March 8th, 2007

Coat of Arms

The Believers


The Believers
{XXII A.S. Directed by John Schlesinger. Starring Martin Sheen, Helen Shaver, Jimmy Smits, Malik Bowens. Genre: Horror/Suspense}

Psychiatrist Carl Jameson {Martin Sheen} returns from his morning jog through the streets of an idyllic New York suburb to find deadly trajedy on that brisk dawn, while washing off in the shower, his wife is electrocuted by the coffee machine conducted by spilled milk at her feet. Hypothetically, all he would have had to do to save her life was to use a wooden broomhandle or an otherwise wooden tool to jar her from the current, and all would have been well. Instead, he and his son just scream as she convulses.

Now as a single father, he seeks the aid of a superstitious hispanic maid to help in keeping the house in order and babysit the child, but her meddling increases soon after she discovers Chris has come into 'possession' of a colorfully decorated conch shell found in Central Park at a bloody ritual scene including goat and cat victims*. As an aside, some really nice shots of the Twin Towers, as well as a rock formation used in plenty of media spots, including the film Little Nicky and Magus Gilmore's interview for polish television.

After two mutilated human child sacrifices are discovered upon makeshift altars, Jameson decides to investigate Santeria & Voodoo, discovering the parallels of Orishas {Gods} masquerading as Catholic saints and deities, who were inregrated into these peasant religions during the slavery oppression to avoid further punishment. At the time, only they knew of their double-identites. Variations on these multi-cultural religions evolved according to race and tribe. In the movie, the script takes artistic license when a frightened character mentions "Brujeria", the Spanish word for 'witchcraft', more specifically in this context, 'dark witchcraft'.

Jimmy Smits plays cop Tom Lopez, who is tormented with the thought of the cultists acquiring his badge, a potent sympathetic connection, to which he degenerates to threatening other officers, paranoia and eventual suicide, when a remedy obtained at a botanica fails to alleviate his abdominal pain. A subsequent autopsy divulges serpents had filled his intestines as a direct consequence of a Palero {Witch Doctor} binding Lopez's shield with black cord and having a serpent slither upon it within a cauldron. Investigators target Oscar Sezine, the author of a book on these belief-systems, who now runs a children's center, who befriends Jameson, offering 'spiritual' help, and invites him to meet with some of his associates, inclusive of the charity's founder.

When Jameson walks in on the maid performing an exorcism on his son, he has enough and fires her, as well as smashing the holy bric-a-brac she began filling the house with. It is also mentioned that she had cast a love spell on he and Jessica Halliday {Helen Shaver, who incidentally, strongly resembles one Priscilla Barnes / Terri Alden from Three's Company; same actress different names?}.

The plot thickens when Jameson and Jessica Halliday attend a 'business convention' populated by prominant business people and socialites, inclusive most suspiciously, of parents of one of the children sacrificed! A telling clue to the influence of the cult which is confirmed when the Palero appears to perform the possession dance, selecting Halliday, of all people, transmitting orisha energy from his pale eyes into her. Eventually, Jamison is drugged and the nefarious plan unfolds which includes the sacrifice of his own son as well as his own introduction within the cult.** Fortunately for he and his son, a friend's forethought aids him in thwarting the murder, thus barely escaping with their lives, but not before a most impressive concluding scene wherein the Palero meets his demise after a long fall...

A final and most surprising twist reveals the pervasive presence of the dark orishas...

Probably inspirational to the subsequent film The Serpent & The Rainbow, The Believers is essentially a fictional cult movie displaying the psychology of 'true believer' fundamentalist types by whatever name, and its potentially criminal results.


* "Sacrifice" is uneccessary in the practice of Magic, and is not practiced in Satanism {see page 89 in The Satanic Bible}. The primary ingredients are mental directive, timing, and emotional force, not blood-letting. Although according to Vodoun tradition, the animal is often used to feed the congregants afterwards.

** In Judeo-Christian mythology: shades of Abraham's near sacrifice of his son Isaac to Yahweh {Genesis 22:2}, as well as Jehovah's successful sacrifice of his own son jesus. Not to mention the countless animal sacrifices.

* For factual information on Palo Moyombe, Voodoo, Santeria, and Candomble, see Satanism & The Afro-Carribean Religions by Kenaz Filan.

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