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Nefarious: a Film Review

Some may consider it a “horror” that Spectrum would even allow an R-rated movie review. But as the author of said review, I can assure you that the Motion Picture Association (MPA) rating is incorrect. Even the trailer for Nefarious (2023) is misleading. Categorizing this film as a psychological thriller might be more correct, but even then, it doesn’t do the movie justice. Even the Rotten Tomatoes rating is split: critics gave the film a paltry 33% while the audience rating is 96%. 

A Christian friend of mine recommended this movie to me. I finally watched it several months later when it became available via streaming. What I saw was one of the most powerful presentations on the nature of demon possession I’d ever seen. This is not a movie filled with gore, guts, blood, jump scares, and disturbing CG effects. Most of the movie takes place between two men sitting at a table talking. The film’s drive comes from a tightly written, surprisingly theological, script and an Oscar-worthy acting performance. Imagine if C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters, where the demon is played by Sean Patrick Flanery and he’s a convicted serial killer to be executed that night. Unlike the Screwtape Letters, an atheist psychiatrist replaces the naïve nephew, Wormwood.

The premise is that the psychiatrist, played by Jordan Belfi, is asked to do a psychiatric evaluation of Flanery’s character, Edward John Brady. He must determine whether Brady is sane or not so he can be executed that night. But the psychiatrist originally assigned the case committed suicide before submitting his evaluation. What follows is a back-and-forth dialog where demon-possesed Brady speaks openly about his purpose and nefarious intent. The psychiatrist thinks Brady is totally insane at first, believing he is delusional with multiple personality disorders. Slowly his opinions change and we see a shocking representation of a reality most of us wouldn’t want to believe is true. 

The film openly discusses moral issues of euthanasia, abortion, free-will, and even the great controversy in heaven–albeit from a demon’s perspective. It is a powerful juxtaposition between what we see as reality and that of the unseen world. You will never look at Ephesians 6:12 the same way.

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

About the author

Don Barton studied microbiology at Loma Linda University Health and retired from Delta County Memorial Hospital. He lives in Whitewater, Colorado. More from Don Barton.
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