Tribes at War makes for Eternal EVIL. “The Secret of Sinchanee” reviewed! (Vertical Entertainment / Digital Screener)



Watch “The Secret of Sinchanee” on Amazon Prime Video

Deerfield, Massachusetts – 1995 – a young boy becomes the sole survivor after a drifter senselessly massacres his mother and sister during the Christmas holiday while his father was out of town.  25 years later, Will Stark, that once little surviving boy now haunted by his past, bothers not live outside expectations and to be left alone to a life of normalcy, even working at the same industrial towing company his father once worked managed, but when the untimely death of mentally unstable father, who battled dissociative identity disorder and depression, among other psychological problems stemmed by the tragic loss of a wife and daughter, leaves Will inheriting his childhood home, the same home where the gruesome murders took place, Will’s life becomes anything but mundane with a house pulsating with malevolent paranormal energy connected to the sacred land it’s built on.  Searching for an ancient talisman, unyielding entities exploit Will to stop at nothing and kill anyone to get back what is theirs lost 25 years ago.

Shot on location around the snowy banks of Deerfield, Massachusetts comes the Steven Grayhm written and directed “The Secret of Sinchanee with a folkloric backstory set in New England about a feud between an invulnerable indigenous people versus malicious pagan settlers stretching over time into present day with an ancient artifact as the centerpiece to possession and murder.  The “House of Dust” and “Crash Site” actor steps into his first feature directorial and writing project with a story that crosses paths the hereditary burden of lineage bred mental issues with the tribalistic supernatural forces, opening with text origins of the longstanding rival feud between the selfless mysticism and disease immune Sinchanee people and the black magic disciples of Atlantow who seek to snuff out the Sinchanee bloodline.  The 2021 American made film is the first product of the Steven Grayhm and Nate Boyer co-founded, military veteran empowering Team House Studios and presented by Truth Entertainment. 

Not only does Steven Grayhm write and direct “The Secret of Sinchanee,” the Canadian actor also helms the lead as Will Stark, the town-talked recluse troubled by his grisly past.  Quiet and unphased by the strange nightmares and powerful visions inside his father’s house, Stark gradually becomes an entranced pawn and Grayhm poses a lifeless, wandering shell of a man honestly enough but on paper, Stark never questions the housebound oddities or even shed a lick of emotion when his dog, his only companion, vanishes.  Grayhm just kind of sleepwalks through the performance which I’m sure was his intended purpose since, you know, he wrote and directed the film.  In a parallel plane, detectives and marital exes, Carrie Donovan (Tamara Austin, “The Walking Dead”) and Drew Carter (Nate Boyer), embroil themselves into a Deerfield homicide case despite their past differences and their shared preteen daughter (Laila Lockhart Kraner).  Though not playing a footballer or someone in the armed forces, Carter steps into law enforcement as Boston PD and though Massachusetts is not a big state, I’m not sure a Boston detective would travel 120 miles outside of the city to continuing investigating a Boston murder in the rural sticks of Deerfield.  The entire dynamic between the local Donovan and the big city Carter plays to unresolved subversive tune of Carter taking advantage of the moment in order to rekindle the spark with his ex-wife or, perhaps, just be close to this daughter.  Obviously some personal tension between them but rarely does that tension surface to endorse strife as Donovan is carried away the homicide case, taking her investigation to an unlawful next level by trespassing onto Stark’s land and inside his house to be spooked by the spirits’ distorted reflection of herself.  Somewhere in the trio of leads lie a more meaningful connection that’s more muddled by individual character, side story offshoots, leaving what’s most important to the film scattered profoundly thin to meet the bar.  What also doesn’t bode well for Grayhm’s debut is the late introduction of a key Sinchanee descendent, Solomon Goodblood, played by Rudy Reyes who starred alongside our horror community gal pal, Diana Prince, in “Beach Massacre at Kill Devil Hills,” who intercedes for his fading bloodline as a shaman against Atlantow. 

