Deliver Us From Evil Review
I want to give a shout-out to Sony right now. I have been a big fan of The Doors my whole life. They are one of my favorite bands of all time, from any decade and from any genre. Every time a tune of theirs fits a scene in a movie, I love it. After my screening of “Deliver Us from Evil” tonight, I will never be able to listen to The Doors the same way again. Thank you Sony, thank you very much.
But perhaps that is part of the point of horror films; they try and force us to think of them anywhere at any place. For that alone, I think “Deliver Us From Evil” is worth a look. But I also think the film offers more than that. I think the film also works as a gritty police story and it also works as a balls-to-the-wall exorcism movie. I don’t think that it surpasses “The Exorcist” from the 1970’s, but the film definitely approached the subject in a different manner, something which I found impressive.
The film starts in Iraqi in 2010, and we see a group of United States Marines storming the desert, apparently fighting terrorists. The Marines quickly move through the desert and into a grove of palm trees. As the group of soldiers move quietly through the trees, the audience sees spiders and snakes moving quickly from the direction the Marines are going, is something spooking them away? The Marines come across a stone staircase leading down into the ground. The Marine leader sends two of his men down there to check things out. One of the Marines turns on his video camera on his helmet and we watch them venture down into the ground through the video camera. We can’t really make out what is happening but profanity is thrown around and the men scream. Suddenly we are in present day.
We are introduced to New York City police Sergeant Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana). We spend a solid amount of time getting to know Sarchie and his partner Butler (Joe McHale). They are both tough and experienced cop and they don’t take crap from anybody. This is the type of material that Bana could do in his sleep. It also happens to be something that strengthens the film. I liked that this horror movie had a hero we could really cheer for, somebody who didn’t make dumb decisions, somebody who just didn’t stare blankly and say “huh?” It made the experience more intense with two men who could handle themselves well in danger.
Sarchie and Butler are called into an investigation at the Brooklyn Zoo, where a woman through her infant son into a lion’s den, killing him. The investigation eventually leads Sarchie to the soliders from Iraqi and the revelation that something far more sinister is at play here than just a crazy woman acting out. The journey also leads to Father Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez), a priest who is experienced in the art of demonology. Together, they must solve the mystery behind the Marines and what exactly happened to them.
What makes “Deliver Us From Evil” work is how well the acting is by the ensemble. I already had a good idea that Bana would be great, and he certainly was. But I was also impressed by the chemistry he had with Edgar Ramirez. Director Scott Derrickson is already onboard to direct “Doctor Strange” for Marvel, and if he is serious about bringing Ramirez on for the title role, I’d be all for it. I think Ramirez has lots of talent and he just needs that right role. Joe McHale has been a known as a funny man for his entire career so far and I liked how easily he became a badass for this movie. However, the performances that really hit home are from Olivia Horton and Sean Harris, who have all the best material from the possessed people. They really throw themselves into the material and it pays off in a huge way.
No matter what type of horror fan you are, you’ll find something to get giddy about with this movie. There are plenty of “boo” scares to go around. There is a wonderful use of creepy atmosphere and mood in the movie. Plus, there is even some disturbing imagery that really got under my skin. A crucifix featuring a Jesus with goat legs? Disturbing. A dead cat tied to a cross a la Jesus Christ? Disturbing. I also want to quickly forget the quick pan through an insane asylum where a possessed woman kills her doctor, takes her cell keys and crawls out of her cell, wide eyed, with the keys in her mouth. Yep, didn’t particularly like that at all.
The films cinematography is slick, and I almost feel it is too slick. The more impressive the footage is, the less scary it becomes. Had the film used its cinematography to match the grittiness of the film, I feel the film would have been stronger. I also feel that Derrickson tried to lace too much of the film with humor. It seemed like every time something scary happened, it was always followed by something funny. I like horror movies that never forget what they are, ones that never forget what they are trying to do. There are also a few scenes that I fell flat, particularly scenes involving zoo animals and fish. Those definitely should have been edited out.
Despite my minor gripes, let us not forget the many movies that have tackled this material before, and then remember all the movies that got it right. There are very few exorcism movies that are both memorable and good, and I think “Deliver Us From Evil” is creepy and fun enough to check out. Try to catch this one in the theater before everybody sees it. Part of the reason why I had a ball tonight was because I was sitting with a great crowd. There is nothing like going to see a horror movie with a crowed as pumped and bloodthirsty as you are. So take a huge group of friends and sit back, this one will surprise you.
FINAL GRADE: B