The Believers Blu-ray Review
Directed by John Schlesinger
Written by Mark Frost
1987, Region A, 114 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on October 14th, 2014
Martin Sheen as Cal Jamison
Helen Shaver as Jessica Halliday
Harley Cross as Chris Jamison
Robert Loggia as Lt. McTaggert
Jimmy Smits as Tom Lopez
Malick Bowens as Palo
Lee Richardson as Dennis Maslow
Richard Masur as MartyWertheimer
Elizabeth Wilson as Kate Maslow
Harris Yulin as Robert Calder
A string of ritualistic child murders is plaguing New York's finest, with bodies turning up from Central Park to the East River. Lieutenant McTaggert is at a loss when one of his best detectives, Tom Lopez, has some sort of psychotic break at the latest crime scene and begins threatening anyone who tries to come near him. The man is absolutely terrified that someone is watching and planning him physical harm. Once Lopez is subdued and taken to a mental hospital for observation, McTaggert contacts police psychiatrist Cal Jamison to figure out what is wrong with his fellow cop. He learns that the underlying fear is Voodoo, and that evil has arrived in the Big Apple with an agenda that is far from over.
Jamison, a recent widower, has not lived in the city long, but has relocated there with his young son Chris, in hopes of moving forward with their lives. His new landlord, Jessica Halliday, is eager to assist in keeping things stimulating and his Hispanic housekeeper encourages the idea with a love spell. Cal is further assisted with support from his closest friends, but everywhere he turns, he is reminded of his deceased wife. The murders continue with a strong religious overtone and strange things start plaguing Cal's inner circle. Detective Lopez has answers that point to a larger conspiracy, but can he share the information in a timely manner? What is going on and who is the mysterious Haitian man with the powder blue eyes?
Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now) stars as Cal Jamison, a man completely out of his element and unsure of whom he can trust. Sheen delivers with his usual intensity and his dedication to playing the material straight lends a much needed level of respectability to the fantastic. Helen Shaver (The Amityville Horror) as Jessica, is given little more to do than play the budding love interest until the threats get personal and she is given a show-stopping scene involving spiders that is absolutely terrifying. The always-welcome Robert Loggia (Psycho II) is as gruff as ever as Lt. McTaggert, the cop at the end of his rope when it comes to dealing with all of this religious mumbo-jumbo. Jimmy Smits (Running Scared) is awesome as the terrified Lopez, and brings an uneasiness to every scene in which he appears.
Director John Schlesinger (Marathon Man) knows how to build a suspenseful picture and really delivers here as he allows the religious rituals to gradually unfold without forcing a gratuitous scene of chatty exposition. Working from a screenplay by Mark Frost (Twin Peaks), who adapted Nicholas Conde's disturbing novel The Religion, the picture is filled with a growing intensity and sense of dread. Schlesinger surrounds his core group of actors with familiar faces including Richard Masur (Timerider), Lee Richardson (The Exorcist III), Elizabeth Wilson (9 to 5) and Harris Yulin (Bad Dreams). The most remarkable supporting player is Malick Bowens (Out of Africa) as Palo, the creepy Haitian antagonist. The man has a fantastic look and terrific screen presence in that he can be completely intimidating when simply standing still.
The Believers arrived in theaters three months after Angel Heart (1987), and the shared themes of Voodoo may have benefited the film. Not everything works in this picture, because Sheen really is just portraying a man thrown into a terrible situation; he's not a private detective, or even a cop for that matter, and therefore it is a bit of a reach for his character to solve so much of this mystery on his own. While the final act is powerful, it does require some additional suspension of disbelief, and the script eases audiences in to the scenario quite commendably. The 1980s offered countless other horror films involving religious mysticism, but this one holds up surprisingly well. If you missed the frequent late-night cable television screenings, now is your chance to check out this creepy flick, but you'll want to hurry, as the release is limited to only 3,000 copies.
Video and Audio:
The Believers is presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and receives a transfer that is visually pleasing. Compared to the earlier releases, this new HD transfer really pops with color and detail. Everything appears sharper and the film has never looked better.
The DTS-HD MA 2.0 track matches the video counterpart and does a fine job with balancing both dialogue and music cues. This is a nice mix that benefits from the frequent percussive elements of the soundtrack that continue to elevate the tension in many key sequences.
English subtitles are provided for anyone in need.
The film's score by J. Peter Robinson (Wes Craven's New Nightmare) is presented in a separate isolated DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo track for your listening pleasure.
The original theatrical trailer is the only video-based supplement included.