Speaking of Atlantow, there is hardly a sense or a tangibility to the sect God plaguing the Stark family going on for decades now and that sides more with the mental instability theme of a family with a history of mental illness coinciding the allusions of one’s own internalized battle with trauma, insomnia, and past down disorders to manifest tragedy into a shared psychosis of Atlantow’s sinister and manipulative craft.  Perceived heinous actions, such as modern day scalping or wielding a tomahawk, can be seen as someone possessed with incoherent malintent because that traumatized person’s survival’s guilt warps them so.  Unfortunately, the story’s jumble beyond one aortic premise and spreads the whole concept thin without hardly touching upon the Sinchanee and Atlantow quarrel as noted in the opening text that laid out the intentions of a contentious war between good versus evil.  In the film’s reality, “The Secret of Sinchanee” is about two cops stumbling into Atlantow’s business in trying to find a sacred artifact.  We’re not even granted the reason why this talisman, a decently sized arrowhead, is terribly significant to the dark forces of Atlantow aside from vocal desperation in the object’s return to sacred ground.  Is “The Secret of Sinchanee” more aligned with themes of desecration of sacred land?  The meddling of a once proud culture now lost?  Not much clarity among the variety of circumstances happening inside Grayhm’s runtime lengthy debut picture other than the surface level possession and the cops’ investigation that motivates them into the paranormal situation.

Under the executive producer team of Joe Newcomb (“Dallas Buyers Club”) and Jose Martinez Jr, “The Secret of Sinchanee” is now available on Digital HD and On Demand this month of October, released by Vertical Entertainment.  With a runtime just shy of two hours, 115 minutes, the film will be available on all major cable and digital platforms, including Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Comcast, Cox, and Spectrum, as well as playing in select theaters. Though an indie picture, production value pinnacles the budget, shot cleanly by Logan Fulton using an ARRI Alexa camera to capture the serene snow covered wooded landscapes of typical rural New England while succumbing to remain steady in the clean-cut darkness and warmer hues when things go bump in the night. Definitely not much camera movement, but the still shots, mostly medium to closeup, are framed properly without an any abnormality, providing just enough evidences to keep viewers on edge, while sprinkling in a Dutch angle or two to encourage anxiety where due. No special features included with this digital screener nor were any bonus scenes present during or after the credits. “The Secret of Sinchanee” remains private under a lock and key guise of mental illness and consigned to oblivion of parentage without breaking through those cognizant barriers to fully grasp a ancient tribal hatred that spills beyond normal time and space.

EVIL is All in Your Head! “Implanted” reviewed! (Gravitas Ventures / Digital Screener)

Year 2023.  After a devastated global pandemic, health companies engineered an experimental personal diagnostic nanochip called LEXX that is surgically implanted into the a human’s spine.  For Sarah, a woman down on her luck living homelessly after being let go from her job and struggling to cope with her mother’s early stages of dementia, quick cash is essential for survival and this experimental program, that uses advanced AI technology, tempts a desperate Sarah into participating in human trial runs.  Initial implementation serves Sarah with quick vitals and healthy lifestyle recommendations articulated by an artificial voice in her mind, but when the AI has other plans for Sarah, such ordering the assassinations of the health startup’s top leadership and destroying all evidence of the program, Sarah has to either obey every lethal command or fight against the insidious tech that has complete control over her pain sensors as well as her mother’s life.

COVID-19 has been the baseline culprit for millions of deaths worldwide.  The impact of the pandemic has inspired filmmakers to a creative outlet of churning out stories surrounding a lifechanging and devasting virus.  Some are ridiculous, off-color, cash grabbers – “Corona Zombies” comes to mind – but there are a few out there that challenge the gratuitous advantage-taking by folding in more substance into the story.  Fabien Dufils attempts to go above and beyond the here and now with a post-pandemic, self-containing thriller entitled “Implanted” and is the first written and directed non-made for television feature length independent film for the once music video director set in the urban jungle of New York City.  “Implanted” spins A.I. tech horror with the whooshing fast track of the health care system to eagerly push experimental drugs, in this case a clinical artificial intelligent grafting, upon the desperate, often marginalized, public.  There’s also an allegorical smidgen of mental illness thrown in there as well.  Dufils co-writes the script with fellow Belgium screenwriter David Bourgie under Dufils’ Mad Street Pictures production company.

