Based on a book by Steve Deace, this R-rated film deals with an atheist psychiatrist called in to evaluate a death-row inmate. As the evaluation progresses, the inmate reveals something: he’s not really human. He’s a demon named Nefarious.
Dr. James Martin is an atheist. He’s also a psychiatrist, so he knows a lot about people. So he thinks it no big deal when he is called in to do an evaluation of Edward Wayne Brady, a serial killer on death row, waiting to be cleared for his execution. However, things begin to get eerie as the evaluation is underway. Edward knows things he shouldn’t about James. He also claims to be a demon named Nefarious. James is too smart to believe in demons. But as “Nefarious” begins to reveal more and more of himself and his knowledge of James, James can’t help but begin to question.
Two uses of d–n. One use of bas—d. One use of “Hell” as a pejorative.
It is revealed that James and his girlfriend have had sex but nothing is shown or referenced explicitly.
This movie stays away from most of the violence and gore of current demon possession and other horror movies. That being said, there is one scene that involves a thumb being broken that may be hard for those who get queasy to watch. There is plenty of time to cover up those eyes for those who may be sensitive. Some blood from injuries but nothing severe and an inmate is beaten but it is mostly implied. Most violence is implied, including a very brutal description of abortion. There is also mention of euthanasia (again, nothing is shown).
A man is executed via the electric chair. It’s slightly less shocking (no pun intended) than scenes from The Green Mile, but it may be a bit much for younger viewers.
Spiritual/ Cultural Messaging
- Spiritual Content- The film deals with a man who claims to be a demon, so spiritual references abound. Although Christ and God are never explicitly mentioned, Nefarious refers to them as “The Enemy” and “The Carpenter.” Nefarious grows angry when a priest is called in, but when it is revealed the priest doesn’t believe in demons, Nefarious relaxes. Glenn Beck does make an appearance in this film, which is no surprise given the author of Nefarious, Steve Deace, is part of Beck’s company, The Blaze. Beck initiates a discussion about faith, however I want to note that Beck is Mormon, which is not part of the Christian faith.
- Abortion- Abortion is brought up and described (in a positive way by Nefarious, but it is clearly meant to shock).
- Euthanasia- Assisted suicide is mentioned, once again positively by Nefarious but in a way meant to shock and provoke.
Nefarious is an interesting story in the style of CS Lewis’s Screwtape Letters. The cast is small but excellently acted. Those who come in expecting a typical horror story or a deliverance-style exorcism my find the pacing to be a little slow. I have seen complaints from Christians who outright refuse to see the film due to its R-rating or due to the fact that it would even dare mention demons. To the former, I say the R-rating is hardly earned. The film probably wouldn’t be suitable for anyone under 13 due to the conversations and topics, but the imagery, violence, and content hardly merit such a rating.
To the latter, I say this: that’s just what Nefarious would want. Satan wants to keep Christians afraid of him, thinking that he is somehow more powerful and scary to God’s people that God Himself should be. That isn’t to say that Christians should dabble in the occult or go looking for trouble. But some of the pearl-clutching commentary that I have seen against good-faith Christians like Dr. Ben Carson, who left a review of the film on his Facebook, have got to stop. I don’t think we should just support any movie that has “Christian” attached to the label. It’s weird to see a film like American Underdog, which maybe throws some scraps at Jesus in the last five minutes of the film, being lauded as some sort of a great Christian film while Nefarious is being treated like some sort of gateway to Hell. The film simply is not that.
Finally, I’d like to bring up my complaint earlier about the inclusion of Glenn Beck. I personally like listening to some of his commentary, but I do caution against this faddish entanglement Christians have been having with the Church of the Latter Day Saints. Beck says nothing untrue in the film so I do not thing his inclusion justifies skipping out on the film. However, to promote Mormonism as a form of Christianity is false. You can read more about that here. That said, Nefarious is a well-produced movie that touches on important cultural topics that deserves to be seen to drive good discussions. Afterwards, I recommend checking out CS Lewis’s excellent Screwtape Letters for further meat to chew.