Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 58 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Bloody Violence, Grisly Images, Terror throughout, and Language
Directed by: Scott Derrickson
Written by: Scott Derrickson & Paul Harris Boardman
(based on the book BEWARE THE NIGHT by Ralph Sarchie & Lisa Collier Cool)
Starring: Eric Bana, Edgar Ramirez, Olivia Munn, Sean Harris, Joel McHale & Chris Coy
Scott Derrickson scared the ever-loving shit out of me with 2012’s SINISTER. With that film aside, the man really hasn’t got another solid horror flick to his name. EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE came off as a TV court-room drama mixed with a watered down version of THE EXORCIST and suffered from plenty of clichés as a result. In his latest offering, Derrickson goes back to the much traveled road of demonic possession with a different angle this time around. DELIVER US FROM EVIL is essentially a feature-length episode of COPS: Exorcist Edition. This is a disappointing and mostly bland police procedural that happens to have a demonic spin on it. It sounds like the recipe for a winner on the outside, but suffers from clichés from both the horror genre and the cop thrillers. It’s not horrible by any means, but barely passable is hardly the description that anybody wants to hear about a movie they’re paying to see on the big screen.
Based on the supposedly true experiences of cop-turned-demonologist Ralph Sarchie, DELIVER US FROM EVIL begins with a group of soldiers in the Middle East venturing into a foreboding cave. Faster than you can say Pazuzu, the men are ambushed by a mysterious force in the dark. Three years later in the Bronx, Ralph Sarchie is investigating a series of horrible crimes revolving around satanic rituals and demonic possession. Aided by a renegade priest, Ralph does everything within his power to put a stop to this evil force at work…but will it be enough?
That’s the set up of this supernatural horror flick and it does have potential. The trailers and marketing material for DELIVER US FROM EVIL looked mighty scary, especially given how freaky SINISTER was. I had high hopes for this film and it just wound up being standard on nearly every level. The one thing that Scott Derrickson excels at is spooky atmosphere. While I was never scared, the visuals were gruesome and reminded me of SE7EN with demonic spirits. Every bloody opportunity in this deserved R rating is taken, although the film never becomes an out-and-out gorefest. I liked that every plot development was being treated with a state of seriousness, even though the script is strewn with clichés around every corner. Speaking of clichés…
Damn near every jump scare is basically a loud stinger with an animal screeching (whether it be bats, dogs, cats, mice, or even lions in a zoo). It got grating and silly. I mean, shouldn’t the horror genre have moved past the cat jump scare at this point? Also, haven’t cop movies moved past the wise-cracking sarcastic partner? I ask this, because The Soup’s Joel McHale is cast as Ralph’s hardened partner whose always ready with a bad punchline in the face of danger. It may be because McHale has been seen as comedic actor for so long, but I couldn’t buy him as this serious badass police officer with a sense of humor. Eric Bana does a good job as Ralph, but that’s about all I can say about his performance. Edgar Ramirez is the best actor here as the most unusual priest and almost seems to be channeling an action hero style to his character. Every cast member portraying possessed victim does the typical hissy voices and animal characteristics, though the make-up job on them is decent enough.
A couple of completely unnecessary things pad out the overly long running time as well. The movie takes its sweet time getting to the initial team-up of Bana and Ramirez’s characters. One might argue that it’s entirely too long of a first act. Then there’s the haphazardly constructed plotline of Ralph’s dark past resurfacing (complete with typical visions and canned children’s laughter meant to come off as unnerving). Finally, the tie-in to song lyrics from The Doors is just plain silly and seems to be used only as an excuse for the end credits to use Break On Through. Despite the solid atmosphere and creepy visuals, DELIVER US FROM EVIL suffers from a basic script and completely average execution. This is likely to go down as yet another forgettable horror flick that looked promising, but failed to deliver (pardon the pun).
One reason for my mere apathetic response I felt at the end of DELIVER US FROM EVIL might be attributed to the complete excess of big screen demonic possession movies as of late (e.g. the awful DEVIL INSIDE, the bad RITE, the good LAST EXORCISM and its terrible sequel, and the passable POSSESSION). I can’t say that’s definitely the case though, seeing as plenty of good horror flicks bring fresh scares to well-worn formulas. Scott Derrickson’s DELIVER US FROM EVIL doesn’t come off as compelling or emotional or even frightening. It’s a film that sputters along from set piece to set piece, but never fully takes off. In some ways, that’s arguably worse than if it had just been an all-out disaster.