Delivers scares (and genre clichés) aplenty.
Deliver Us From Evil
The Bronx is turned into a funhouse of jump scares and buddy cop banter in Deliver Us From Evil, a loose adaptation of Beware the Night by Ralph Sarchie, a former NYPD detective who left the force to enter the creepy world of demonology. Fans of the exorcism subgenre of horror will no doubt get what they came for in the film’s conclusion, one of the most overblown, silliest exorcism scenes in movies, but the derivative cheap thrills leading up to it barely warrant the wait.
The scare-fest comes to us from Sinister director Scott Derrickson and stars Eric Bana as Sarchie, a badass cop who has a “heavy hand” when dealing with criminals, has always been haunted by the gruesome crimes he deals with on the streets. But lately, he’s been experiencing flashes of deathly visions and strange noises no one else can hear, haunting him more literally. The “true story” element lends little authenticity to the terror, since the film is so chockfull of genre tropes you’ll be struck more by its resemblance to similar hokey horror romps than its resemblance to real life.
Sarchie’s visions (represented by quick flashes of disgusting things, the lamest kind of scare tactic) stem from an ancient evil brought to the Bronx from Iraq by a group of soldiers who discover evil looking Latin inscriptions in a cave, as is seen in the film’s prologue. Sarchie teams up with his wisecracking, knife-savvy partner (Joel McHale) and a boozer priest with a sordid past and paranormal experience (Edgar Ramirez) to take down Santino (Sean Harris), the leader of the soldiers who is now spreading his dark juju throughout the city under the guise of a friendly painting company.
From the eerily quiet, moonlit Bronx Zoo to dark, messy apartments with cat carcasses splayed out on the wall, Sarchie and his buddies investigate the developing mystery by searching the spookiest spots in the city, flashlights and guns at the ready. The barrage of occult symbolism, possessed stuffed animals, possessed real animals, and possessed human beings is standard fare, and it’s all decent fun. Prolonged silence punctuated by a loud noise and terrible sight, the most classic horror tool, is utilized well by Derrickson, who clearly did his homework in Scary Movies 101. The atmosphere is menacing and the scares, while a bit overly “jumpy”, are potent, but fans of the genre will find little novelty here aside from Derrickson using music from The Doors to give otherwise clichéd sequences a thin veil of originality.
At first, Sarchie is skeptical, quick to believe that he’s losing his mind rather than acknowledge the presence of a supernatural power. But with his visions become more vivid and disturbing, he has a hear-to-heart with the priest that opens his eyes to the possibility that throughout his life of fighting crime, he’s only been dealing with “secondary evil”, and that what threatens him now is a “primary evil” that exists beyond our realm of reality. Sarchie becomes so entangled with his ghostbusting work that he neglects his wife (Olivia Munn) and young daughter, who predictably become the targets of big bad Santino.
Bana, always a class act, plays Sarchie with grit and passion, wearing a convincing New York accent to boot. McHale and Ramirez have less to work with, though the roles accentuate their strengths as actors well. The film’s bloated final exorcism, which takes place in a police interrogation room that gets torn to bits by supernatural forces, is rightly bonkers but overstays its welcome due to a formulaic presentation consisting of odd contortions, splitting skin, oozing blood, and other cheesy CG effects. Derrickson fails to convince us that his film is anything more than a run-of-the-mill creep show, but at the very least it delivers scares aplenty.