeth Wilson, at their summer home in the country not realizing that their members of this blood cult who in fact sacrificed their own son some 40 years ago to it and now want him to do the same with Chris!

Disturbing and creepy movie that gets a bit off course at the very end with what looks like an alternative ending, in 1987 before they became popular on video and DVD movies,that suggests that a sequel to "The Belivers" is soon to follow, it didn't.
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Utter tosh
philip-davies313 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
The most unbelievable thing about this farrago of absolute nonsense is that it is the work of the great John Schlesinger. Beautifully filmed and edited, the story is nonsense from start to finish, and no amount of flashy style can rescue it. I don't think the director himself can have believed in this, because nothing here is believably disturbing. All we see is sick and criminal behaviour inexplicably involving nice rational metropolitan types. The film's lame procession of empty, contrived sensations just doesn't convince us of anything except the film's own total lack of conviction.Plenty of style on show - just the wrong cool style for the daft subject. Polanski was dark and middle-European enough to disturb us with his chilling horror Rosemary's Baby. Schlesinger does not inhabit this bonkers realm at all, and his film falls flat. It is contrived, boring and unconvincing throughout. Utter tosh.
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Not half bad, really
Eileen McHenry5 September 2005
This is a rather slick, big-budget horror picture that is kind of low on the horror, but nice if you want some "suspense lite" of an evening. Good story progression, boss visuals, nice special effects, good production values. There was a certain lack of dramatic tension that brought the whole thing down. The story would have been more convincing if Martin Sheen had acted, you know, a little bereaved in the wake of his wife's death. Ditto his son. Now, about that kid. This is one of the most egregious examples of the Odious Child role ever -- so much so that I really suspect him of having been the most threatening person in the story. He was a more convincingly evil character than Malik Bowen's Santeria priest -- oh, sure, the priest's eyes change color when he's feeling the Spirit, but everywhere the kid goes with his tribal fetish doll, someone dies horribly. COINCIDENCE?
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religions have a lot of bad sects
Lee Eisenberg2 November 2011
John Schlesinger was best known for movies like "Darling", "Midnight Cowboy", "Sunday Bloody Sunday", "The Day of the Locust" and "Marathon Man". But now he directs something totally different.

To understand what happens in "The Believers", it helps to have foreknowledge of Santería, a syncretic religion practiced widely in the Caribbean. It is based in the Yoruba culture (in present-day Nigeria), but includes influences from Roman Catholicism and the indigenous American cultures. The movie depicts a satanic offshoot of Santería mixed with brujería (Spanish for "witchcraft"), that is sacrificing children in New York, and is now targeting the son of Martin Sheen's character.

If you expect a slasher movie, this is nothing of the sort. There is some violence, but no guts getting torn out or anything -- only one scene can truly get called shocking (you'll know it when you see it) -- and there's limited sex/nudity. I'd say that the movie's strength is its depiction of how Sheen's character slowly but surely learns about a culture with which he was previously unfamiliar. The movie does make clear that the religious cult is not Santería, but a different group. After all, every religion is bound to have its wackos.

Does the movie have any downsides? Well, Robert Loggia's cop came across as a little silly, but I'd call that the only true downside. Otherwise, this is a good one. Also starring Helen Shaver, Richard Masur, Jimmy Smits and Harris Yulin (who I at first mistook for Richard Jenkins, aka Nate Sr. on "Six Feet Under").
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A delightful surprise.
Elswet19 January 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I read the box. I saw the previews. I was unimpressed. But in viewing this production, I must say I was delightfully surprised.

Martin Sheen delivers an honest and genuine performance as a recently-widowed father who must battle the forces of evil to keep a grip on his son.

This was a very close depiction of Santeria, a South American belief system similar to voodoo, and the darker aspects of its flip-side. It also is a very realistic representation concerning the bigotry found between religious groups, but that is SO not what the movie is about.

Caught in a web of deceit and ritualistic murder, Cal (Sheen) must puzzle his way through this intricate maze of dark riddles to save his son from the clutches of an ancient evil.

If it sounds dramatic by that description, then just wait until you see the movie. It is edgy, suspenseful, and bears some downright scary moments. This is good cinema.

I personally think this is one of the best of its sub-genre, second only (and not by much) to Rosemary's Baby, but superior to the Servants of Twilight adaptation (though not superior to the book by Dean R. Koontz).

