[Movie Review] Belzebuth (2017) ★★★☆☆

Vasilio Canetti in Belzebuth 2017

Belzebuth is a gruesome reli-horror that delivers a terrifying and thrilling finale.

Belzebuth is an occult supernatural horror film from Mexico. With some raw and harsh scenes, especially a killing spree that involves young children, this film can be very gruesome. The film relies heavy on religious themes mostly about faith, losing or regaining it, to defeat the ultimate evil. It has a structure that involves some mysterious serial events, and starts out as a horror crime, to later evolve in a reli-horror with possessions and exorcisms. 


Police officer Emmanuel Ritter and his wife Marina just had a baby. But a tragedy strikes when a possessed nurse kills two baby’s, while a third baby escaped with his life. After losing their baby, Marina commits suicide, leaving Emmanuel devastated. 

Five years later a school shooting takes place and a special paranormal federal team is called in, with a Jesuit, Father Ivan Franco in charge. They are hunting an ex-communicated priest Vasilio Canetti, who supposedly is responsible for those deaths. But when they discover that a little boy called Isa is the only survivor of the shooting because he was at home with a fever, is the same baby who five years earlier escaped the brutal stabbing by the nurse, something sinister and much more greater is at play.

Why you should watch it

The film has a well-buildup storyline. Starting out as a crime horror with gruesome deaths of children and slowly evolving in an occult reli-horror, it reels the viewer in to witness a horrible display of greater powers. The character of Emmanuel is the key part in the story, and everything evolves around him. It’s his journey of faith, regaining his faith, mostly in himself and finding power and strength to go on. 

The mysterious setup has a little twist that changes everything and then the real reli-horror is about to begin. The possessions are scary and more internal than the blasphemous uttering normally seen by possessed people. There is no vomiting or cursing, only tempting and threats addressing the fears of Emmanuel and Beatríz, Isa’s mother. The unique perspective of Isa, brings a creative look to the possessed, as he sees the devil in his real form. These brief shots of The Beast are original and give it a little extra scare. 

The first half of the film is mostly about gruesome kills and the mystery, with some original little discoveries that can make your skin crawl. The creepy sound of children laughing, a baby carriage moving all by itself and some other very eerie events start off the spookiness. The find in an abandoned church in a desolated town, is the beginning of the occult reli-horror and an inventive bold talk with the devil.

Whilst gruesome enough the explicit shots of the stabbings or shooting or other kinds of killings aren’t shown. The idea of killing young children is horrible enough. This way the film doesn’t turn into an exploitation film just to shock the viewer with horrifying images. 

The last part is the most thrilling part, with a dangerous possession and an even more dangerous and terrifying exorcism. Although exorcism is well-known territory in the horror genre, this one manages to stand out. The environment, the unholy place with the creepy statues, upside down crosses at the walls and a dark and scary underground claustrophobic feel make it all the more terrifying. The environment is optimally used to frighten the characters and the viewers. 

The story itself is focused on just a few characters, playing an important part in a much bigger fight of evil against humanity and god. It doesn’t address the complicated relations between Mexico and America in a big way, nor the civil problems, drugs and governmental problems of corruptions, or death, murders and poverty in Mexico. It is briefly noticed but the main focus lies on the battle against ultimate evil and the personal battles of faith. 

My favorite part

When they try to get Isa to safety by going through the tunnels dug by the drugs cartels, is the best part. Then everybody is in place to play out the final battle. With a possession, faith, an ominous environment, and an exorcism, this results in very thrilling and terrifying scenes. The exorcism is creatively executed and is a well deserved climax after the securely made buildup.

Although the overall lack of connection some characters manage to make with the audience, this finale makes up for it resulting in a fine and satisfying occult reli-horror. 


Rating: ★★★☆☆

Thrill factor: ★★★☆☆

Scare factor: ★★★☆☆

Gruesome factor: ★★★★☆

Cast and crew

Belzebuth is directed and written by Emilio Portes and cowritten by Luis Carlos Fuentes. It stars Joaquín Cosio (Emmanuel), Tobin Bell (Vasilio Canetti) Tate Ellington (Ivan), Yunuen Pardo (Beatríz), Liam Villa (Isa), José Sefami (Demetrio) and Aurora Gil (Marina).

Duration: 114 minutes. Language: Spanish. Music: Aldo Max Rodriguez. Cinematography: Ramon Orozco Stoltenberg. Edited by: Emilio Portes, Rodrigo Ríos. Produced by: Rodrigo Herranz. Production companies: Fondo de Inversíon y Estímulos al Cine, Pastorela Peliculas, Universidad Autónoma de Baja California. Distributed by: Videocine.

Check the trailer below

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