‘Nefarious’ (2023) Review – A Thought-Provoking Supernatural Horror Exercise In Morality

Jordan Belfi as Dr. James Martin in Nefarious (2023)

If you have seen the trailer for Nefarious it is easy to dismiss this film as just another cookie-cutter horror movie to be released during the spring season. You would be making a serious mistake by thinking that.

Nefarious Film Poster

What if I were to tell you that this is a Christian film within the horror genre? Some of you may react negatively because one of the biggest criticisms about modern Christian films is that the portrayals of real life are so overwhelmingly uplifting that it borders on parody.

It is rare to see a Christian film or even a modern Christian sermon that covers the topic of sin. Whenever anyone shines a light on the evils that consume our world every day, people tend to get uncomfortable in the face of defined definitions of right and wrong.

As a result, most Christian content won’t even highlight society’s issues of immorality because the belief is that it’s much easier to win people over being uplifting rather than being truthful.

Not only does this film stand apart with its strong Christian background, but it also eschews the Blum House style of horror films about a cliché portrayal of demons with mediocre plots highlighted by cheap actors that leads to a solid 90 minutes of jump scares. The genre has become so formulaic that audiences don’t even react to it due to its repetitiveness.

Nefarious is a film that takes a different path altogether.

Jordan Belfi as Dr. James Martin and Tom Ohmer as Warden Moss in Nefarious (2023)

The premise of the film is about a man, Edward Wayne Brady, sitting on death row awaiting the last moments of his life after committing a series of horrible murders.

However, Brady (Sean Patrick Flanery), claims to be a demon as he speaks with psychiatrist Dr. James Martin (Jordan Belfi), who has been ordered to determine whether Brady is mentally fit to withstand execution. Brady, who refers to himself as Nefarious, tells the doctor that by the end of the day he will be responsible for the death of at least three people.

Sean Patrick Flanery as Nefarious in Nefarious

If I were to tell you that this was a Christian film you would be reluctant to believe it but Nefarious is one of the most creative films about faith and the spiritual war on our souls to come out over the last few decades. Nefarious is a character study on the absence of faith and the destruction of it and how one plays into the hands of another.

Everyone reading this has heard of the term “culture wars” when describing the effects that entertainment has on our society. Nefarious lives by the creed that we are not in a “culture war” but a “spiritual war” for the souls of every human being. Forget everything you know about modern horror films when discussing this movie because the rules of secular Hollywood do not apply here.

Nefarious is a thinking man’s movie that relies on the human fears of mortality while questioning various atheistic and secular views of morality all while wrapped in the question of whether Brady is really the demon he claims to be or the ravings of a mad man.

Sean Patrick Flanery as Nefarious in Nefarious

Sean Patrick Flanery is menacing as the character of Nefarious and he sells the seriousness of the plot by making audiences question whether he’s telling the truth about who he is or if he’s actually mentally unstable.

This menacing nature does not rely on camera tricks and jump scares but rather Flanery’s presence and his ability to channel multiple personas. His performance is so well done it will make believers and non-believers question their own morality in the face of direct confrontation with a being claiming to be a demon.

While Flanery’s portrayal as Brady and Nefarious is top notch, his foil, Jordan Belfi also delivers. Belfi plays a psychiatrist who is the straight man for this supernatural encounter and his character, at least in one aspect, represents the secular world coming to terms with the evil he unwittingly helped create or at least created by his willful ignorance.

Sean Patrick Flanery as Edward Wayne Brady/ Nefarious and Jordan Belfi as Dr. James Martin in Nefarious (2023)

To ramp up the intensity between the two, the majority of the film takes place in a one-room two character bottle that relies on gripping audiences with masterful dialogue and a showcase in character-to-character storytelling.

The only downside here is the last 10 to 15 minutes of run time loses its momentum once the one on one character dynamic has been removed from the equation. This causes the story to drag on creating the cinematic equivalent of a rough landing to an otherwise smooth flight.

Jordan Belfi as Dr. James Martin in Nefarious

The Verdict

There are not going to be very many films released this year that are going to make you think on the level of Nefarious. It is a film that is not only entertaining, but also makes you question what side of the battle between good and evil you are truly on.

‘Nefarious’ is one of the best movies to come out in 2023 and at this point should be considered one of the best movies of the year.

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