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Deliver Us From Evil – 5

Director – Scott Derrickson

Cast – Eric Bana, Édgar Ramírez, Olivia Munn, Chris Coy, Dorian Missick, Sean Harris, Joel McHale, Mike Houston, Lulu Wilson, Olivia Horton, Scott Johnsen

Release Year – 2014

Reviewed by John of the Dead

This is a film that had me excited for multiple reasons. It is the newest film from Scott Derrickson, who is a director with a resume I enjoy. He broke onto the scene with the mediocre Hellraiser: Inferno, but since then he has given us The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Sinister, both supernatural films that I highly enjoyed. I am also a fan of lead actor Eric Bana, and this marks the first horror film of his career. Throw in the semi-true supernatural storyline and you have my devout attention, so going into this film I really hoped to enjoy it. From the get-go I began to realize that the experience I expected was not going to happen, and when the story finally achieved greatness it was too little, too late.

Detective Sarchie has a knack for finding unusual cases, and the troubled detective’s “radar” brings him face to face with a series of disturbing crimes committed by a heinous killer. Teaming with an unconventional priest schooled in the rituals of exorcism, Sarchie battles the frightening demonic possessions terrorizing his city where no one, not even his family and partner, are safe.

Scott Derrickson and fellow Emily Rose co-writer Paul Harris Boardman produced this screenplay from Ralph Sarchie’s tell-all book, and while I have yet to read Sarchie’s take on the matter I hope it is more interesting than what these writers delivered. The first act is blander than it should be, starting off with a hint of the evil’s Middle Eastern origin and concluding with the first crime associated with those possessed by it. I could not believe how uneven these scenes felt, and I blame both writing and directing execution for failing to secure the viewer. The second act fares better but unfortunately produces more unanswered questions than I would like to deal with. I enjoy a film that leaves a few rocks unturned so that the viewer is allowed to debate amongst him/herself or friends, but that was not the case here. Instead, multiple horrific elements are thrown in here and there but never used to full potential. Because they must each share runtime they remain undeveloped and instead become more of an annoyance than an engaging development to the conflict. Finally, when the third act hits the horror manifests to supreme levels and I was left smiling for once. I was glad to see a strong finish to a film that started poor but gradually got better, but as I mentioned earlier, “too little, too late”. Character-wise I was disappointed in how Det. Sarchie was portrayed. We see him suffer the usual conflicts associated with a New York City officer, which basically means we see him suffer the usual CLICHES. He neglects his family, turns to alcohol as a solution (moderately, though), and of course keeps this major threat to the public pretty much to himself and a few confidants. I get that he needs conflict at home to help develop his character, but the method of doing so was as cliché as it gets and ultimately a waste of a good actor. The priest, Father Mendoza, was used with much better results. His unconventional mannerisms and internal demons were interesting and made you actually care for the guy, plus his actions during the final act stole the show. I am not sure if this was the case in “real life”, but the writers gave us a mediocre lead with a good supporting cast. The horrror they wrote into the film was pretty good though, and we were given plenty of it. Even though I did not particularly like the film I was glad to see lots of horror to keep me going until the end credits relieved me. We see plenty of kills, decent gore, and lots of spooks that were effective in a movie theater with surround sound. The supernatural element could have been furthered and is one of those undeveloped elements I mentioned earlier, leaving out untold potential that could have resulted in supreme levels of horror.

Derrickson’s direction was hit and miss, which was the biggest surprise for me. He delivered solid efforts with Sinister and The Exorcism of Emily Rose, so naturally I figured he would bring the goods once again for Deliver Us From Evil. From the get-go he sets good atmosphere – dark and gloomy, which is just the way I like it. The tension strikes early and his execution is engaging, giving us a full frontal point of view to the carnage. When the horror hit he would play heavily on the senses, especially sound. There are some spooky nighttime scenes that show nothing but still brought chills about the movie theater thanks to the spooking scratching noises we would hear. When the final act hits and the major exorcism begins we are shown just how great Derrickson can be. His execution was incredible and once again he brought amazing sound with him to seal the deal. I wish I could say that the rest of the film was this good, but his execution came with faults as well. The acting performances from our protagonists were pretty mediocre, with the best performances coming from the possessed antagonists. Sean Harris (Creep, Isolation, Prometheus) stole the show as Santino, the lead antagonist who is the root of the conflict in the film.  Harris seems to have a knack for portraying creepy characters, as he also portrayed the Creep in Michael Smith’s 2004 effort, Creep.  I enjoy a good antagonist, but it’s usually nice if the protagonist can hold his/her own as well but sadly they were not written in that manner. The worst is yet to come though. There were scenes in the film that I found completely unfathomable, and that is because they were so bad I could not believe my eyes. I don’t want to provide spoilers, so all I can say is that these scenes involve horrible sound effects added to some of the “scare” scenes. I would expect such antics from a crappy low budget piece from a novice director, but to see such nonsense on the big screen…unfathomable.

Overall, Deliver Us From Evil is a film I wanted to like, but poor writing and directing execution made that impossible. The story is downright stupid at times, as is the execution, and while the horror eventually manifested into something great…it was too little, too late. I promise I’m going to stop saying that too.

Rating: 5/10

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