This week I refused to see Tammy on the grounds that it’s just a giant fat joke. I also rejected Earth to Echo, because I saw E.T. and have no desire to watch a remake starring annoying modern kids. Deliver Us From Evil didn’t look all that special either, but it had three things to recommend itself by: Eric Bana, Edgar Ramirez, and Sinister.
A police officer with a talent for finding trouble turns to a renegade priest for help tracking down a painter possessed by evil.
I was expecting hot guys and some good scares from this movie, but I only got one out of two. Eric Bana and Edgar Ramirez were still worth the ticket price, but writer/director Scott Derrickson failed to recreate the “I am about to chew my own fingers off” tension levels I remember so well from Sinister.
Deliver Us From Evil is supposedly based on the true story of NYPD sergeant Ralph Sarchie, but since this is a horror movie involving more possessions than the entire Exorcist series, you should probably take the truth of this ‘true’ story with a dumptruck full of salt. I don’t care if his book is filed under ‘Non Fiction.’ It’s a memoir. You can put anything you want in those.
Anyway, Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) spends his days cruising around New York City with his too-cool-for-school partner Butler (Joel McHale), keeping his supernatural brain-radar (yes, really) peeled for cases that will land both of them in the hospital. His radar leads them to the zoo, where a creepy woman (Olivia Horton) is on the loose after pitching her kid into a moat. And the power’s off (naturally).
My radar says we should douse ourselves in barbecue sauce and search the lion’s den.
The creepy lady has more wrong with her than even mental illness can explain, so once she’s arrested she’s sent off to the special loony bin for the murderously inclined. Enter Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez), a renegade priest with a special interest in mutilated, murderously inclined people who speak in tongues.
We’ll put her in the demonic possession wing, officers.
Ralph and Butler aren’t receptive to the idea of teaming up with an exorcist until the requisite amount of scary and unexplainable phenomenon have occurred, at which point Ralph reluctantly lets Mendoza tutor him in the ways of devil-fighting.
RALPH: What’s this writing mean?
MENDOZA: Let’s go get a drink.
RALPH: …it means ‘lets go get a drink?’
MENDOZA: No, I…. never mind.
Their investigations lead them to a trio of soldiers who returned from Iraq with suspiciously demonic cases of PTSD, and the movie’s off to the races. And by off to the races, I mean they smear a lot of bone-white, carved-up faces across the screen trying to scare us.
The problem, though, is that it’s not really scary. There are a few times where things pop up out of nowhere, but it’s almost always where/when horror movies have conditioned us to expect surprises (paradoxical, I know). The whole movie lacks the sort of tension you get when you hold off on showing the horror and let everybody imagine it for themselves – like Derrickson did in Sinister, which was rife shots that were framed to include a horror in the background… but didn’t.
Here I am right behind you! Are you surprised?!
In fact, the horror factor seemed to take a back seat to the supernatural investigation, so the movie ended up feeling like the pilot episode of a new gimmicky cop show on TV – the kind of thing you’d get if you crossed Supernatural with NYPD Blue… or just ripped off Supernatural and took out the snappy dialogue.
My other problem with Deliver Us From Evil is that it’s loaded with clichés. Everything is always dark (convenient demon superpower) except for flashlights (convenient demon superpower limitation), people are constantly splitting up to become easier targets, and nobody believes in the supernatural until LONG after the evidence has piled up so high that it’s in danger of toppling over and crushing everyone under its massive weight.
Geez, it looks like a demon has been living in this apartment!
And it’s not just horror movie clichés either. There’s a lot of stuff lifted straight from the Book of Standard Law Enforcement Tropes. Ralph never radios for backup and isn’t kicked off the case when things get personal. Ralph’s wife (Olivia Munn) nags him constantly about how he should quit the force and share his feelings and his daughter (Lulu Wilson) is struggling because he doesn’t spend any time with her.
I thought you said you had a REAL role for me this time! God, you’re so TYPICAL.
So when it comes time for exorcisms and endings, there are a few things you’ll be expecting… and won’t get, because there actually ARE a few places where Deliver Us From Evil breaks with tradition. If you’re a horror fan (like one of the friends I went to the movie with) you may leave feeling vaguely dissatisfied. But if you’re like me, you’ll just be glad SOMEONE had the presence of mind to give up that dumb sh** already.
Fear me. I am the #1 name in exorcisms since 2007.
Overall, Deliver Us From Evil was a middle of the road movie for me. Facetime = good. Story = ok. Cliché levels = medium-high. Presence of three-dimensional characters = low. Premise = neat. Verdict? Meh. It you like both horror and cop shows and all their accompanying clichés, it won’t be a waste of time for you. Otherwise you’ll probably be disappointed.