Dir: Scott Derrickson
Starring: Eric Bana, Édgar Ramírez, Olivia Munn, Joel McHale, Sean Harris
From Jerry Bruckheimer Films/Screen Gems
By Monte Yazzie (www.thecodafilms.com)
Horror films run in cycles of popularity. Whether slasher, zombie, or vampire, these subgenres have produced spotlight films and have also worn-out their welcome with an overabundance of less noteworthy copiers. Director Scott Derrickson, who’s recent “Sinister” surprised, doesn’t have an extensive catalog, but his film “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” was an early contributor to the popularity of this specific genre theme. “Deliver Us From Evil” shines with talent but unfortunately buckles underneath an over dependency on unsurprising scares and an identity that feels lost throughout.
Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) is a New York police officer struggling with the day-to-day atrocities he encounters. He begins to investigate a series of gruesome and unexplainable crimes involving a group of soldiers and a mother who tosses her child into a lion’s den at the zoo. Sarchie is offered assistance from Father Joe Mendoza (Édgar Ramírez), an unconventional priest who explains to Sarchie that demonic forces are at work with these crimes. Together they investigate the mysterious crimes, leading them to an intimidating face of evil.
Derrickson approaches the film from an interesting point of view, utilizing the detectives to uncover the gruesome supernatural details. It begins as a crime procedural, investigation of locations and interrogation of suspects that are targeted as responsible for the devious deeds. While this is a clever method in an exorcism film, it doesn’t always yield coherent results but rather serves as a convenient way of easily moving the narrative towards the desired scare. The officers make idiotic decisions and, regardless of the obvious signs, continue to doubt what they see in front of their own eyes. They are not being asked to believe in the work of the supernatural by means of blind faith but are rather offered clues that are visibly in front of them, which they constantly deny. Though the film is influenced by the actual paranormal cases investigated by Ralph Sarchie while he was a police officer, the film still feels lost in what direction it wants to take, design and narrative wise. The ending is chilling and quite satisfying with both startling visuals and an aggressive, assaulting tone that feels more suitable for the subject matter proposed before it.
Eric Bana and Édgar Ramírez both handle the dramatic elements well. Bana is a conflicted cop who tries to keep separate his personal and professional life but is slowly losing grasp and merging both identities with emotional outbursts. Ramírez is a priest who is also on the struggling verge of relapse into a life that almost destroyed him. These two characters compose a nice balance of the struggle to remain devoted, in different capacities, to the path they have decided to lead. It’s unfortunate that it takes so long for them to finally have meaningful scenes together instead of the forced exposition given to merely introduce more genre startles with flashlights pointed into dark places and the occasional "what was that?" comment.
There is a significant amount of recognizable horror film influences utilized throughout "Deliver Us From Evil". Whether the obvious influence of "The Exorcist" or the designs of other recent fright films like "Insidious", Scott Derrickson tries to combine the successful qualities of all these films throughout his own. Unfortunately it only makes you want to watch the films that offered the guidance.
2.25 out of 5.00