DIR: Scott Derrickson • WRI: Scott Derrickson, Paul Harris Boardman • PRO:Jerry Bruckheimer • DOP: Scott Kevan • ED: Jason Hellmann • DES: Bob Shaw • MUS: Christopher Young • CAST: Eric Bana, Édgar Ramírez, Olivia Munn, Sean Harris
Deliver Us from Evil opens with the usual “based on true events” tagline, eliciting an almost audible groan from audiences who are now largely desensitised to these words. This film manages to distract us from this minor irritation as guns explode around us and for a moment we wonder if we have wandered into the wrong screen and are about to watch an army raid/crime thriller. Luckily, once the film eventually gets moving, we realise that we are exactly where we should be.
Our protagonist is Ralph Sarchie, played by Eric Bana. Sarchie is the a-typical weathered cop who doesn’t have time for his family, and is generally disenchanted with the seedy underbelly his job confronts him with on a nightly basis. The character is clearly archetypal but with a subtle twist in the form of his apparent ‘radar’ which alerts him to dangerous situations. Combined with an Iraq war storyline, it seems like an odd premise for horror.
The film almost immediately falls short in terms of direction as it seems somewhat unsure of what direction to take, often floating between classic horror, gore, gritty buddy cop caper and psychological horror. It is only when the main crux is uncovered that we can begin to enjoy it. Deliver Us from Evil is quite long for the average horror, and takes a while to find its point. Thankfully, a combination of excellent bromantic chemistry and characters we somehow grow to love makes it work and the film becomes the kind of horror that allows the audience to sit back and suspend their disbelief. Sometimes it is a relief to see a film which allows us to merely enjoy the ride, as strange as it may be.
Deliver Us from Evil is quite gory in places but personally, I feel that it is intentionally so. Rather than falling into torture-porn trappings, this film shows us just enough. It harnesses the true power of horror by confronting the audience with everything we naturally abject. We are brought alongside out protagonist, and whilst we are often one or two steps ahead of his investigation, we feel the same level of tension and horror. The only character who consistently knows more than the audience is the ‘priest’ Mendoza, played by Edgar Ramirez. In this case, our religious victor is more rockstar Jon Snow than the typical old priest/young priest we have grown to expect. His presence and general chemistry with Sarchie makes the inevitable exorcism scenes seem wonderfully cheesy rather than old hat.
Director Scott Derickson displays a masterful knack for creating tension and atmosphere but falls flat in pacing as the film takes too long to reach the point. Derickson at times confuses creating atmosphere with making the audience wait so long for an exorcism that they wonder whether or not it’s really warranted, but that might just be me adopting the old reliable “sure, it will be grand” ideology.
Deliver Us from Evil is by no means a perfect film, or a perfect example of horror. It is rather formulaic, particularly for those who have seen Derickson’s previous offerings. Inexplicably though, I couldn’t help but love it. It is an enjoyable and tension-filled watch that may put you off hiring a painter in future.
16 (See IFCO for details)
Deliver Us from Evil is released on 20th August 2014