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OPINION

A ‘Nefarious’ Review

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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YouTube/Nefarious Trailer

(spoiler free)

Chalk it up to my Baptist upbringing and an overly vivid imagination, but as a child I often imagined a spirit world as vibrant and alive as the physical one I inhabited, full of angels and demons fighting it out, invisible to me but every bit as real as that Frank Peretti book sitting on my shelf that I probably read at a younger age than I should have. The likes of Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, and Chucky didn’t scare me much beyond the few hours of watching them on screen, but The Amityville Horror gave me nightmares for weeks, and still to this day I've never had even the slightest desire to watch The Exorcist. The mere thought of invisible, maleficent beings who can possess humans and do untold harm frightened me all the more because I knew they were real.

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But as I grew into adulthood and began to make a life for myself, much of the fear of demons I couldn’t see faded into the background, replaced by an ever-growing horror at the demons right before my eyes. The brutal terrors of man’s constant inhumanity to man, tyrannical governments that murder and prey upon their people, leftist ideologies that encourage crime, confusion, and chaos, all were clear and present dangers that quickly took center stage as I married and had my own children I hoped would inherit a world better than the one I will leave.

But just because I couldn’t see them doesn’t mean they weren’t there. Indeed, demonic forces have always been there, wreaking havoc through their human vessels in a world they largely control, for now. Enter the movie Nefarious, written and produced by Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon and based on the book A Nefarious Plot by executive producer and TheBlaze host Steve Deace. If you’re a regular Deace listener (if you’re not, you should be), you know this movie has been in the works for a while and that, uh, nefarious forces have been hard at work doing anything and everything they can to derail it.

Yet, against overwhelming odds, the movie was made, marketed, distributed, and will likely be coming soon to a theater near you. I was privileged to view a screener before its upcoming April 14 release date. Knowing going in that it was about demonic possession, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t at least recall some of my childhood fears. But I also knew this was the last thing any real entities of evil wanted me to see, and it didn’t take long to understand why. If you watch it - and you absolutely need to (the R rating appears to be primarily for thematic reasons) - you also will quickly understand why the enemy didn’t want this movie released and is doing its best to suppress its viewership even now.

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Granted, we all know the problems with ‘Christian’ movies over the past several years, even the more well made and entertaining ones - hokey, preachy, sappy, you name it … This film is none of those things. It’s smartly-written, well-acted, gritty, tense, and holds your attention from beginning to end. Yet, as countless moviegoers who go in to see a ‘horror’ film will find out when it’s too late to turn away, the worldview presented is as Christian as it gets.

I won’t lie. Watching leftist shibboleths get flattened by a movie that on every other level presents as the best Hollywood has to offer was a bit disconcerting, albeit extremely satisfying. This isn’t supposed to happen. Where was the ubiquitous lesbian love scene, the trans character, the bold feminism, the race-hustling, the grievance peddling? There was none of that nonsense. Instead, I enjoyed a bold psychological thriller with themes I agreed with on par, from a production and acting standpoint, with the best movies even the pre-woke 90’s had to offer.

Sean Patrick Flanery (The Boondock Saints, The Dead Zone, Powder) is disturbingly convincing as a demon-possessed convicted serial killer who undergoes a psychiatric evaluation to determine whether he’s sane enough to be put to death. Flanery’s brilliant performance reminded me of Anthony Hopkins’ Oscar-winning role in The Silence of the Lambs, except arguably better, not just because of the seemingly effortless yet remarkably unsettling way he switched between demon and convict, but also because - no disrespect to the other great actors - he carried the movie. In a just world, Oscar buzz would commence forthwith, but, in our world, hell would have to freeze over. We all know how this works. Perhaps there’d be a shot if Flanery had played a transgender prisoner ‘bravely’ trying to convince a psychologist to transfer him to a women’s prison, or something. But I digress.

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The visuals and production aspects are compelling, but, truly, it’s the dialogue that makes this movie work. The carefully-crafted interplay between Nefarious and the atheist psychologist Dr. James Martin (Jordan Belfi) is riveting on every level and had me on the edge of my seat digesting every word. I couldn’t turn away, and it had everything to do with the storytelling and nothing to do with the fact that I knew this movie comported with my worldview. The same will happen to viewers who don’t share our worldview, and that’s where the genius lies.

Indeed, Nefarious is a gut punch to the established system arguably more lethal than nearly any piece of ‘pop culture’ art Christians have produced, in no small part because it is every bit as well made, on every level, as anything the established system has produced. It’s encouraging to see conservatives and Christians finally learning this lesson. There are few mediums as powerful as great storytelling, and when our side does it right, bolstered by the truth, nothing, not even the demons of hell, can stop the impact.

There’s a great battle going on whether we realize it or not, a battle between good and evil, and we’re all participants, willing or not.” — quote from the movie Nefarious

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Nefarious tells an entertaining, compelling story, but it’s also unsettling medicine, a grim reminder of the hidden but all-too-real shadows behind the evil we see with our eyes, the spiritual forces working behind the scenes to craft a world that’s the opposite of everything good, true, and beautiful. Opposing this evil is the defining duty of our existence, and Nefarious is a powerful new tool to wield.

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