Genre: Crime, Horror, Thriller
Directed by: Scott Derrickson
Starring: Eric Bana, Edgar Ramirez, Olivia Munn, Chris Coy
With Sinister and The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Scott Derrickson showcased himself as a director with a real knack for unnerving tension and intense creepiness that left one chilled to the core and many a sleepless night. Unfortunately, it’s a shame to say that it seems as if he’s taken two steps back with his latest venture into the world of the paranormal and demonic possession. Boasting the tagline “inspired by the actual events of a NYPD Sergeant”, Deliver Us From Evil offers up a bland and generic mash-up of police procedural and exorcist horror that utilises all the clichés in the book, resulting in a mess of a film that never quite shivers one’s spine, nor completely satisfies as a whole.
The film follows Eric Bana’s everyman policeman, Sergeant Ralph Sarchie, a man with a “radar” ability for strange and bizarre criminal activity. Along with his wisecracking partner (a somewhat misplaced Joel McHale) the two are drawn into the world of the supernatural on the rain soaked streets of the South Bronx, when they investigate a series of increasingly bizarre cases including a woman who throws her child into a ravine at the Bronx zoo before she inadvertently begins spouting Latin and reciting lyrics from The Doors. Yes, it would appear the Devil is a big fan of 60s rock music. Then, before you can say “Exorcist”, Bana’s Sarchie teams up with Edgar Ramirez’s rugged hard drinking Jesuit priest to investigate a case of demonic possessions involving Sean Harris’ Iraq war veteran.
It’s surprising that, with a director as capable within this genre as Derrickson, the film is as generic and bland as it is. Lacking in any kind of originality nor palpable sense of dread that worked so well in Sinister and Emily Rose, the film relies on cheap jump scares and the occasional mutilated animal carcass or bloated dead body to remind the audience that they are indeed watching a horror movie, albeit a horror movie which you’ve probably already seen before. Everything within this movie has been lifted straight out of the horror movie handbook. Of course, like last year’s The Conjuring, any and all clichés could easily be forgiven if the film had any genuine chills and scares, which it unfortunately severely lacks in.
The cast fare little better. Eric Bana acquits himself admirably enough as Sarchie, while Edgar Ramirez seems to be phoning it in as the hard drinking chain-smoking Jesuit. Little is made of Sarchie’s scepticism to the occult goings on, which perhaps would’ve made for a more interesting character arc, but instead the script simply takes Sarchie through the standard horror and procedural tropes of investigating strange basements and moving lamps and flashes of corpses all relating back to something dark and sinister in his own past of course.
Poor Olivia Munn meanwhile is given neglected housewife duties as Bana’s wife, with not much to do but serve as a plot device when the narrative calls for it. Indeed any and all female characters are reduced to nothing more than poor downtrodden wives or demonically possessed.
Thankfully though, the film is not a complete loss. Derrickson, reminding us of the skill that he’s capable of, handles a third act exorcism scene masterfully. While Sean Harris would chill to the bone with his portrayal were he in a better movie.
An admired attempt at blending the procedural with the more Exorcist style horror, let down by it’s lack of originality and unnerving creepiness, Deliver Us From Evil makes for an uninspired and ultimately quite dull horror movie.