“Your parents. They visited.” “That’s impossible. My parents are dead…”
“Then who are they?” “Nobody?”
“They visited. Who are they?” “Nobody. Nobody came over.”
“You know them. Who ARE they?” “Demons.”
“The Believer” is a creepy pseudo-intellectual horror story, a pretentious and arch mashup of “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Misery.”
It starts with head games, veers into blood games and staggers into injection games. And while I can’t say I think it’s great or even all that coherent, it stands out as cryptic horror whose grasp exceeds its reach.
Lucas (Aidan Bristow of TV’s “L.A. Macabre”) is on crutches, unemployed and seeing a shrink (Billy Zane). Their sessions including the “talking cure,” and unconventional timed-maze puzzle tests and slideshow association.
But Lucas is an unconventional patient. He’s a physicist, and he’s not sure about his wife, what she’s done and what she might do…to him.
Violet (Sophie Kargman) speaks in a trancelike monotone, with the eyes of an automaton. She thinks Lucas is “close-minded.” But she’s been different since “the thing that happened last month.”
And her explanations, that “My eyes are open, are YOURS?” and handing over a tattered book on demonology and infamous demonic “cases” aren’t getting anywhere with a man of science.
“I firmly regard what you did last month as your own conscious and selfish choice…Not a demon or demon’s manipulation of you.”
Can this marriage be saved?
Writer-director Shan Serafin (“The Forest”) builds his story on such brittle, formalized exchanges, dim lighting, extreme close-ups and a not-that-mysterious mystery that unfolds with flashes of violence, splashes of blood and deepening paranoia.
“Believer” has comic moments, with those “parents” (Susan Wilder, Lindsey Ginter) barging in, nosing around and talking nonstop as they do.
“We are SOoooo rude!”
The unemployed physicist tries to engage his wife on a variety of subjects, tries to find a new job after breaking his foot (How DID that happen?) and tries to get an explanation from Violet about “last month,” or else he’s just going to have to leave.
“I can’t have you itinerant. You agreed to stay by my side.”
Kargman, pop-eyed and poker-faced, makes a nice, soulless foil to Bristow’s confused, nightmare-haunted and increasingly fearful Lucas. She’s ex-cheerleader scary.
And Zane? He’s here to layer on the mumbo jumbo. Lucas wants to try hypnosis to see if this mania and mystery is all in his head.
“What makes you think we’re not in the middle of hypnosis right now?”
How often does that line pop up at your typical 420 night out?
As I said, “Believer” didn’t quite come together for me, never settled into a space where I thought it was going to resolve itself in a more coherent fashion than the story that precedes that finale.
But it’s just strange and unsettling enough to be worth a look, if this kind of horror is your thing.
MPA Rating: unrated, bloody violence, sexuality
Cast: Sophie Kargman, Aidan Bristow and Billy Zane
Credits: Scripted and directed by Shan Serafin, A Freestyle release.
Running time: 1:31