Directed by Joel Seria
Distrubed by Mondo Macabro
The DVD artwork of Don’t Deliver us From Evil might lead you to expect a stock “youth gone wild” type of exploitation film, and it certainly has elements of that. But it’s so much more… it’s an arthouse shocker that’s beautifully shot and scored, and the performances and art direction are top notch across the board. It twists and turns relentlessly from a thing of beauty into a macabre, malignant and disturbing beast and back out again. The longer it plays, the stronger the contrast grows between the sweet and the sinister.
Visually, there’s a lot of cool stuff in this film for fans of the early 70’s horror era. There are flashes of soft-focus, summery field romps and angelic faces that evoke at times an almost Sound of Music feel, but in the dark context of this film these images are downright creepy. There are stylized, candlelit nocturnal wanderings that evoke a Jean Rollin aesthetic, while in the daytime, the old European village and castle-like Estates recall the strange, quaint eeriness of The Wicker Man (no, not the remake). It all sounds very idyllic, but as increasingly ugly and mean spirited events continue to permeate the narrative, hearing the giggling laughter of these girls echoing through the halls, abbeys, and fields is anything but serene.
The antiheroes of this story, Anne de Boissy & Lore Fournier, aren’t your everyday adolescent troublemakers – these girls are wise to their feminine wiles and allure, and they share an extraordinarily cruel streak. Sure, they run and bicycle about the countryside and find secret places to do their whimsical teenage things. And like adolescent best friends on a summer break, they’re smiling and fawn-like until they’re out of the sight and mind of their parents and caretakers. But what these two get up to on their own is anything but child’s play.
In a sense, Don’t Deliver us from Evil could be seen as a second or third cousin to the ugly but very real human themes explored in films like The Honeymoon Killers or Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. What these films share is the study of criminal pairings, how people who alone might not be inclined to act out their horrible urges can quite easily end up doing so once paired with the right (or, better put, horribly wrong) partner in crime. For Anne & Lore, the deadly symbiosis emerges through forming a rebellious bond within a culture of strict religious oppression.
This film is interesting in that it explores the crime duo phenomenon at such a young age – the naivety of the youthful antagonists is a central angle … you have to wonder if people under a certain age are fully aware of how wicked they are being and how much others truly suffer for it. Although adolescents aren’t impervious to guilt or empathy, they can definitely be self-centred enough to view horrible actions as a game and the power of peer influence can be more detrimental than is the case with adults. But like adults, once a certain threshold of bad behavior is breached, the girls become bound by an even stronger mutual dependency from having to keep their crimes covered up. The film wisely addresses all of these factors in the motivation of the anti-heroines, making the story far more intelligent and insightful than typical sleaze fare.
The story kicks off in a religious girls’ school with a rigid, stuffy, and authoritarian atmosphere. You can totally see why a rebellious streak would emerge – who would want to have to live a dull, pious existence when so many fun and risqué adventures await just outside the door? The overbearing religious repression invites a specific (and logical) initial response – blasphemy. The one good thing you can say about Anne and Lore is that they are quite creative with their cruelty. They’re not above your typical unimaginative crimes like theft, arson, deceit, and blackmail. But what they do particularly well is imaginative psychological torture and ritualistic heresy. They strike their victims in a way that the misery inflicted can be savoured and observed and they utilize their sexuality in ways that ensure the victim is bound to silence by the social or religious digression of their role in the crimes.
Perverts reading this, yes, this is about private school girls and yes, there is flesh on display. But this isn’t like women in prison films – these girls feel young enough that their brazen sexuality and vicious manipulation of hapless males is bound to make a lot of viewers squirm. They invite trouble, and boy do they get it!
Anne & Lore hit hard and they don’t tend to play favourites – sad, lonely, impoverished men are just as likely targets as those who are established. Although, they do seem to take a particular pleasure in going after thick or imbecilic types – in this sense, the film might be making some kind of class comment about the privileged wreaking sadistic havoc on the proletariat simply because they can…
There are other thought provoking aspects to the plot as well. I can’t be certain if this film is a damning charge against religious oppression or not. On one hand, you could argue that the story shows how repression breeds evil. On the other, the film could be making the case that rejection of the divine rule is the root of all evil, whether that’s in the church itself (hypocrisy and succumbing to sexual temptation) or amongst the churchgoers (Anne & Lore being an extreme example). Who knows – there’s an interview with the director and the actress who played Anne on the DVD so maybe viewing those can shed more light on the moral “message” of the film.
But leave the intellectual musing for later, if that’s even your thing. For now, just get a hold of this gem from Mondo Macabro – it’s really well presented release and as usual has some great extras thrown in. Don’t Deliver us from Evil is an engaging, shocking, and disturbing watch with a madly morbid theatrical finale that you won’t soon forget.
I can say that those aforementioned DVD extras are well put together and insightful. They are relatively short, but then, I personally find it can get to be a bit much when a film’s creators go on too long about every little detail. I almost prefer what Mondo Macabro did with this release to the typical director’s commentary – here, it’s a nicely refined peek into the film’s controversies and narrative motivations, but not so much on the technical side that the mystique is undone.
You’ll learn about the director’s inspirations for telling such a dark and arguably nihilistic story, as well has how literate and well thought out the content of this film is. You’ll get detailed info on how and why Don’t Deliver us from Evil was banned on original release, and from the director interview and an insightful featurette called “Hellish Creatures”, you’ll get an idea of the influence the plot took from the real New Zealand crime duo of Juliet Hulme and Pauline Parker. Lastly, if you read the About the Film section, a couple of aspects you might have suspected as being over the line or unnecessarily brutal in the making of the film are debunked, so you can sleep soundly after watching this movie after all.
4 out of 5
5 out of 5
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