Saturday, July 5, 2014

Review: Deliver Us From Evil

Image courtesy of Screen Gems.
* Dear Movie Studio press folks,

Kindly refrain from adding the hashtag and film title (which we know since we happen to be visiting your publicity websites) from all the provided images. It makes it appear that I'm shilling for your movie, which - regardless of whether I liked it - I'm not.

"Deliver Us From Evil" combines the slow burn police investigation and supernatural possession genres, though not very well. It's the type of film that continues to alert you that something vaguely spooky is going to jump out of the dark and then waits a few seconds after you're expecting said jump scare to occur before - wham! - something darts in your face before retreating into the background. It's a trick from the old cinematic arsenal that's becoming quickly tiresome.

This is one of those films that purports to be based on a true story and, sure enough, is drawn from the experiences of one Ralph Sarchie, a former NYPD detective-turned demonologist who claims to have come into contact with the beyond and whatnot.

In the film, he's played by Eric Bana as a guy who's in a perpetually cranky mood - and for good reason: bodies literally fall from the sky and land on his car, a possessed woman takes a good bite out of his arm, creepy little kids keep chanting in his head and his daughter is taunted by a gigantic stuffed owl. As one of Bana's fellow NYPDer's might say, "Whaddya gonna do?"

The film opens with a relatively murky sequence involving three soldiers in Iraq who stumble into a tomb and unleash - well, that's a bit unclear, but it ain't good. Some time later, Sarchie gets the call about a woman throwing her kid to the lions - no, seriously, she actually throws her kid into the lions' den at the zoo at the behest of some creepy dude with a skull-looking face. Turns out, he's one of the soldiers from Iraq. One of the other soldiers later pops up as a possessed wife beater, while the third is found decomposing in a basement during one of the film's many stomach churning grotesqueries.

When "Deliver Us From Evil" plays as a straight-up police mystery, it's not half bad - a little scary when it needs to be and understated in a good way. But once a rogue priest (Edgar Ramirez, always great to see) pops up to let the healing begin, it goes a little off track. A final scene involving an exorcism at a police station is like Leland Palmer's last stand on some sort of psychedelic drug.

The picture, directed by Scott Derrickson ("Sinister"), mostly plays by the rules of its genre, which have admittedly gotten a bit stale by now. Derrickson's resume includes "The Exorcism of Emily Rose," which covered some of the same ground, but much more effectively.

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