Nefarious — The most interestingly subversive anti-woke movie you haven't seen or heard about
As a fan of horror films whose wife doesn't share my affection for them, I'm encouraged to watch movies when I travel on business if I ever get a free evening. Tuesday night was just such a night, and there were options.
First, there was a 7:40 showing of Evil Dead Rise. I enjoy most things of the Evil Dead franchise, so I figured this would be the option. But I also noticed there was another intriguing movie playing at this particular Southern California movie theater that I'd never heard about, called Nefarious, at 7:20.
I checked out the trailer.
Sean Patrick Flanery (of whom I'm a fan and grew up watching, of Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, Suicide Kings, and Boondock Saints fame) plays a death row inmate, found guilty of multiple murders, and who prison officials assume is acting so erratically and manipulatively that he must be seeking a stay of execution by means of insanity. Specifically, he claims to be a demon possessing the body of the convict. A psychiatrist, who harbors demons of his own, is tasked with determining the convict's level of sanity or insanity, putting his life or death squarely in the psychiatrist's hands.
It looked interesting enough, so I did this silly thing that I often like to do while weighing which movie I should go see and looked at Rotten Tomatoes.
Evil Dead Rise is at a solid 84% critic rating. Promising.
Then I looked at Nefarious on Rotten Tomatoes. A dismal 33% critic rating...but it somehow maintained a 97% audience rating.
That piqued my interest. What could possibly be going on with this movie that almost every non-critic who decided to weigh in on it says it's great, but two thirds of critics hate it?
Then I read some of the reviews.
Carla Hay at Culture Mix sums up her consternation by saying that it became "preachy propaganda for right-wing beliefs."
Uh-huh. Go on, I thought.
Reviewer Cody Leach tells us that the movie's marketing as a "possession thriller" is a bait-and-switch to deliver a "Christian and Conservative propaganda piece" about "abortion, euthanasia, and the death penalty."
Roger Moore went on to say at Movie Nation that the "only thing not covered in this Christo-fascist manifesto of a movie is 'guns.'"
That was it. If left-wing movie critics hated this movie that much, I simply had to see it.
I did, and it didn't disappoint.
I won't delve deeply into spoiler territory, because I want people to actually watch this movie. It is not terribly gruesome, but you will think deeply and be intrigued by the dialogue and action in this movie — particularly if you happen to be a Christian.
To give you an idea as to how emotionally engaging the film is, understand that there was a whole row of late teens and early twenty-somethings crowded in the back row behind me. When they sauntered in during the credits, I fully anticipated that I'd either have to say something to them or move at some point in the movie.
They began a bit rambunctiously, quietly joking about Flanery's character's erratic physical tics, which, to me, were reminiscent of Jeff Goldblum's performance during his transformation in David Cronenberg's 1986 version of The Fly.
Within minutes, though, the whole theater was quiet. I didn't time it, but, early on, there was at least ten minutes that passed where there were only two characters on screen engaged in a theological conversation about good and evil. The fall of Lucifer is referenced. The war in Heaven. The creation of man, and the jealousy of hell. And, of course, "the Carpenter" is referenced, whose intercession on Earth vexes the demons of hell most.
I can safely say that the dialogue wasn't exactly Tarantino, and miles short of Milton. But it captured something that kept the audience silent and engaged.
Yes, it's heavy-handed. Euthanasia is certainly addressed head-on. The death penalty is obviously addressed. But what shocked me most was that I'd never seen the issue of abortion so honestly addressed in a movie that I'd watched in a movie theater.
In movies that I watched growing up, abortion was just a visit to the doctor for some girl who didn't have a boyfriend who'd be willing to pay for half the fee to kill their child, à la Fast Times at Ridgemont High. That was it. The horror would take place off-screen, and therefore the act of was normal as could be for American teens and young couples.
This movie presents the other side of that scenario, by considering the position of the child who is gestationally murdered, and the women pressured into doing it by men they love, in a way that I have never seen a movie achieve before. Without delving into spoilers, the best I can say is that this movie doesn't portray the horror of abortion in a physical sense, as did Silent Scream. This movie manages to convey the emotional terror in realizing that the reality of abortion is nothing like the pleasant imaginings that we've been conditioned to believe is the "woman's choice," but it is the absolute and violent destruction of a human life in the womb.
Is this a great movie? Nah. The acting, particularly early on before you become immersed in the dialogue between the two main characters, will seem sub-par at first. But the relatively novel storyline, the clever writing, and the theological chess match between the characters that is on display quickly draws the audience into their world, which, the audience discovers, is a shockingly precise discussion about good and evil in our world.
And therein lies the terror. There is little violence or gore on screen. Indeed, this is not a horror film.
But it is a good movie, and it is frightening because it is a reflection of our own world. It is just our world shown realistically, and in a light to which we are not accustomed.
Beyond that, it's far and away the most anti-woke movie that I've ever seen in a movie theater in my entire life. That alone, in today's world of über-woke movies, was totally worth the price of admission.