July 2, 2014
Scott Derrickson and Paul Boardman
Eric Bana as Sarchie
Edgar Ramirez as Mendoza
Olivia Munn as Jen
Ralph Sarchie and his adrenaline-junkie partner are plain-clothes police officers in the Bronx. Sarchie’s “radar” for violent crime draws them to some thrilling encounters with the criminal underworld, but a recent string of bizarre events has them baffled. After a young mother throws her baby into the lion’s pit at the zoo, Sarchie discovers that a peculiar Iraq War vet – Santino – may somehow be involved in many sinister occurrences. When Sarchie hears voices and uncovers recordings of ancient writings, he begins to understand that he is no longer pursuing an everyday form of evil, but something deeper and more primal. Helping him reach this conclusion is a Catholic priest – Father Mendoza – with an unusual specialty. Together they discover that Santino is somehow spreading demonic possession into those he encounters. Yet, even as their investigation uncovers the full extent of this ancient evil, it reveals itself to Sarchie in a personal way – capitalizing on his past sins and threatening the very safety of this family.
Deliver Us From Evil begins as any cheesy action movie would and doesn’t let up until the closing credits. In the opening shot, audiences see a squad of troops tracking down terrorists with an overwrought soundtrack playing in the background. Although this introductory scene is at best useless (and arguably detracts from the suspense) when it ends the cliché action and matching soundtrack continue, albeit haunting cops, instead of soldiers. Even when events threaten to become creepy and the atmosphere darkens – tantalizing the horror-craving audience into believing that some good scares will finally help this movie live up to its name … disappointment. Instead, the ever-present heavy action soundtrack (can’t be over-emphasized) and typical law enforcement characters bring the audience right back to their introductory impression: We are watching another throwaway action film that could be anyone of thousands – featuring some unbelievable action-hero cops who never need warrants and haven’t encountered anybody, whose ass they can’t kick.
Here are some of the most tiring of the clichés that were randomly picked out by a blind donkey and tossed into a trough – later renamed ‘the story’: Things get personal when the villain goes after the tough-guy cop’s family; tough-guy cop is haunted by something he did in his past and can’t forgive himself; Tough-guy cop has fallen from God and needs the help of an unorthodox priest to bring him back; Unorthodox priest used to have a drug problem, until God saved him.
Readers will notice that most of the clichés have nothing to do with the ‘horror’ element of the story. But fear not, as other aspects of Deliver Us From Evil tread heavily over ground that has already been trampled by dozens of other genre films. For example, the featured demon (that possessing others) scratches at the walls/floors. Those it possesses develop superhuman strength and mutilate themselves accordingly. And of course, the demon is finally gone forever after the exorcism/final battle which consists of the typical method – reading prescribed passages from the Bible – albeit in Latin. (Hmmm… brings back memories of every other exorcism movie since 1973). And, of course, this tale of exorcism and possession is based on true events.
As with many mediocre horror films, the ‘scares’ don’t so much scare, as startle in the cheap thrills tradition. Unfortunately there aren’t enough cliché startles to balance out the cliché action. And although a valiant effort was made to use them to detract audiences from a few glaring plot holes (e.g. why Sarchie and Mendoza do not become possessed themselves even though they were exposed in a way similar to the others) they are still noticeable.
However, this is not a terrible movie. For those who like cop films and exorcism films, this is one you may want to catch at the matinee. The grisly violence is first rate with graphic gore to match. The mythos about the demon’s origins is unique from other exorcism movies, as is how it spreads to others. During the exorcism, Father Mendoza narrates the five stages the demon undergoes on its route to expulsion. The effects used in demonstrating these stages are very impressive. Indeed, in many ways the intensity of the exorcism scene – as predictable as it may be – saves the movie from mediocrity.
Bottom Line: After Scott Derrickson scored high in the creep factor with Sinister (2012), many horror fans will be disappointed with his latest attempt. But if you like standard formula cop movies and wouldn’t mind a heaping teaspoon of demons mixed in, this one may be up your alley.