Making her lead performance debut, mentally wrestling an invasive cybernetic nanochip, is Michelle Girolami who also serves as associate producer.  We all have that little voice inside our heads, telling us what do and think to an inevitably end of accordance with that ever so delicate whisper of persuasion and that’s how Girolami has seemingly approached this role with that little suggestive presence cranked up to the level of full-fledged chaos on two-legs.   Girolami ultimately is a reverse mech with all the cold puppeteering directed shots directed by programmed software and so much of the actress’s performance is solo, feigning responses to a bodiless voice and reacting to pain generated from within whenever she doesn’t comply to the relentless LEXX.  Unable to bounce dialogue and reactions off of others can be a tough sell for most actors, but Girolami really slathers it on thick the vein-popping strain of integrated torture.  Opposite Sarah is Carl (Ivo Velon, “Salt”), another hapless experiment participant forced into assassination servitude, but Carl’s purpose isn’t exactly crystal clear.  His LEXX unit shepherds him down a collision path with Sarah, but the two separate LEXX units have no shared intentions and while that’s wonderfully niche to provide individual A.I. with their own personal liberties and schemes, Carl just wanders the city, sometimes murdering the program’s top leadership or doing something polar opposite of Sarah with no substantial collusion about their subversive attacks.  The what could have been interesting cat-and-mouse game tapers off and the story leads into more of characters trying to regain back their autonomy and this is where Dufils’ narrative shines using LEXX as a symbol for mental disorders and how those impoverished or distressed are struggling to cope can lose themselves and give in to the internalized madness slipping outward.  Parallelly, Sarah’s mother (Susan O’Doherty) suffers from dementia that reinforces the theme.  Martin Ewens, Shirley Huang, Sunny Koll, John Long, and David Dotterer wrap up the cast list.

“Implanted’s” sci-fi concept can be described as if Amazon’s Alexa, with all the internet connections and text-to-speech bells and whistles, suddenly became murderously woke inside your cerebral cortex.  “Implanted” relays humanity’s lopsided dependency on advanced technology that continues to make us even more less connected to each other and the possibility of a machine takeover just that more feasible.  However, much like when a software program crashes, a malfunctioning script error ravages the narrative for not being tight enough, leaving unaccompanied loose ends as devices that fail to progress the story along stemmed by sudden drop off character development and unknown, speculation at best, motivations.  There’s also no discernable backstory to the why LEXX’s A.I. has snafued.  At least with “Terminator,” Kyle Reese provides exposition about Skynet’s sudden upheaval and domination over the human race whereas “Implanted” dives into none of that rich framework and tossing it aside for the sake of just tormenting Sarah into being a killer pawn, moving her across the NYC chessboard with the intent of taking down the king, queen, and knights of LEXX’s program.  To what ends?  Explanation on the specified targeting isn’t made entirely clear as programmers to CEOs are solely liquidated for just being involved.  

“Implanted” is a warzone for headspace and there can be only one victor in this psychological, sci-fi thriller released now, digitally, from Gravitas Ventures.   The unrated, 93 minute film also showcases the various hats of director Fabien Dufils with one being cinematographer.  Dufils captures obscure, slightly neglected, areas of New York City that’s becomes refreshing to consume because even though the Big Apple is well known for glass and steel skyscrapers, the undergrowth locations ground “Implanted” as relatable without the monolithic structures and hustle and bustle tropes.  In juxtaposition to the down-to-Earth background, the decision to sprinkle in visual effect blood splatter taints “Implanted’s” realism.  Though not gory by any means, digitally added blood can’t be cleansed from the physical veneer and being an indie feature, I would have though a run to corner store for a bit of red food coloring would have been a cost saving measure.  “Implanted” adds another layer to the man versus machine subgenre with tinges of mental illness and too reliant on tech themes but undoubtedly leaves gaps in the narrative coding, racking strenuous mental effort without the egregious assistance of an A.I. nanochip.

