Review: BELZEBUTH (2017) – Cinepocalypse 2019

Previously known for his comedies’ director Emilio Portes serves notice early that Belzebuth is a major change of pace. The film has barely begun when a nurse locks herself in a maternity ward and starts hacking newborns to death. Then cuts her own throat. One of the victims is the son of Detective Emmanuel Ritter (Joaquín Cosio) who loses not only his child but his wife as well.

Five years later, Ritter is called to investigate another mass killing of children. A 9th grader kills 33 kindergartners before shooting himself. Partnered with a “Paranormal Forensics” expert from the FBI Ivan Franco (Tate Ellington, The Endless, Sinister 2). As the mass killings increase, their investigation leads to the disgraced and excommunicated Father Vasilio Canetti ( Tobin Bell, Saw, Let Us In).

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Belzebuth starts out strong with the hospital massacre. Perhaps a bit too strong as it leaves several later scenes looking weak. And they’re not, they’re well done, they just can’t match the sheer horror of that scene, although the swimming pool massacre comes close.

A mix of elements from the likes of Seven, The X-Files and Deliver Us From Evil, Belzebuth starts out as a fairly straight, if horrific police thriller. The supernatural elements start to creep in and by the halfway mark it’s firmly in the horror genre. It works up some creepy atmosphere and jump scares. One scene that should have been a highlight, the investigation of an abandoned church, is badly hurt by some terrible effects. Obvious CGI blood is also an issue in later scenes.

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Despite this, Belzebuth still manages to hold the viewer’s interest. The final act not only has a fairly novel setting, a cartel tunnel under the border. It also manages to add enough twists to some familiar material to be anything but predictable. That includes an exorcism that puts those in most of the recent rash of possession films to shame.

Portes seems to have a talent for the genre and I hope he doesn’t go back to comedy, I’d like to see more like Belzebuth from him.

Raven Banner has Belzebuth on the festival trail. It just made its North American premiere at Cinepocalypse, and it’s worth seeing if it plays near you.

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