Nefarious is the Best Movie I’ve Seen in Years

By John Zmirak Published on April 13, 2023

Many films aimed at or well-suited to the “Christian audience” fall short of artistic excellence. They are just plain flat and didactic, mindlessly “inspirational,” or afraid to show genuine evil. So you leave with a puzzled shrug and the thought, “At least it wasn’t offensive … .”

Others which avoid these obvious pitfalls can’t afford to hire top-notch actors, or skilled cinematographers, or visionary directors. So they might be a gem of a story, or contain one brilliant performance, but don’t cohere as a whole. You walk out of those thinking, “What a missed opportunity … .”

Still other films attain genuine excellence, but get lousy distribution and so never gain the audience they deserve. I can point to a few, like Gimme Shelter, Voiceless, and Mr. Jones, each of which I’ve recommended in the past. (NOTE: These films are not PG rated and not for everybody.)

A Stark Flash of Truth

And then it happens. You see something with powerful performances, skillful camera work, intuitive direction … and a script that’s simply brilliant. Not just cleverly penned, like some Tarantino movie. Nor even workmanlike writing that gets its point across, but doesn’t stay with the viewer. (That describes most decent dramas, written and then re-written by whole teams of Hollywood craftsmen.)

No, I’m talking about a script which has real literary quality, that gives you the kind of feeling you get when reading a story by Ernest Hemingway, or a poem by George Herbert. Or one of C.S. Lewis’ exquisite fictional forays into one genre or another. In other words, you perceive a … vision, a genuine grasp of reality that you would never have had on your own. And yet it resonates with you as true.

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All the better, of course, when the artwork you’ve encountered also conveys abstract, crucial religious truths — when they’re built into it organically, not pasted on as lessons. I’ll never forget the first time I saw the classic “Bad Catholic’s” movie The Third Miracle. It dealt with the cold hard facts about eternity and redemption, and did so with the sober realism they merit. I remember thinking, “This is like going through most of your life seeing films that pretend gravity doesn’t exist, then finally seeing one where objects fall to the ground, as they do in real life. And where people who fall out of buildings go splat and die.”

The Grand Inquisitor Meets The Exorcist

I’m gobsmacked and thrilled to report that a movie of this quality is opening this weekend, Nefarious, based on the novel by conservative TV commentator and author Steve Deace of The Blaze. I heard about it from Eric Metaxas, who’d seen the preview screener and highly recommended it. I sat with a friend to watch it, and we were riveted. Imagine the insights of The Screwtape Letters conveyed with all the intensity of top-notch courtroom drama like To Kill a Mockingbird. Or the “Grand Inquisitor” scene from Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, set on death row in a U.S. “red state.”

I don’t want to give away too much, and drain the film of its power to surprise, unsettle, and challenge. Suffice it to say that it’s an intense, occasionally violent psychological thriller of a similar genre to The Exorcism of Emily Rose. The story is simple: a smug secular psychologist goes to evaluate a serial killer on the verge of execution … to see if he’s lucid enough to undergo capital punishment (as our law requires). But the killer insists he’s possessed by a demon. Is that proof he’s really insane?

The film confronts genuine evil — not confusion, bad ideas, mere human weakness, or even the sordid fact of Original Sin.

No, Nefarious brings us face to face with principalities and powers, the bloodless calculating entities who cast their shadows today in the abortion industry, the transgender movement, and the intolerant new gospel of the Antichrist we refer to as the Woke cult. We hear the subarctic voice of deathless spirits who whisper in our ears, who teach us to love the sin but hate the sinner, who manage our culture and politics and arrange for the State to groom our children.

As Real as Jesus’ Exorcisms in Scripture

The spirits are real, one of the bedrock facts on which Our Lord based His mission. We don’t read in the Gospel that Jesus called on the State to promote social justice. If we do that, it’s because we derive by reflection certain implications of Jesus’ teaching. We do read that He cast out devils, and that these spirits feared him and hate us. This film explores in stark, unsparing terms exactly what that means, with specific application to today’s culture and politics.

The film is rated “R” not for any over the top violence or sexual content, but because of the atmosphere of psychological terror that arises, as it should, in the presence of unsleeping evil. I’ve have the dubious privilege of confronting such evil myself. I had to stop picketing abortion clinics because I could feel those spirits present. I shuddered at the brush of their filthy wings when I had to report on a speech by David Duke. Steve Deace has done his homework, and he conveys their icy reality without holding back, and minus the Hollywood “horror” touches that most “occult” films seem to need.

The trailer offers a good flavor of the film. I understand films of this ilk may not be everybody’s “thing.” But we all need to know the stakes that we’re actually playing for, every day. And we need this glimpse at the playbook of the Enemy, as he ramps up his persecution of the Church throughout the world.

 

John Zmirak is a senior editor at The Stream and author or co-author of ten books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. He is co-author with Jason Jones of “God, Guns, & the Government.”

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