Deliver Us From Evil (2014, 1 hr 58 mins)
Scott Derrickson, director of one of the most eerie and disturbing possession films around, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, and the shocking Sinister, has come out with another good vs. evil story. Deliver Us From Evil is loosely based on the experiences and book written by real life police officer, Ralph Sarchie, and his battle against demonic forces that run amok in the Bronx. As far-fetched as it sounds, Sarchie, now retired from the police force, spends his time as a demonologist and assists with exorcisms to this day. The film was an interesting ride with some highs, lows and a surprisingly great demonic performance.
Sarchie (Eric Bana) is a seasoned cop in the 46th Precinct in the South Bronx. His partner Butler (Joel McHale) provides snappy and snarky rapport as they investigate unusual crimes that start out in a dark and spooky Bronx Zoo, and the evidence leads to weirder and more supernatural clues as Sarchie searches for answers. He tumbles down the rabbit hole after he finds some ex-military types running rampant (and possessed) as they bite and snarl their way around town. Add his disenchantment with God, a fractured family life, a gorgeous Jesuit priest, and The Doors, and you have a cop drama/family drama/horror movie mashup that keeps you guessing who will jump on the Devil’s bandwagon next.
I had been looking forward to seeing this film ever since I heard the chatter about it in 2012. The working title then was Beware the Night, the same title as Sarchie’s book, and I had high hopes for it, since I love me a good possession film and I have become a fan of Derrickson’s. I actually liked the finished product a lot. Despite being visually dark as many of the scenes took place at night and in the rain, that only added to the suspense and uncertainty. It let the viewers react along with the characters as the action happened; literally shedding light only on what they saw and not foreshadowing too much. It also illustrated Sarchie’s journey: lost in his own personal limbo and his redemption. I did have an issue with the pacing (a touch slow at times) and Sarchie’s unexplained disdain for cats; and some of McHale’s comedic relief was unwarranted, but the second half of the film made up for it all and it was an interesting take on possession with a true story background.
And can we talk about that Jesuit priest, Mendoza, played by Zero Dark Thirty’s Edgar Ramirez? Can we please? How gorgeous was he?! Those perfectly tousled curls, those riveting eyes…it’s just wrong to make him a priest! Seriously though, Ramirez did a great job as the tarnished man of the cloth, conveying a world-weariness that played well alongside Bana’s lost faith as Mendoza became an unlikely partner. But the most memorable performance came from Sean Harris, who played the possessed soldier Santino. Filled with brimstone and menace, his slim build took up space as he terrorized Sarchie’s family and colleagues. His makeup was brilliant too. Hats off to the fx department for a creepy and gruesome concept and look for Santino’s character.
To sum it up, Derrickson takes the devil and puts him in a gritty film noir-like police drama. Emily Rose this ain’t, but check out Deliver Us From Evil for one of the creepiest toys ever, a good-looking cast and some good jump scares. Definitely worth a watch if you are trolling for some summer horror!