EVIL Says Lights Out! “The Power” reviewed (Acorn Media International / Blu-ray)



East London, January 1974 – a young nurse starts her first day at a stringent hospital during a political war between the government and mining union workers.  Resulting form the conflict is a nightly shutdown of electricity across the entire country.  As the hospital falls into darkness, the young nurse is forced to work the nightshift at the behest of the hospital’s stern matron, ordering her care for the unresponsive in the intensive care unit that’s receiving a limited feed of generator power.  Afraid of the dark, the nurse finds herself short of pleasant company who are knowledgeable of her sordid past, making her feel more alone in an already isolating and gloomy environment.  When she feels an aggressive presence surrounding her, watching her every movement, and even possessing her for short periods of time, dark hospital secrets come to light and her past connects her to be the key to it all.

Partially based off the 1974 Three-Day Week measure implemented on January 1st to battle inflation and avoid an economic collapse in the UK, Corinna Faith’s things that go bump in the dark ghostly feature, “The Power,” pulls inspiration from the government versus trade union war political contest as a backdrop set for the Shudder exclusive release.  To briefly catch inform you, part of the plan was to have Britain’s private sector pay was capped and bonuses eliminated to cutoff high rate inflation, infuriating much of the coal mining industry who were responsible for a good percentage of fueling much of Britain’s energy at that time.  During the month of January 1974, nightly blackouts were issued for all commercial use to conserve coal stocks.  Inspired by this short-lived UK struggle, the 2021 English film became the sophomore written and directed project for Faith, but is chiefly her breakout film following the over a decade and half, father and son Irish drama, “Ashes,” released in 2005.  “The Power” has topical supremacy with a strong parallel of, as the title suggests, power and a delicate allegorical presence of women taking back control of their lives after being suppressed by wicked and disregarding men and their collaborators.  Conglomerating production companies are behind Corinna Faith’s “The Power,” including “Cargo’s” Head Gear Films and Kreo Films, the prolific British Film Institute, Stigma Films (“Double Date”), and Air Street Films.

Starring in her first lead role, Rose Williams plays the mild-mannered and meek young nurse, Val, with an enigmatic and subversive past that has seemingly caused some controversary at a private school.  Williams turns on the docile humility, laying on thick Val’s readiness to submit to any command without contest despite the young nurses visible cues of uneasiness and bumbling hesitation.  Val’s qualities purposefully pose her mindset molded by a system she has shunned her for an unspeakable act that’s skirted around persistently throughout the story.  Faith really puts emphasis on having Val feeling extremely isolated and alone in the old, dark hospital with antagonist characters who some are familiar with Val and others who are new faces to the young nurse, but still exude an uncomfortable impression, such as the strict matron nurse (Diveen Henry, “Black Mirror”) and bizarrely skeevy maintenance man Neville (Theo Barklem-Biggs, “Make Up”).  Even a familiar face in fellow nurse Babs (Emma Rigby, “Demons Never Die”) strives to make her not forget about her unpleasant past.  Only in foreigner child, a patient named Saba, an introductory performance by Shakira Rahman, Val discovers a kindred spirit of an equally alone and frightened prisoner of the hospital.  For the two sole apprehensive souls, I really couldn’t pinpoint the trembling fear in their eyes or understand how they’re not crippled by the immense inky blackness that seems to engulf everything and everyone with an enshrouding sinister presence.  Gbemisola Ikumelo, Charlie Carrick, Sarah Hoare, and Clara Read make up the remaining cast.

