Is your favorite part of many supernatural scary movies when a priest inevitably faces off against some anti-Christ demonic Jesus? Have your prayers been answered with this one. Despite starting off with a gruesomely memorable opening, once the main narrative begins only a couple more effectively tense or frightening sequences are featured before things then take a turn into fervor for the flock which doesn’t hold much weight for those outside the club.

Belzebuth begins in Mexico at a hospital with Detective Emmanuel Ritter (Joaquín Cosio) and his wife experiencing the ecstasy of their recently born baby’s every blink and burp. Life quickly becomes unimaginable misery when a nurse sinks her scalpel into a nursery full of newborns one by one–Ritter’s son included–while horrified parents witness helplessly. Years later, violent child murders by the dozens kick off an investigation led by the still tormented Det. Ritter (who’s become a windower in the interim). Aside from his trusted partner Ritter receives some unwanted backup in the form of a gringo priest investigating the supernatural who may actually prove helpful. They soon become involved in an ongoing battle between evil forces and a rogue priest over the soul of the reborn messiah who’s been located during Ritter’s investigation. 

If you noticed I didn’t delve into non-Ritter characters during that summary and that’s because aside from him, nobody else has been given any traits beyond initial introductions. There’s Ritter’s Cop Partner (José Sefami), Toddler Jesus (Liam Villa), Mom to Toddler Jesus (Yunuen Pardo), Gringo Investigative Priest (Tate Ellington), and Tattooed Rebel Priest (Tobin Bell). Those descriptions are as much character as you’ll find for them and the film itself seems fine with it. Now, that could have worked–almost anything can deliver if executed well–but I don’t think it has here. Several characters clearly exist to inelegantly deliver plot information before passing on, sometimes quite literally to the point of comedy (a survivor of one of the mass killings coughs up a helpful description upon being found before immediately dying). 

Character motivations are nakedly “help Ritter” and/or “save Toddler Jesus” with no extra personality or drive of any kind–which drops this whole experience squarely on the shoulders of Joaquín Cosio’s Ritter. Cosio does fine enough with material he’s given but it’s standard issue detective whose faith has been shaken with a tragic past finds his way back, rinse, repeat. The second half of the movie abandons any pretext of storyline with a dive into old hat religious dogmas (“there is a divine plan,”  “the enemy will live to confront your faith,” “no matter what, do not stop praying,” “the Master will reveal himself when the time comes,” etc. Believers try to save the new messiah from ungodly demons/evil doers with a usual mix of shouting scriptures, splashing holy water, and heaving faith around like a bludgeon.

Clearly the movie isn’t without some laughs, but should you watch this someday be in the mood for several Jesus/the lord/our messiah-type speeches with a drinking game at the ready. Now, before I go I’ll share the funniest scene in the event you don’t end up watching for yourself. A crucified demonic Jesus statue taunts Ritter about his deceased son/wife in a “scary” voice that’s far more amusing than frightening before Demonic Jesus breaks free to attack with a holy nail. Between Demonic Jesus and the Big Emotions! it certainly elicited laughter from this guy.

It’s all put together well enough for the most part, but I simply don’t think Belzebuth  succeeds as a horror movie or is funny enough as an accidental comedy. Still, perhaps someone at least passively interested in a faith-based horror movie with a good helping of bloody gore and a tolerance for dead children might find something here worth their time. I reached capacity on predictable religious slogs long ago! 

 

4 out of 10 Demonic Jesuses

 

Belzebuth
RATING:UR
Runtime:1 Hr. 54 Mins.
Directed By:
Emilio Portes
Written By:
Emilio Portes & Luis Carlos Fuentes