TMN Movie Review: "Deliver Us From Evil"

Photo Credit: Screen Gems

Rating: R
Length: 118 minutes
Release Date: July 02, 2014
Directed by: Scott Derrickson
Genre: Crime / Horror / Thriller

"Deliver Us From Evil" takes horror to the next level with some fresh scare tactics, a suspenseful plot and a satisfying climax. The film follows a New York police officer named Sarchie as his belief in the supernatural is slowly reawakened due to a series of strange crimes. Supposedly based on true events, "Deliver Us From Evil" is a spiritual thriller that is sure to keep viewers up at night.

The beginning of the film brings audiences to the deserts of Iraq, where three soldiers stumble upon a mysterious chamber in 2010. They discover something evil there, and the ominous presence follows them back to New York City. The story then switches to the present day, following New York police officer Ralph Sarchie, played by Eric Bana, as he investigates a series of gruesome crimes. The hardest investigator is a non-practicing Catholic who takes a cynical approach to everything, and his partner Butler, played by Joel McHale, is constantly cracking jokes.

While working a night shift, the officers investigate a report of violent behavior. They enter a couple's home to find a woman beaten and bruised as her husband runs away with bloody fingernails. They are then called to a Bronx zoo to investigate a shocking occurrence, and they discover that a woman has thrown her baby into a lion exhibit, killing it. The woman is now unresponsive, continuously repeating a mysterious phrase under her breath. Upon returning to the station, Sarchie is approached by a man named Mendoza, played by Édgar Ramírez, who dresses in casual attire and claims to be a priest. Mendoza claims that the woman was possessed by a demon, but the spiritually resistant Sarchie doesn't take him seriously.

Sarchie tries desperately to link the series of strange crimes that continue to surface. As strange voices and occurrences begin to haunt Sarchie, however, he seeks the help of Mendoza. Although the priest tells the officer that he is seeing demons, Sarchie still does not fully give in to the explanation. When he eventually discovers that both the beaten woman and the woman at the zoo had met the same man, Sarchie begins to believe that there is a mastermind behind the web of strange occurrences.

"Deliver Us From Evil" combines elements of spiritual horror and crime dramas to create a frightening hybrid. Although it succeeds in some respects, the film largely relies on fairly predictable jump scare tactics. There are some truly disturbing scenes and sequences, however, that make the film a worthwhile watch. The darkness of the Bronx zoo in one of the earlier scenes is both chilling and creative, and the portrayals of demonic possession are truly frightening. Although the film utilizes plenty of fast-cutting camera techniques, the filmmakers create even greater suspense by keeping a steady camera during some of the most intense sequences. Like other contemporary horror movies, the film attempts to blend some classic campiness with genuine scares.

Director Scott Derrickson, known for modern horror classics like "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" and "Sinister," delivers a film that is initially shaky, tight in the middle and explosive near the end. Derrickson is known for using unconventional tactics for on-screen scare appeal, which is obviously present in this film with its many dark scenes. He also brings together a stand-out cast lead by Eric Bana to carry out the ambitious story. Bana gives a convincing performance as Sarchie, and Joel McHale of "Community" fame is witty as always in his role as Butler. Sean Harris is undoubtedly creepy as the villainous Santino, and Édgar Ramírez gives emotional depth to Mendoza in his portrayal.

Although the actors in "Deliver Us From Evil" do a great job filling their roles, the characters themselves invite more depth. Sarchie's constant serious expression and overly cynical attitude could be more varied, and Butler's wisecracking attitude seeks to steal away some of the suspense in certain scene. Sarchie's wife and child do not have any significant role in the film, so their presence sometimes feels forced. Although Mendoza carries plenty of clichés as a horror movie priest, Ramírez's portrayal brings enough depth to the role to create a truly intriguing character.

"Deliver Us From Evil" is not as truly frightening as masters of the genre such as "The Exorcist," but it does deliver an intriguing plot and some genuine chills. Although the film itself is seemingly drawn-out with its more than two-hour run time, most viewers are too absorbed by the intriguing plot to notice. Overall, this is a worthwhile film that is perfect for audiences looking for a casual scare.

Tags: Eric Bana