Director: Scott Derrickson
Starring: Eric Bana, Edgar Ramirez, Olivia Munn, Chris Coy. USA. 1h 58m
Adapted from: Beware the Night – Ralph Sarchie
From the dawning of The Exorcist every possession movie attempts to become the scariest movie ever made, and yet, through the decades there’s a building up of different styles and techniques which seems to flavour the films throughout the decades and sadly Deliver Us From Evil falls into a series of modern tropes while bringing together some brilliant actors who are often underused for a plot which is apparently based on real events.
While claiming the story is true it’s also made clear it’s based on a novel by Ralph Sarchie, a tortoise blend on folk magic and Palo Mayombe that infuses with pop culture bringing demons into our realms and preying on the religiously vulnerable. But instead of this juicy humble beginning of African ritual magic, the film starts in the Middle East where a group of soldiers enter a cave and the scene ends with their blood curdling screams. The film does nothing to hide its debt to The Exorcist, but at least it’s drawing from one of the greats so it can’t be all that bad?
Eric Bana does his best to take on the role of a New York City Cop Ralph Sarchie, it’s not clear if it’s his expertise or his natural magnetism that helps him locate the more disturbing crimes. What begins as the typical inner city wrongdoings, murdered babies and female punch bags. There’s a sinister edge to a recent spate of gruesome crimes which slowly morph into those creepypasta moments, flicking candles and shadowy figures lurking around in the corner of the room, and to top off a creepy crust punk is also hanging around the local zoo.
For some reason someone thought it would be a good idea to take the honourable Sean Harris and doll him up like a member of Behemoth on a meth bender and to play some kind of demonic marine. Obviously whatever happened in the middle east has manifested in him and he’s bringing his own special blend of Satanic Panic to the five boroughs. Sean played a similarly delvish character in Creep, and his ability to really bring the darker psyche to life with dramatic force is outstanding but all he manages to be allowed to do here is scream in Aramaric.
Apart from some heartfelt conversations between the super sleuths, Ralph and the Priestly Mendoza (Bana and Rameriez) The film pretty much works through the numbers and templates. A garage full of flashy jump scares, everything happening in rooms that are either really dark or pitch black, there’s not a lot to get your knickers wet when the director finally hits you with the real scares. A great opportunity is missed to amp this into the realms of Se7en but with the Devil being present. Before you know it, all the hard cop antics are soon replaced by bible slapping chrissy hokum backed to a bizarre Doors soundtrack which has lead a lot of moviegoers trying to discover the connection, maybe the Doors are deeply meaningful or maybe there’s some kind of esoteric link behind the lyrics that we’re yet to work out.
Either way mixing the soothing sound of Jim Morrison with buckets of black blood and dead babies isn’t really the kicking combination that anyone was expecting and for some it might work, for me it’s visually interesting but nothing to write home about which is heartbreaking as it features 3 of my all time favourite actors.
Related : The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005), The Rite (2011), The Exorcist (1973), Exorcist 3 (1990)
Lists: Exorcism Cinema, Cop/Priest Flicks, Possessed Films,
Spotlight: Eric Bana, Sean Harris, Edgar Ramirez