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John Schlesinger's The Believers, a kind of voodoo twist on Rosemary's Baby, is a horror movie where the echoes of otherworldly menace set the tone of terror, but the real evil comes from the hearts of humans. Recently widowed psychologist Martin Sheen moves to New York with his emotionally fragile son, and they become entwined in an underground cult that practices ritual sacrifice of children. Schlesinger is more interested in the human tale of loss and healing and the desperation of a grieving father fighting to protect his only child from a barbarous cabal. He favors mood and menace over spectacular splashes of horror, and even those moments of occult attack are directed with a sly sense of ambiguity. Though overlong and short on moments of genuine terror, this is a rare horror movie grounded in the palpable and powerful emotions of its characters.

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MG1003672 Believers DVD (1987/Martin Sheen) $14.95