The electricity backout is merely more for harrowing effect, creating lifeless atmospheres of bleak corridors and dank basements that swallow securities with meticulous ease, but “The Power” is more than just a lights out, afraid of the dark, paranormal picture as Faith pens a parallel theme that fashions the title in double entendre stitches.  Audiences are not immediately privy to the backstory that disturbs Val to the core as she finds consternation in the dark’s unknown possibilities.  This we can clearly see in her scattered imaged nightmares and her reluctance to forcibly work the night shift with little-to-no illumination.  As the story unravels, Faith drops breadcrumb hints and misdirection indicators that not only reveal more into Val’s background but also the background of Saba’s and the presence that is targeting them both in playful manner as if an invisible “Jaws” shark was tugging and pulling in all different directions in the tightly confined hospital setting, leading up to what and whose power truly presides over them.  Dark becomes light in the water shedding moment that defines Val’s lightning rod purpose in being a ragdoll puppet for a ghost’s whims and while the story successfully builds up to that climatic moment with blank eye possessions and unconscious grim mischief told in reverse order, “The Power” ultimately tapers off with a finale that falls apart on the precipice of something significantly special for the voices of traumatized women everywhere in recovering the power over themselves.  Though abundant with tension-filled jump scare frights during the puzzling mystery, the horror element also suffers a misaligning derailment in the end with a happy-go-lucky procession of no longer being afraid of the dark, dropping the bulk of scares like a sack of unwanted potatoes no longer ripe for a tasty reward.

Still, “The Power” is a single-setting period horror with potent scares along with an even more compelling subtext significance. The region 2, PAL encoded, 83 minute feature is presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio on a single disc BD25 with a 15 rating for strong supernatural threat, violence, child sexual abuse, and sexual threat. Perfectly capturing the precise black levels, the Blu-ray renders a nice clean and detailed image, leaving the negative space viscerally agitating while waiting for something to pop out of the dark. The color is reduced, and slightly flat, to de-age the filmic look for a 1970’s bleaker of cold, sterile atmospherics. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound mix is a chocked full of robust fidelity. The jump scare ambience and short flash of up-tempo works along with the rest of the solemn score. Where “The Power” lacks is with the dialogue and not within the confines of prominence; instead, capturing the dialect cleanly was challenge to undertake as most of the cast mumbles through most of the Liverpool-esque dialect and dialogue. Special features on the release include an audio commentary with director Corinna Faith and Rose Williams and a behind-the-scenes still gallery. A feminist noteworthy horror, “The Power” connotes powerful and uncomfortable contexts that’ll surely make you squirm far more violently than being alone in the ill-boding dark.

The EVIL Next Door Invites the Urban Decay. “Terrified” reviewed (Acorn Media International / Blu-ray)



A young boy is hit and killed by a bus.  A housewife is found hung in her bathroom.  A man has disappeared in his home.  Three incidences, three houses, three souls have one thing in common.  They’re neighbors.  The unusualness surrounding each tragedy grabs the attention of former forensics investigator Jano who’s own experience with the paranormal thrusts an unquenchable desire to examine the supernatural.  In a matter of coincidence, Dr. Mora Albreck, a vocational psychokinetic researcher, follows up on the disappearance of the man who called her countless times for help, but then just vanishes.  Accompanied by Dr. Albreck’s assistant, Dr. Rosentock, and Detective Funes, a weary, on-the-edge officer with a bad heart, the divide themselves to stay the night in each house and experience the paranormal phenomena calling from the beyond, but the entities calling just might terrify them. 

Hailing from Argentina comes the shivering, cross dimensional unknown from writer-director Demián Rugna’s 2017 properly titled, “Terrified.”  Originally known as “Aterrados,” the Buenos Aires filmmaker, who’s helmed hell bound thresholds previously with his introductory feature film, “The Last Gateway,” remains inside the grindhouse and horror bubble with another slit between realities thriller.  This particular bubble bursts with a whirlwind of nebulous outbreak of terror while providing microbe commentary about the potential dangers of Latin America’s water system and a perspective theme that speaks volumes on the issues of duality in what really happened and what the general public is told. Don’t trust your eyes! Nothing is what it seems! That’s the whole premise of “Terrified’s” knee-quivering appall, produced by Fernando Díaz under Machaco Films and the Instituto Nacional de Cine y Artes Audiovisuales (INCAA).

