Nefarious – A Review – Make no mistake, this is NOT a “Christian” movie

Nefarious – A Review – A Jumble of Mixed Messages

Nefarious is a supernatural horror/thriller, based on the 2016 book “A Nefarious Plot” – by Steve Deace.

The movie, written by Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon, portends to be the back story of how Deace’s book came to be. That book is an attempt to emulate the genre of C. S. Lewis’ Screwtape letters. It loosely does. But with nowhere near the literary or theological sophistication of Lewis. The book however does come with endorsement blurbs by Mark Levin, Ray Comfort, Kirk Cameron, Ben Shapiro and others. Though I am not quite sure why.

Steve Deace is himself an interesting figure. The brief bio provided in the book says that “Steve Deace is a nationally-syndicated radio host heard each weekday in top markets from coast-to-coast. The national media recognize Deace as an influential voice in his home state of Iowa’s first in the nation presidential caucuses. He’s frequently quoted in the national media on political and cultural issue. Deace has also appeared on all the major cable news networks and writes for the Washington Times, USA Today, and Conservative Review. Deace lives in Iowa with his wife, Amy, and their three children, Anastasia, Zoe, and Noah.”

His chief outlet appears to be “The Steve Deace Show” hosted on Blaze Media. Deace enjoys a robust calendar of speaking engagements on various culturally and politically conservative venues, and presents himself as a Christian – though of what particular stripe I’ve not been able to tell so far.

With that sparse background, let’s get into the movie itself.

The basic plot line as given on IMBD is: “On the day of his scheduled execution, a convicted serial killer gets a psychiatric evaluation during which he claims he is a demon, and further claims that before their time is over, the psychiatrist will commit three murders of his own.” The bulk of the film being a wide ranging dialog between Psychiatrist Dr. James Martin (played by Jordan Belfi) who is called in on the heels of his mentor’s suicide to conduct said evaluation, and convicted multiple murderer Edward Wayne Brady (excellently portrayed by Sean Patrick Flanery). The plot twist is that Brady is supposedly possessed by a demon named Nefarious. And most of the dialogues are between Martin and the Demon, with a few scant and tortured appearances by Brady.

And I really must remark that I found Flanery’s complex portrayal the best part of the movie. I hope to see more of him as an actor in days to come. But I will have to add to that remark, that this really is the only thing in the film I found worth applauding. The rest, sadly, is a troubling litany of mixed messages, with some pretty skewed theological underpinnings.

We aren’t too far into the protracted interview before Nefarious announces to Martin that before they are done with each other, Martin himself will commit 3 murders. And this is where the mixed messages begin.

Nefarious claims that murder one was the death of Martin’s mother by assisted suicide – to which Martin had consented given her terminal cancer. Just how he personally ought to be charged with murder in this case is not explained. I guess simply because he consented to it. But to make him an actual murderer in this case is to reduce the complexities of such things a tad too much without more explication. I am no proponent of euthanasia or physician assisted suicide. It is morally reprehensible. And in the history of the Church it is considered self-murder. But I find the flat accusation over the top. Reductionism writ large. In this case, the mother committing suicide seems to not even be under consideration – only Dr. Martin’s consent. This needs to be explored, but is beyond the scope of a review such as this.

Murder two, is the abortion which the Dr.’s girl-friend undergoes at a critical point in the movie. Something the Dr does try to stop at the 11th hour, but fails by acting too late. Is abortion murder? You bet. Was the Dr., to be considered a murderer at this point? Again, this requires a much deeper discussion. But the movie’s reductionism leaves no room for that.

Murder three is the murkiest of the lot. In this case, it is because the Dr signs off on Brady’s execution. He declares Brady mentally competent. Never mind that Brady did in fact commit 11 murders. So is this a referendum on capital punishment? It sure comes off that way. Is lawful execution – the “the sword” of Romans 13 really murder? That is never dealt with. It is just let to stand as murder. The writers are confused.

As stated already, the messages are mixed at best. And when all is said and done, the murderer is basically portrayed as an innocent puppet. He is just made to do bad things against his will. The old “the Devil made me do it” defense of Flip Wilson. And it is here that the all-too common myth of the nature of free will as somehow something so sacrosanct that God cannot even violate it is perpetuated.

