My required horror movie companion for this film put it pretty succinctly when he said, “The title should really be, ‘Deliver us From THIS Evil…,’ ” and that’s about right. I have been contemplating the following question: I am not a horror fan. I am a scared, wimpy chicken-shit wuss when it comes to horror films. (That’s my confession for the day). However, precisely because of that I am the perfect person to review horror, don’t you think? Horror aficionados see all kinds of scary stuff and become jaded about it. A thousand corpses here, a thousand corpses there, whatever. I, on the other hand, will be scared shitless at pretty much anything and therefore be better able to unbiasedly judge the film’s sleepless-night-poop-in-your-pants factor. Let me tell you that I needed no sleeping pill whatsoever, slept like a baby and laughed out loud at DELIVER US FROM EVIL. That doesn’t bode well for this film. I did close my eyes for a few scenes and get a great blow-by-blow sportscaster style narrative of what was going on (OK, we have a big bag, there’s dead guy in it, yeah, he’s dead – OH WAIT – his eyes are moving. But he’s dead. Definitely dead.) I went to see this film for three reasons; it is set in my hometown of New York City, it is based on ‘true events,’ and it stars Eric Bana for whom, after I laid down on the train-tracks for Viggo Mortensen, would happily reassemble my bloody pieces back together. Tragically, even Eric Bana couldn’t make this experience worth it.
DELIVER US FROM EVIL is based upon a book of the same name written by New York City Police Sgt. Ralph Sarchie. Sarchie, played in the film by Bana, was a hardened detective who comes to investigate a few truly bizarre and ultimately linked cases and these are the basis for the movie. He has an impossibly patient and understanding wife played by Olivia Munn and a cute young daughter. He also has a constantly quipping partner played by Joel McHale (SONS OF ANARCHY, TED). whose non-stop one liners defuse the small amount of suspenseful tension present in the film but there’s not much to his character, or for him to work with, in the role. He’s a one trick pony NYC cop who has seen it all and can only be cynical in the face of anything and everything. Sarchie is a nonpracticing Catholic who has the standard skepticism about the role of evil in the crimes he is investigating. With the appearance of Edgar Ramirez who plays Father Mendoza, Sarchie becomes involved in Mendoza’s exorcisms and ends up a true believer. Our primary source of evil in the movie, Santino, is one of three veterans of the Iraqi war and we come to learn that it is he who carried that primal evil back with him from Iraq. No fruits or livestock please, but super evil is fine as long as you declare it at customs. Santino is a shadowy sweatshirt clad figure who, because he appears to be the world’s sloppiest house-painter, has streaky black and white paint on his face for most of the film until it is replaced by carefully placed rivers of blood. In reality, he looks remarkably like a young Alice Cooper after a sweaty performance wearing a hoodie. Not scary. Kinda funny. There is a whole lot of frothing at the mouth (in various colors and textures) tons of blood (they used very good quality fake blood though) and you will come away with a new found fluency in Latin you previously thought impossible. The music of The Doors also plays a major role in the film and one which provided me with most of my comic relief. Also I might add here that it seems to rain more in the Bronx than anywhere on earth. It is always raining. Rain = evil. I’m from New York and let me tell you, if deep evil exists in New York City my bet is it’s in Staten Island, not the Bronx. Bana does his best to show some emotional struggle between processing the events he experiences on the job and his life at home. Ramirez as Father Mendoza however is utterly unconvincing as a priest, let alone one who has the strength of character and faith to eject evil spirits from the human soul. There was a glimmer of what could have been intelligent content in DELIVER US FROM EVIL in dialogue between Mendoza and Sarchie about the nature of evil. The film also toys with the idea that the most potent evil lies in the events of our lives which we cannot release and by which we are tortured. Those threads – those concepts – would have elevated the movie to be more than just the sum of bloody battles it ends up being.
I sense that DELIVER US FROM EVIL was in and out of editing for months and months. New directions and pieces of the story are introduced and do not hold together in any fluid way. The dialogue is flat, predictable and every syllable of Ramirez’ delivery is wooden and uninspired. There are film versions of true stories which are terrifying; THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT, JAWS, THE EXORCIST, THE AMITYVILLE HORROR and many more. Part of what makes those films truly terrifying is that they are good films. Director Scott Derrickson also directed THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE which I understood was legitimately frightening. Demonic possession stories are more or less always about faith versus doubt and the universality of that struggle. More than any number of scary images, the possibility that doubt and lack of faith renders us vulnerable to evil, however you define it, is a terrifying concept and one we all confront at some point in our lives. The fear which lies within us, and the fear about what we may have to confront in life is true horror. A shred more of that emotional/spiritual/psychological exploration could have made DELIVER US FROM EVIL scary. And yes, maybe need new underwear. One thing I know for sure is that Ray Manzarek is rolling in his grave.
Director: Scott Derrickson
Starring: Eric Bana, Edgar Ramirez, Olivia Munn, Joel McHale, Sean Harris
Rating: not yet rated
Running Time: 118minutes
Movie Review Deliver Us From Evil