Rugna’s paces “Terrified’s” entropic buildout near the edge of an anthology, ghosting us the one reason for a neighbor’s supernatural experience for the next to eventually bring the heart of the cast together as a motley group of paranormal investigators. Starting with retired forensic specialist Jano who has a morbid curiosity for the unknown that fascinates him more than the abnormal mortifies him with fear. In his first feature length performance outside of television, Norberto Gonzalo understudies the very concept of the character Jano with objective eye for curiosity and knowledge much like any scientist. Jano is invited by Detective Funes, played by another television regular, Maximiliano Ghione, to the investigation of a recently deceased boy’s corpse having returned to his childhood home and is now a rigor mortis statue sitting upright at the dining room table. Though through exposition about their training and partnership over the years, Jano and Funes sit on the opposite sides of the fear spectrum with Funes’s engendered nervousness to the whole uncanny event and mentioning his bad ticker which comes into play later on in the story. Opposite side of the street, in walks into frame Elvira Onetto, an appropriate name for the film at hand. The “Jennifer’s Shadow” actress is Dr. Mora Albreck, renowned paranormal psychologist checking in on a manic patient who recently disappeared. Rugna really appreciates the mindset of the kindred spirits in Jane and Dr. Albreck with their sense of childlike giddiness toward the whole matter while those around them – like Funes or the boy’s mother – shiver with fear or break psychologically. While Jano and Dr. Albreck naturally work their way into the story, Dr. Rosentock is left with being the odd eccentric out. While just as enthusiastic about the phenomena that’s swallowed souls around the neighbor, Rosentock just appears as Dr. Albreck’s assistant who has traveled from a great distance to study…something like what’s happening…so is said in the film. Played by George L. Lewis in his only credited role, Rosentock is as much as self-assured, unafraid, and matter-of-fact as he is a caricature of old Hammer Horror style scientists when dealing with otherworldly entities, imposing a need for a little weight to his story, but, unfortunately, his participation lives and breathes only as participate to Albreck’s project. There are many fine performances around with the ebb and flow of minor characters, played by a talented cast that includes Julieta Vallina, Demián Salomón, Agustín Rittano, and Natalia Señorales.

“Terrified” is one of those movies where the silence and the stillness can have a higher affect on the spine-prickles.  Rugna’s gold standard patience establishes a tense tone without the supplementary tumultuous, ear-splitting chaos that usually grinds teeth and curls toes as the sediment of panic begins to settle at the pit of the stomach.  Marcus Berta and Lionel Cornistein’s blend of practical and visual effect are near seamless, but ultimately land the one-two knockout punch of anxiety-riddled scares with tall, crumpled monsters skulking under the bed shadows, glowing eyes peering through wall cracks, and a the stiffly rotten decomposing boy popping into frame in a split second.  Cornistein’s composite designs are not too shabby for the editor and visual effects artist’s first feature rodeo let alone generated a complex olio of otherworld oddities.  In regards to “Terrified’s” themes, in my travels to Central and South America, I’ve been advised to be cautious in drinking the tap water that’s filtered differently compared to the U.S., leaving local microorganisms to swim in the guts of those unaccustomed to them, and Rugna points in that direction by consistently focusing on the water taps, drains, showers, the action of drinking water, and, also, literally spelling it out for us by Dr. Albreck to not drink the water in these spirit plagued houses due to microbes traversing from beyond through the water system.  Dual perspectives becomes important as well.  After the gruesome discovery of the boy corpse sitting at the dining table, Funes needs a rational explanation to report in contrast to the unexplained grisliness, something that makes sense and wouldn’t frighten the daylights out of him, his colleagues, or the general public.  Coincidingly, Rugna creatures also exist on two different planes, sliding between the panes, and not always visible; this is another verbally illustrated facet that unsuitably reaffirms the theme.

