Since the release of The Exorcist in 1973, the film industry has developed something of an obsession with movies surrounding demonic possessions and exorcisms. If you’ve somehow managed to avoid seeing one then I applaud you because there are just far too many of them out there. It’s been done to death at this point and even though I’d like to think that I’m not alone in feeling quite sick at the sight of them, more and more continue to be made. However, I’m not saying that every single one of them is bad because when done right with some creativity and an attempt at originality, it can still be quite an effective subject matter in horror but it’s very rare. We’ve seen it all before by now, even parodies of exorcisms in comedy movies have run their course. With that being said, let’s have a look at ‘Deliver Us From Evil’ and see if it can change my mind.
It doesn’t start too well as the words “inspired by actual accounts” immediately appear on screen, ugh.
The movie opens in Iraq in 2010. A small group of soldiers are running through a war zone in the desert when they encounter a man-made underground cave. The group leader, Lt. Griggs, sends two soldiers (Jimmy Tratner and Mike Santino) to investigate. Jimmy is recording. Underground, the camera light starts to flicker and then eventually dies out completely, Jimmy and Santino are heard screaming. This is a great start to the movie, it does a good job of setting a creepy tone.
We flash forward to present day 2013, in New York. Detective Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) is seen trying to give mouth to mouth to a very small bundle, which is revealed to be a dead baby. The coroner asks him repeatedly to let go, but he has trouble doing so and is clearly affected by the experience. The next scene shows Sarchie and his partner, Butler (Joel Mchale), patrolling the streets of New York. They hear a call coming in about a domestic dispute case and Sarchie says they’ll take it. Butler, an adrenaline junkie, is excited because apparently Sarchie has “radar” that causes him to take cases that take unusual, often violent turns.
The call is about Jimmy Tratner. They pull up to his house and Jimmy answers the door. Sarchie needs to see his wife so Jimmy lets them inside. The wife, sitting on the sofa, lifts her head to show she has been badly beaten. Sarchie and Butler immediately try to arrest Jimmy, who fights back with a knife, slashing Sarchie’s arm, and then sprints away. They eventually catch him, with Sarchie beating him so badly that Butler has to pull him away, and arrest him. Sarchie notices Jimmy’s fingernails are elongated and bleeding.
After Sarchie gets stitches in his arm, the two get a call for the local zoo. Upon arriving, the police at the scene tell them a woman has thrown her 2-year-old boy into the lion’s pit. Luckily, the pit is being repainted, so the lions are not there, but the boy was badly injured. In the ensuing chaos, the woman escaped and the power went out. Sarchie and Butler split up and look for the woman. Sarchie notices the animals are going crazy and eventually finds the woman trying to dig into the ground with her bare fingernails. She is also constantly repeating the lyrics to a song by The Doors. While arresting her, they notice a man in a hood, presumably the painter, in the lion enclosure. Sarchie wants to talk to him but he just slowly walks away, farther into the lion’s pit. Sarchie follows him when suddenly the two lions are out in the enclosure. He barely escapes.
Sarchie learns that the mysterious hooded man is in fact Santino and that he and Jimmy belonged to the same platoon in Iraq. The investigation affects the private life of Sarchie and his relationship with his wife Jennifer and his daughter Christina who begins to be terrorized at night by a demonic entity.
Sarchie, who is a Catholic that lost his faith, is contacted by the unconventional Father Mendoza that explains to him that he is dealing with demonic forces and Santino and Jane are possessed by demons. The skeptic Sarchie does not believe in the father at first, but when his family is jeopardized by Santino, he teams-up with the priest to exorcise Santino and save his beloved family.
Whether or not you find Deliver Us From Evil scary will depend on whether or not you buy in to the whole “inspired by actual accounts” thing.
The film has some potential with the blending of veteran NYPD officers against a supernatural being; there is definitely an intriguing story in there somewhere. That’s really how I can best describe how I felt about the movie; it had some potential to do something original and scary but ultimately failed to do so.
While there are some decently creepy moments and some nice practical makeup effects, I didn’t feel as if any of them had any real payoff just a lot of pointless build up. This is a very dark film, in fact it’s almost entirely set during the night, to its credit they make a point that one of the supernatural elements at play is the fact that light bulbs keep burning out.
Other than an eerie scene in which Sarchie and Butler make their way through a darkened zoo, I cannot recall another time when it didn’t depend on cheap, predictable scares that felt really lazy to me.
While I do think Eric Bana did an okay job with Sarchie, he had very little to work with as he’s quite a cliched character in a lot of ways. A stereotypical macho cop damaged by the real life horror that he has seen. This led to him losing his faith but of course he must regain his faith in order to defeat the “real” evil. Even though Sarchie has a partner that gets a considerable amount of screen time, his characterization is paper-thin and his ultimate fate makes him feel all the more pointless.
The real co-star of the film is father Mendoza and bah gawd if he isn’t the coolest priest in town. Model like good looks, chiseled abs, he smokes, he drinks and he sleeps with lots of women; what a guy.
It’s best to try and not overthink things with Deliver Us From Evil because once you start to analyse certain points it just doesn’t make much sense. Why doesn’t Sarchie ever use his radio to call for backup? Who the hell paints their basement? How in the blue hell did nobody in the police station hear the insanity going down during the exorcism scene? Why is The Doors soundtrack such a major plot point? It makes the film feel like a jukebox musical when it’s used heavy-handedly to underscore a point.
Did I mention practical effects? Here are some of the most impressive ones from the film –
The biggest problem with Deliver Us From Evil aside from the obvious scares and predictable plot (of course the evil goes after his family) is how it fails to utilize the good cast and the unique setting for a horror film in a modern landscape of suburbia domestic horrors. Instead, I was left feeling as if I’d seen it all before with general horror tropes trotted out once again.
There’s entertainment to be had with this film but I was hoping for more, Deliver Us From Evil fails to deliver on it’s potential and instead delivers an average, thoroughly generic exorcism movie.
Deliver Us From Evil
The Final Score - 4/10
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