The idea of demonic possession has terrified people around the world for hundreds of years. The idea that something not of this world is wearing your skin, living your life, while you’re nothing but a helpless passenger in your own skin, is nothing short of a veritable nightmare. Although a topic of religious study for a plethora of faiths, demonic possession has always been a favourite for Hollywood films. So it’s always nice when a movie can take the time-tested tropes and turn out something fresh. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case with Scott Derrickson’s Deliver Us From Evil.
The film stars Eric Bana as New York police officer Ralph Sarchie, who finds himself uncovering an insidious demonic plan. A curse that’s destroyed the lives of three soldiers from the Middle East, and those around them, threatens to tear Sarchie’s world apart. With the help of his partner Butler (Joel McHale) and a priest who’s seen the face of evil (Édgar Ramírez), Sarchie is determined to get to the bottom of a case that seems to come straight from hell. Now, where have we heard this story before? Oh, yeah. Every other film concerning demonic possession.
Although Deliver Us From Evil has a few good scares towards its beginning, the movie quickly runs out of things to surprise the audience with. Terror is replaced by frustration as viewers wait for something truly terrifying to take place. It felt like the ending of the movie was coasting on the scare at the start of the film, like the director believed having two moments of pop-out horror was enough to make a movie scary. It’s not.
The plot is derivative of numerous possession predecessors, Daniel Stamm’s The Last Exorcism most notably, and also has hints of every cop movie that regularly airs on late night television. The movie tries desperately to be mysterious, trying to pull viewers in as Sarchie hunts down the origins of this curse, but by showing us what happens in the Middle East within the first five minutes of the movie, audiences aren’t excited to see Sarchie unravel the mystery; rather, waiting for him to catch up with them. Trying to be vague and cryptic with an audience who already knows the big twist just doesn’t work.
Despite the frustrating plot, and a ridiculous use of music by The Doors (more comical than horrifying), the characters are quite enjoyable. Bana does a great job of playing the weathered cop who’s seen too much without coming across as stereotypical; his acting isn’t over the top and, perhaps because of this, his performance is believable. Ramirez, too, makes a good priest with a hard edge, whose back-story feels right for the type of film this is.
Joel McHale, however, steals the show with his performance as Sarchie’s partner-in-crime, or rather in solving it. Despite primarily being known for his comedic roles, McHale delivers a believable amount of sass and toughness. It’s easy to forget he plays the lovable, albeit conceited, Jeff Winger on Community and believe he’s a street-hardened cop. He also has some incredible knife stunts which, according to IMDB, he performed on his own.
Although the plot of this movie falls flat, along with the scare factor, the characters are enjoyable enough to watch as they try to keep their world from falling apart. While not worth a full price ticket to see in theatres, Deliver Us From Evil is worth a watch if you have nothing to do during matinee hours and five dollars to spare.
— Caitlin Marceau