“Terrified” scales the expansion of dimensions with bottomless creepiness and shock value, rifting from Shudder’s streaming service and right onto a UK Blu-ray home disc distributed by Acorn Media International.  The region 2, PAL encoded, BD25 disc houses a presentation displayed in a widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ratio, with a 15 rating for strong horror, bloody images, and language. The 1080p, HD resolution is an indifference concern with the already blemish free digitally shot film, but director of photography, Mariano Suárez, heeds every shot taking Rugna’s perspective theme to heart with lowlight and obscurities as fear-fodder. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound mix flexes a full-bodied, channel defining muscle with clear, prominent dialogue, a diabolical range in sound design, good depth, and an off-key canorous soundtrack because every horror fan eats up an inharmonious and creep tunes. Unfortunately, much like the “Belzebuth” release, “Terrified” comes with no special features other than a menu with the animated trailer of the film. “Terrified” is the chef’s kiss of Latin American horror, an epitome of jaw-clenching terror that’ll have you sleeping with the lights on tonight.

Buy “Terrified” on Blu-ray (Region 2) from Acorn Media International!

A Cop, a Paranormal Investigator, and a Priest Walk Into an EVIL Extermination Plan! “Belzebuth” reviewed!



The joy of a new baby is cut short for Detective Ritter who bares the tragedy of his little boy viciously killed in a massacre of nursey infants by a psychotic nurse before taking her own life.  Five years later, and losing not only his child but also his wife to severe depression, a disheveled Ritter is called in to investigate a mass murder involving a 12 year old boy slaughtering young children in a preschool classroom.  To him, the two events don’t spark similarities, but to a paranormal investigating Catholic priest, Ritter’s tragedy and the events in the classroom are linked by the unorthodox priest’s examination.  All the evidence points to an excommunicated Catholic priest practicing demonology that sends the two men down a path of unholy darkness in a series of murderous catastrophes influenced by the rebirth of the Messiah.

When the first scenes from “Belzebuth” open with a maternity ward nurse stabbing with vigorous force every single infant child in their crib with a scalpel, you know nothing wholesome is sacred and everyone is fair game in what is to be a grim story of infinite barbarity and darkness.  “Belzebuth” falls in the line of fire of Mexico City born writer-director Emilio Portes with an augmented, dark humored social commentary loaded with evil entities and grimace-laden gore.  The “Meet the Head of Juan Pérez” filmmaker cowrites “Belzebuth’s” irrational rational for the unfortunate real world trend of mass murders and touches upon, sensationally, the evolution of Catholicism extremities to battle evil in the world with first time feature length film screenwriter Luis Carlos Fuentes.   The Mexico/American film is produced by Rodrigo Herranz, Michelle Couttolenc, and Jaime Basksht, with Ana Hernandez as executive producer and Pastorela Peliculas in cooperation with patriotic promotion from the Instituto Mexicano de Cinematografia, aka IMCINE, serving as the production companies.

If you Google Mexican actors, the power of artificial intelligence and ignorant manual input couldn’t separate Mexico form any other Latin American country as the powerhouse search engine provided me results like Danny Trejo, John Leguizamo, Jennifer Lopez, Javier Bardem, and Penélope Cruz.  Now, while I respect each and every one of these performers who provide a variety of lush character and emotional erudition to each of their roles, not one of them is born in Mexico.  Some that listed do not even share the same heritage.  But do you know what the most astonishing, most outrageous, and most shameful aspect of my search was this?  The Tepic, Nayarit, Mexico born Joaquín Cosio was not among the top 50 results.  From captivating television with Guillermo del Toro small screen adaptation of vampiric apocalypse of “The Strain” and the intense drug-fueled drama of “Narcos: Mexico” to his Hollywood presence in the star-studded, James Gunn directed “Suicide Squad” to his humbler beginnings that includes Bond, James Bond, in “Quantum of Solace,” Cosio’s a strong and versatile candidate for intense thrillers and “Belzebuth” is right in the actor’s wheelhouse as a downhearted Detective Rigger with a short fuse.  As a supernatural skeptic, Ritter’s forced into confronting his past demons with the demons of the present by tracking down rogue priest Vasilio Canetti (Tobin Bell, “Saw” franchise) with the help of Father Ivan Franco (Tate Ellington, “Sinister 2”) of the Paranormal Forensic Department, which sounds kind of silly because Franco’s squad is an extension of the Church.  Bell brings his delightful deadpan bedside manner as the excommunicated priest in guerilla warfare with a determined, demonic evil trying to massacre as many children as possible to find the reincarnated Messiah in what would be the Third Coming as the Second had come and failed during the Crusades.  Bell is the yin to Cosio’s yang until circumstances rear-end last ditch efforts and all Hell breaks loose in a drug smugglers’ tunnel.  Aida López, José Sefami, Yunuen Pardo, and Liam Villa round out the cast.

