New Horror Releases: Belzebuth (2020) - Reviewed

Combining public mass violence paranoia with a Catholic supernatural element, Belzebuth brings Satanic Panic into the new era, but then falls back on demonic possession film tropes. The film starts out with the main protagonist, Agent Emmanuel Ritter’s (played by Joaquin Cosio) newborn baby being ritualistically murdered in the nursery by a deranged nurse along with every other newborn there while the terrified families could only look on. Five years later, Ritter is called to investigate similar homicides and each case brings him closer to revealing just how he and his deceased son fit into the chain.

Cosio’s performance as Ritter is powerful and memorable, yet he didn’t quite fit the role of a bereft man to me. I found it tough to become invested because of this. A lot of questions are brought up as the plot unfolds. Such as: would they really put a man whose baby was murdered in a mass homicide on the case to investigate MORE mass homicides involving young children? Later in the film, characters conveniently appear, just to be the person in the group who gets killed, akin to a “red shirt” in Star Trek: TOS. It became easy to see just who was going to make it to the end of the movie, which removes suspense.

photo courtesy Shudder

Though shot competently, with a thoughtful sound mix, many scenes involve slow movements, making them longer than they needed to be. Different from a slow-paced movie that the audience can allow to flow over them, I found myself frustrated because I knew where the scene was going- it was just taking a long time. For example, a scene where Ritter rolls out of bed and takes what feels like ten years to do it.

The two women in this movie have absolutely no agency. One is Ritter’s wife, who is barely shown in the hospital after she’s given birth, but of course, she commits suicide right after because she couldn’t handle what had happened. The other is the mother of a special child the main characters are trying to protect. She barely speaks, and without giving away the ending, all I can say is how this character ends up is truly head-shaking.

Those who enjoy the exorcism thing, with Catholic overtones and iconography in their horror will probably like this movie, though to be honest, I’ve seen better. If you’re someone who wants to delve into the disturbing subject matter of children being in danger, this might also be for you. Other than that, I did not find this movie much to write home about.

-Mara Powell