Sly ‘Nefarious’ Bridges Gap Between Faith, Horror

Prison-based thriller uses modest setting for big-time chills sans gore

Faith-based films have more on their mind than entertainment, and that’s often where the trouble begins.

A Christian message, like a progressive lecture amidst an otherwise generic story, can spoil the fun even for true believers. They may be more forgiving of those narrative detours, but they spot them all the same.

It’s one reason “Nefarious” is a two-tier triumph.

The thriller follows a psychiatrist judging the sanity of a death-row inmate. It’s more complicated than that, of course, and the film’s demonic angle keeps the spiritual themes alive.

“Nefarious” embraces its mission without sacrificing thrills, integrity or the genre’s core elements.

Nefarious Official Trailer (2023) - In Theaters April 14th

Entourage” alum Jordan Belfi stars as Dr. James Martin, a psychiatrist filling in for a colleague at the last minute.

A late colleague, to be precise, courtesy of a chilling prologue.

Dr. Martin must evaluate a serial killer before his planned execution. If he determines the inmate to be sane, the grisly show will go on. If not, the killer will keep rotting away in prison.

The inmate proves as challenging as the prison warden promised. That’s Sean Patrick Flanery as Edward Wayne Brady, who claims to be possessed by a demon with an unpronounceable name.

The closest English interpretation? Nefarious. Get it?


Cue a battle of wills, one allowing Flanery to chew the scenery in a fully-committed performance. Much of “Nefarious” involves the fiery back-and-forth between doctor and inmate, and audiences will appreciate Flanery’s twitchy approach to the material.

He’s hypnotic, and you won’t be bored for a minute.

The bigger question never strays from the screen. Is Nefarious possessed, or are his personal demons getting the best of him?

The screenplay, by directors Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon (“God’s Not Dead” scribes), touches on abortion, the death penalty, faith and more. They weave those elements organically into the story, so by the time they register it’s like a series of sly “a-ha!” moments building to something powerful.

It’s hard not to be impressed. That’s particularly true with a proclamation “Edward” makes about Dr. Martin early in their encounter. No spoilers here, but it’s smart and unexpected.

“Nefarious” offers a limited setting, which kept the budget to a minimum, but that doesn’t stall the film’s momentum.

The film balances overtly familiar tropes in a rewarding fashion. You’d think a death-row saga would remind us of countless other stories, but much of “Nefarious” unfolds out as fresh, even invigorating.


Belfi wisely plays Dr. Martin with restraint and a dash of arrogance. We’re on his side, but his faith in his expertise robs him of humanity. Watching Nefarious strip away his credentials, and the assumption he’s a squeaky-clean soul, is one of the film’s highlights.

“Nefarious” doesn’t flinch from the chilling nature of death by execution, either, another satisfying layer to the story.

Horror fans accustomed to blood and/or guts will come away from “Nefarious” disappointed. The film’s R rating is understandable, but the story proves you can chill us to the core without going the full “Saw,” “Hostel” or “Halloween.”

HiT or Miss: “Nefarious” may be too intense for some faith-based viewers, but even secular types will  cheer this curious battle of wills.


  1. Nefarious is a powerful movie, very intense with superb acting. On a scale of 1-10 I’d give it a 9, only because of the final minutes when they have an interview scene. The producers chose to use Glenn Beck for this scene, which I found to be too much of a distraction. Nothing against Beck, I just think the producers would have been better served using a relatively unknown actor, or TV personality. Beck is a controverial figure and as such will be used to discredit the previous 80 minutes of the film.

    1. So, you’re going and watch it. Just to make fun of it, of course. I mean, as you say, God isn’t real, so neither is the Devil, right? But don’t worry, just because you don’t believe in the Devil, he believes in YOU. Go and watch it, it couldn’t possibly…change your mind, right?

    2. Wow! You used your pottymouth! And bravely, you were anonymous.

      Now I respect your thoughts more than those of C.S. Lewis, Sir Isaac Newton and St. Augustine!

      After all, any time someone anonymously uses the terms “jerkoff” and “fascist” I know they possess superior knowledge than those simpleton deists who express cogent, well-reasoned thoughts.

    3. Someone once told a woman who claimed she did not believe in hell. “Madam, you will believe in hell when you end up there”. That would be the worst irreversible way to find out hell is real.

    4. Exactly and the ultrarightwing (even the moderate right wing dont bother with this, they also dont vote for the extremes) sheeple will gobble it like the ultimate greatness. But its pure z grade propaganda. Flannery only does ideological nonsense why he is far from anything remotely an A or B list actor .LOLZ

  2. As a Christian I don’t like my faith propagandized in films any more than I like the WOKE crap which I absolutely despise. If I want to watch Christian themes I will watch a movie advertised as such. Having said that, this flick sounds great…I’m going.

    1. To answer your above compliant I quote the Atheist in the movie. Aetheist:” I didn’t know this was a fight” Demon: “That’s why your losing”.

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