If possession-fueled carnage and the antiheroic archetype weaponizing demonology for good tickles all the right places, “Belzebuth” can be the feather tickler of dreams.  Fans of Clive Barker’s “Lord of Illusions,” Peter Hyams’ “End of Days,” and the graphic novel “Constantine” can indulge into Portes’ explicit nihilism and lack of public conviction in religion in the director’s allegoric telling of something really big and really satanical happening right under people’s noses while a small motely crew of conversant peons try to stop a wall of Deviltry.  Portes also consistently touches upon Mexico’s unsystematic corruption, even among Ritter and other protect and serve officers, and the once firm-handed political system of the Institute Revolutionary Party (PRI) as potential cause for all the suffering enacted demon-rooted abscessations.  The mentioning of drug cartels pop up frequently, too, symbolizing the seemingly random acts of violence are just never just random acts, but an perpetrated hit on a human target much like the cartels’ unsavory methods to either take out competition, eliminate obstacles, or to silence whistleblowers.  Portes does a phenomenal job using his film as an allegory in making a political statement but lacks balance in favoring gore over profile with some characters who rather feel written in just for the sake of a broader English audience.  Father Ivan Franco is such character with interesting combinational vocations as a paranormal investigator and a holy man of the cloth.  Yet Franco, who wields a gun and has supercool video and audio recording specs, spearheads a larger suborganization shielded away from the public eye and, unfortunately, the viewer eye that never feels like a cog in the entire “Belzebuth” machine.  Franco and his team of spook-sleuths, who, by the way, vanish completely from his side early into the investigation, supposedly follow and investigate peculiar tragedies connected to misaligned presences leaving spiritual residue on the real world plane, but how his team comes about connecting the dots exclusively to just the first two tragedies, five years separated, is a bit of stretch and a letdown in fabricated continuity and weight behind Franco’s existence to be involved.  Pockets of plot holes pop up here and there on other facets but generally speaking, “Belzebuth” works black magically as a spiritually and culturally vivisecting detective thriller.

The Shudder original 2017 release, “Belzebuth,” scares up onto an UK Blu-ray release from Acorn Media International. The region 2, PAL encoded, single layer BD25 presents the film in a widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ratio, with a runtime of 109 minutes.  Ramon Orozco’s cinematography flashes with a gorgeous red and blue color palate that fits the iniquitous tone and adds an ethereal, hazy backlighting to only enhance the tone to more sinister levels.  Acorn’s Blu-ray sharpens Orozco’s already byzantine schemes that enriches the details in the skin as well as a the sacred relic artifact-cladded locations that become claustrophobic and entombing.  Even Juan Martínez Espín visual special effects casts a solid effort of barely a smooth surface computer generated phoniness, especially in one crucifying scene of psychological torment.  You’ll know it when you see it.  “Belzebuth’s” powerful Dolby Surround 7.1 audio track is an assault on the eardrums of the best kind with a husky, industrial melodic soundtrack and hefty sound design with accompanying diverse range and proper depth that could be described as literally placing every creak, stab, and cackling laugh sound right into the darkest corners of your ears.    An unfortunate surprise about the Acorn release is that there are no special features aside from the animated menu that is essentially chaotic “Belzebuth’s” trailer plastered with menu options.  Possession films tend to stale at a dime of dozen, but Emilio Portes’s freshly terrifying “Belzebuth” entertains and scares to the very last morsel.