It rates an 8.2/10 from...

the Fiend :.
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'They Got My Shield!'
Predrag4 April 2017
This is that rare thing, a genuinely scary contemporary American horror thriller film. Psychologist (Martin Sheen) loses his wife in a tragic accident, later he and his son move to a new location. The gruesome murders of young boys are discovered by authorities (Martin Sheen) is called in when at one of the murder scenes a young very distraught latino cop (Jimmy Smits) is found rambling and praying in Spanish it is learned that something he knows is scaring him and making him fear for his life after discovering that the murdered boys were sacrifices used by a murderous demonic voodoo cult.

Although a thriller, and a disturbing one at that, this is also a meditation on how people who are searching or in need of something outside of their regular lives, can be easily sucked into dangerous ideology. It can be terrorism, racism, or anarchism; here, it is a religious cult. This film takes the viewer into the mysterious world of "Santeria", which is a rich and colorful religion that is a blend of Afro-Cuban Religion combined with traditional Catholic religious beliefs. Many of the Catholic European saints are matched with native animals or values. The religion is fascinating though the film is for the most part drama, it is without question a Primer on the subject. The ending is improbable, to say the least, but if you're interested in a movie with a lot of twists and turns, this one is fun to watch. Be warned, however, that its basic premise is flawed, and the film casts a serious and unwarranted slur on the religion of Santería.

Overall rating: 8 out of 10.
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too long of a buildup to nothing
disdressed123 November 2007
i guess this movie is a bit eerie at's basically about people who practice an obscure religion,with bizarre beliefs.but i've seen at least one movie quite similar to it,possibly not only is there not much originality,but nothing new is done with the i pretty much figured things out from the get go.the whole movie is basically one slow build.but to what,i'm not sure.i mean there is a bit of excitement in the last 25 minutes or so.but the ending is very predictable.generally i found this movie too boring to watch right through.i had to stop it several times,and then try to continue.actually i completely stopped it at one point,until this morning,when i finally finished it.some people will like this movie,and some will not.i fall into the category of not,for the most part.the acting was good though,so that's always a bonus.even so,i give The Believers a 4/10
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A gross out fest. Nothing more. (spoilers)
Pepper Anne29 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I think the filmmakers knew they were dealing with an almost non-existent plot, at least not one strong enough to fill the 114 minutes it was supposed to and, to improvise, paid far too much attention to special effects, trying to make more of a gore fest instead of really trying to develop an interesting story. Granted, in horror movies, special effects can really make the movie quite visually spectacular and altogether aid in entertainment, but when you're short on story, you're just short on story, plain and simple.

Following something like 'Rosemary's Baby' (which this film clearly resembles in the final scenes when Martin Sheen is trying to save his boy from a cult of weirdos in a warehouse), this is the story of a group of people in a voodoo cult, and particularly, they're after one man's son for their next ritual. (If you don't happen to understand what the heck is going on through most of the movie, don't worry, they pretty much save any real explanation--and hints thereof--till the finale scene in those just-in-case-we-didn't-explain-it-well closing dialogs). Martin Sheen, therefore, has to figure out why all these people are dying and what exactly it has to do with him and his son. Of course, they turned a relatively smart guy into a blithering idiot, since he doesn't seem to make the connection fast enough that the people he knew and that he comes in contact with are dying, usually horribly violent deaths. That is, until the end, when it is almost too late to do anything.

Again, the filmmakers spend far too much time trying to gross the viewers out with extremely graphic death scenes. Not but three minutes into the film, Sheen's wife (Janet-Lane Greene) is electrocuted for a good minute to a horribly grim death. If you can stand that, you can probably stand the rest of the attempted gross out sequences in the remainder of the film. You'll have to, since there is not much else going on. All of these characters appear to struggle with one another, but none of them have any real sense of what is going on (save the later voodoo jargon that may bore you to death), so you don't get much to go on either. That is really a shame, too, considering the potential of such a tremendous cast which also includes Richard Masur, Robert Loggia, Jimmy Smits (in a good part), and young Harley Cross doing a fine job as Martin Sheen's son (but that is not surprising, if you have seen 'Cohen and Tate').

It's a like it or leave it kind of movie. For fans of Harley Cross, I say try it. For those interested in the story, I'd say you're better off with 'Rosemary's Baby.'
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