Ah, the ’80s. How could anyone forget the wacky trends of the era: Izod shirts, Rubiks Cubes, ALF and, of course, voodoo. How fondly I recall Saturday nights with the family gathered around the campfire, Grandpa gutting a virgin, Aunt Martha leading the zombies in a three-part round of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” and little Susie always had to have the last goat’s heart. Good times.
If you weren’t lucky enough to experience it all first-hand, though, Hollywood decided in the late ’80s to give you a taste on the big screen. Three major motion pictures revolving around voodoo came out within a two-year span — The Believers, Angel Heart and The Serpent and the Rainbow — all set in different locales and all with their own unique (and all quite good) spin on the favorite religion of horror fans everywhere.
The Believers is probably the most realistic of the bunch. Set in New York City, it actually focuses on the Afro-Latino santeria religion and what’s termed vaguely as “black magic,” or “brujeria”. Martin Sheen stars as police psychologist Cal Jamison, who gets involved with a child serial killer case and uncovers a cult controlled by Sudanese black magic man Palo (Malick Bowens). Apparently, killing a child gives you great power and makes all your dreams come true. Wish I’d know that sooner.
Palo is a truly creepy bad guy who not only sports a kung-fu grip, but also retractable pupils and, in one of the most skin-crawling moments you’ll ever see on film, the ability to make spiders erupt from your pimples. I’d like to see Clearasil fix that. Cal’s lawyer, Marty (Richard Masur), meanwhile does such a thankless job of dying while trying to save Cal’s kid from the cult, you wonder how a black actor didn’t get that role.