Nefarious contends (which appears to be an assumed truth for us all) that even God is powerless to violate human will. The argument is that unless free will includes the ability to choose one of two or more options, it’s not really free. And therefore, we cannot truly love God unless we also have the power to refuse Him. This fallacy gets repeated over and over in Christian circles to the extent that it is almost a universal given. But as theologians in all generations have reminded us – there are three inherent fallacies in the view.

First, there is nothing in all of Scripture that teaches that God cannot violate the will of the human being. Says who? It is simply absent from the Bible. It is a human invention of hubris. There is nothing at all which somehow prevents God from doing as He pleases with His creatures. We might imagine that God either cannot nor will not ever ever violate human will – but there is no reason why this must be so.

Second, if free will requires the ability to choose something other in order for love to be free and authentic, it fails to account for the love between the members of the Godhead, or of our love in the perfected state in Heaven. God is certainly the freest or all beings. But must the Father have the power NOT to love The Son in order for His love toward the Son to be real? Or the Son toward the Father. Or either in regard to the Spirit? Or in Heaven after the resurrection – will we need to retain the ability NOT to love God in order for our love toward Him to be free and authentic? Such thoughts are patently false on their face. All that is needed for free will is that one can will as they please. God always loves holiness – and it is all He desires. He does not need to be free to sin in order to love holiness. Nor do we need to be able to hate God in order to love Him freely. But the authors appear to have no concept here beyond the pop version of love perpetuated by so many. Praise God that in the eternal state, we will no longer have the ability to choose evil. And will we be in a better state then than now? Indeed.

Third, the view implies that mankind stands somehow in a neutral third position between loving and hating God, and therefore have the option to choose one or the other from this imagined middle place. All of which is deny that we are born in sin and are already the enemies of God. This underlying concept informs the rest of the author’s presuppositions whether they know it or not.

This is played out in how events unfold with the Dr., at Brady’s execution. At that point, the Dr., is temporarily possed himself, but is somehow given the option to either succumb to the demon’s influence or not. Thus the movie implies all humanity is in that same place. We are not already God’s enemies by birth as Scripture declares – but merely need to make our choices for good or evil. We do not need the supernatural work of God to change our wills that we might love Him. The human race can derail the grand plans of the demonic world if we just all choose the right. Which (and I cannot go into detail here) in the original book is posited as saving Americanism by simply choosing the moral good in the face of a coming demonic invasion. This so informs the presuppositions of the movie, that in the book for instance – Nefarious can say: “Obviously this self-governing precedent is one we couldn’t allow to stand, for if you remove top-down power structures you essentially remove every successful scheme we’ve ever had.” The skewed presupposition is that self-government actually has the power to successfully thwart all demonic plans. This a a horribly twisted theological position. And why I’ve taken the time to unpack so much of it here. Scripture declares: “2 Corinthians 10:3–6 (ESV): “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy 1arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.” Whereas Deace, Konzelman and Solomon would tell us that there is a political weapon which alone can defeat demonic and spiritual attacks.

I need to rein myself in here with a few closing comments.

1 – Nefarious is not a Christian movie per se. It is a supernatural thriller with some Biblical themes. Do NOT take your theology from it. It is a revisitation of the imaginary themes of Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness. It’s demonology is not Biblical, but fanciful.

2 – Nefarious is theistic in that it deals with some Biblical/Moral/Supernatural themes – but it certainly never expounds or conveys the Gospel. Indeed, it only uses the word “Gospel” when the “demon” says he wants James to see that the demon’s “dark gospel” is published. Jesus is never even referred to as anything other than “The Carpenter.”

3 – The message that there are dark demonic beings bent on destroying mankind because we were made in God’s image is true enough. But the way it is cast, it seems as though mankind is basically in a neutral position to be on one side or the other in this cosmic battle between good and evil and we can choose on our own which side that will be. It has no grasp that we are all born as God’s enemies already and need to be transferred out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of His Son.

4 – The introduction of Glenn Beck at the end as the ostensible Christian influence is so skewed in that last I knew, Beck is still a professing Mormon. One who rejects the Biblical Jesus, has no concept of Biblical salvation and too thinks that moralism and politicism can “save America.” In the book the downfall of America is really the main thing the demons are after – not combating the Kingdom of Christ. It is massive misdirection.

5 – The superstitious idea the demon resurfaces in another person has no Biblical backing. This occurs at the end of the movie and promotes superstitious views of spiritual warfare rather than Biblically informed ones.

Conclusion. I cannot recommend the movie. And especially cannot recommend it as a “Christian” movie. It isn’t.



Don’t waste your time or your money.

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