Belzebuth (2019) [Cinepocalypse 2019]

A man who lost everything in a freak attack must investigate another a few years later. What he finds leads him down a pathway he never expected.

Written by Luis Carlos Fuentes and Emilio Portes with latter directing as well, Belzebuth explores religion and myths with a mix of mass tragedies that show the inherent evil of the world. The film is an dark take on stories that everyone hears far too often these days, giving the lead something to work with that many have seen and heard of, but with the added very real possibility that the devil or real evil might be at play here. The story takes some familiar beats and adds a few surprises here and there to spice things up while the direction take the familiar territory and turns it into something that can easily be watched and followed without boring the audience with too many familiar turns. The story has plenty in there to make fans of evil, exorcism, and hauntings want to stick around. The film builds a good atmosphere throughout with some scenes becoming really tense and only a few jump scares that wouldn’t have worked without the tension having built up in advance. A particular scene gets the creepy factor way up before culminating into something that will seriously piss off some of the religious crowds out there.

Top billed for Belzebuth is Tobin Bell but this is not “his” movie. While his part is important, his screen time is not as much as many others, but the appeal of putting his name at the top is something that is understandable from a horror fan standpoint. His work here is fun to watch as he plays Vasilio Canetti, a man who might know much more than he shows at any time and then some even once he reveals himself. He plays his cards close to the chest and Bell does great work with that part, giving the character some creep factor that may or may not be warranted. His layers here keep the attention on his even when other, more important characters, are at play. Playing the cop at the center of everything is Joaquín Cosio as Emmanuel Ritter who gives a performance grounded in human tragedy from almost the very start. He takes his character’s hard time and impossible to get over situation and makes the most of it. He gives Ritter a hard shell with so much more underneath. His performance is something that would make the film worth watching if the film had nothing else to offer. As the film has plenty to offer outside of that, his performance becomes one of the bunch here and gives the whole proceeding even more to sink teeth into. Playing Ivan Franco is actor Tate Ellington who also keeps a lot close to the vest but shows exactly the right emotions and facets of his character at the right time. This trio gives the film a foundation of performances that should insure that horror fans and other film fans should find their satisfaction watching Belzebuth.

The film’s cinematography by director of photography Ramon Orozco Stoltenberg shows how to utilize both desolate and dark locations to their best potential visually. The images here are lit just right throughout the film which is something many films with as many dark scenes as Belzebuth has struggle to do. The lighting is on point here showing just enough and hiding things until they need to be revealed. The careful attention paid to something as simple as lighting shows that the director of photography and others behind the scenes were putting in a great effort to make the film look right and they knew that lighting and images can do a lot to help a film build atmosphere and that hard to get creep factor. The framing of the images here goes with the lighting, showing enough but not too much, while keeping things done right.

Belzebuth is an atmospheric horror film about demons and religion as well as about the horrors humans can commit in the name of something they believe in causing a distance between tragedies and most people who see them happen far too often. The film explores the religious side of things, but does not require one to have any knowledge of the Catholic Church and its beliefs. The film has enough dread put into some of its scenes to make anyone uncomfortable at one time or another. It’s not a full of action kind of film, but once the viewer is thoroughly sucked into the story is when things get turned up and the fear aspect of things can be felt. Some of the scenes in this film are very effective and much more so than just jump scares, it’s a film that one must get invested in to get the most out of it.

Cinepocalypse 2019 runs from June 13th until June 20th.