Shot in 15 days for the cost of two hours' production on your average Hollywood production, Dan Myrick's Believers is a rough-edged, chatty, and scrappy little genre flick, but it also manages to tap into a fear source that few filmmakers touch upon these days: The cult!
You know the types I mean: You hear about them on the news every once in a while: "Heaven's Gate," for example, which is one of this movie's most obvious influences. From the outside perspective, the groups are 'quietly wacko' at best and 'seriously disturbed' at worst. So when a pair of average Joe ambulance drivers answer a call, only to be kidnapped by a religious cult, you can be sure it's not for good reasons. (If you remember Myrick's name from The Blair Witch Project, then you know you're not about to get a flashy or over-kinetic horror story.)
So there's the basic plot of Believers: Two guys get kidnapped by a cult that believes its members must 'achieve a higher plane' within a few short hours, which means poor Dave (Johnny Messner) and Vic (Jon Huertas) must find a way out of their makeshift jail cells before all hell breaks loose. (Basically because 'achieving a higher plane' means committing mass suicide before the Earth is swallowed by an inferno.) So if anything, Believers earns a little praise for coming up with a basic-yet-intriguing premise and following through with some conviction. (Oh, and the leader of the cult is played by the great Daniel Benzali, which certainly helps matters.)
Keep in mind, horror freaks, that this is not even remotely a body-strewn or gore-intensive experience. Believers feels more like a feature-length episode of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits ... right down to the third-act revelations that you'll see coming a few miles away. Despite being overlong by about ten full minutes, the flick's essentially pretty darn watchable. You'll forgive the straightforward storytelling and the generally flat production design because, hey, we're talking about a pretty low-budget project. And despite some obvious turns, there are a few grim surprises along the way. Still, one can't help but think this 3-star movie would have made for a 4-star episode of Masters of Horror, with just a few trims here and there. As it stands, about half of Believers is stark, simple, and engaging -- and the other half is an unnecessarily verbose (and somewhat redundant) affair. Overall it makes for a half-decent time-waster, but nothing you'll be raving about tomorrow.
The film is presented in an anamorphic widescreen (1.78) format, but here's what the DVD case tells us: "Presented in a 'letterbox' widescreen format preserving the 'scope' aspect ratio of its original television exhibition." The picture quality is a little dingy, given the budgetary constraints and low-lighting directorial choices, but the movie's more than watchable. Audio is delivered in Dolby Digital 5.1 (English only), passably. Optional subtitles are available in English.
First up is a dry-but-informative audio commentary with director Daniel Myrick and screenwriter Julia Fair that'll please the fans and send anyone else right off to sleep. We also get a collection of deleted scenes: Extended Lina Vance Interview (3:53); Introduction to the Facility (3:35); The Teacher (2:48); Io Explains the Formula (3:39); and The Aftermath (4:42). The Believers trailer is also included.
A little slow and a lot "talky," but there's always something to be said for an indie horror flick that aims for the cerebral over the simply visceral. Worth a rental if "cult behavior" fascinates you, but beyond that is your call.