I have a thing for supernatural horror films, and I was really looking forward to this one. I read Ralph Sarchie and Lisa Collier Cool’s book “Beware the Night,” and although it suffered from some problems (see my review from May 26), the subject matter was really fascinating.
Sarchie was a NYPD sergeant who ended up involved in what he calls “The Work” and helped people who were dealing with demonic influences in their lives.
“Deliver Us From Evil” has a few elements of the book but actually focuses on a different story. Sgt. Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) is working a series of bizarre cases with his partner, Butler (Joel McHale). The cases end up being connected, and Sarchie goes to work to put the pieces together and try to find the primary suspect, who is a source of terrible evil.
Sarchie’s wife Jen (Olivia Munn) and his daughter Christina (Lulu Wilson) also begin to suffer as Sarchie is away more and is becoming heavily withdrawn. Christina becomes the victim of apparent attacks from a demonic presence as well.
Sarchie meets Father Mendoza (Édgar Ramírez) after Mendoza takes charge of a female suspect who has attempted to kill her child. Mendoza attempts to explain to him what kind of evil he is dealing with, but Sarchie is reluctant to listen (of course). Eventually he realizes he will need Mendoza’s help if he wants to get to the bottom of the increasing evil activity.
The atmosphere was tense for a good part of the film. The use of mostly night shots, or overcast/rainy day shots, helped keep the movie’s mood dark. The locations were appropriately grim as well, especially the homes that were used. Slim hallways and small, dark rooms made it feel very claustrophobic.
Although not loaded with scares (see WHAT DIDN’T WORK), there was a creepiness to most of the movie. There’s a fair level of gore that director Scott Derrickson did not shy away from, and I felt it was needed to make the story feel more compelling. PG-13 could have worked, but the R rating allowed more leeway to give the audience a couple of very squirmy moments.
Bana was a solid performer, and his acting style worked well for this role. He comes off as disconnected, burdened and almost humorless, which is understandable given the situations he’s handling in the movie. I’m very glad to see Munn here as I was a big fan of hers when she was on “Attack of the Show” on G4. She handles the role of the worried and loving wife well; although, she needed more to do.
Ramírez’s portrayal of Mendoza was quite compelling. He has something interesting that he brings to the screen, and he gives off a brooding yet friendly nature that I quite liked.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
The story felt choppy and disjointed, especially in the beginning, and there was an editing issue involving an arm wound that was driving me a bit crazy. The scenes involving said wound felt out of order, and I was not the only one in the audience who noticed.
The horror elements felt familiar to an extent. I realize this is inspired by Sarchie’s real life accounts, but Derrickson used well-covered ground to get the point across. There weren’t many scares, and this aspect should have been beefed up given the subject matter. Supernatural horror lends itself to the kinds of jumps that can be really innovative and make the audience feel real fear. I believe there was a chance here to do that very thing, but it never came to fruition.
Some of the police procedural aspects of the film had me rolling my eyes. These guys don’t have backup units when looking for possible murder suspects? An officer who prefers a knife when his duty weapon would clearly be a better option?
Speaking of that particular knife wielder, Joel McHale’s Officer Butler felt underutilized. I like seeing McHale in a non-comedic role; however, his function seemed to be comic relief. Butler is never fleshed out beyond being the jokey cop who prefers a knife over a gun.
As stated, the gore worked well within the story. There was no nudity, but a good amount of bad language. Although there were some nice moments and a good use of a darker tone, I feel like there was a missed opportunity to give the audience something really scary.
GIVING CREDIT WHERE IT’S DUE
“Deliver Us From Evil” was written by Scott Derrickson and Paul Harris Boardman, and is based on the book “Beware The Night” by Ralph Sarchie and Lisa Collier Cool. It was directed by Scott Derrickson and stars Eric Bana, Olivia Munn, Édgar Ramírez, Sean Harris, Joel McHale and Lulu Wilson.