Deliver Us From Evil (2014)
Directed by Scott Derrickson
Real-life paranormal investigators are all the cinematic rage these days. Just look at the box office bucks The Conjuring raked in. In fact, there’s even a Lorraine Warren tie-in to Deliver Us From Evil.... and – there’s also a child’s haunted hand-crank music box!
Based on the memoirs of retired NYPD police officer and demonologist Ralph Sarchie, this flick focuses on a case of his in which he teamed up with an unconventional priest and beat the devil. Sarchie was taught the techniques of exorcism by none other than Mrs. Warren herself, but it was the man of the cloth who really set him on the path of righteousness.
Eric Bana plays the hardnosed Bronx-based cop, who suffers a crisis of faith when he begins to investigate a series of disturbing and puzzling crimes which defy all logic and reason. So he does the logical and reasonable thing: He teams up with an exorcist (Edgar Ramirez) and sets out to rid the city of its resident demons.
I love a detective vs. devil movie: Fallen, End of Days, Constantine… Good or bad, I’m in. Deliver Us From Evil is no exception. In spite of its clichés, for the most part I enjoyed it. Directed by Scott Derrickson (Sinister and, before that, The Exorcism of Emily Rose) with his usual visual panache and penchant for suspense, Deliver Us From Evil is effective in those areas… but the plot is often muddy and incoherent, and the religious message is awfully heavy-handed. Then again, since when has Catholicism been known for its subtlety?
The supporting cast includes Joel McHale as Sarchie’s wise-cracking partner and Olivia Munn as his long-suffering wife. All of the actors are very good, but they seem out of their elements. In the end, as the Satanic spectacle unfolds, I found myself not really caring what happened to any of them.
The cinematography, locations, and set design are top-notch. So is the use of iconic 60s rock songs, which are implemented to eerie effect. Like The Rolling Stone’s “Time Is on My Side” in Fallen, or “Paint it Black” in Stir of Echoes, The Doors’ “Break on Through” and “Riders on the Storm” add hints of nuance in an otherwise exposition-ridden presentation.
Savvy viewers, especially those with some knowledge of Derrickson’s eloquence, may suspect big-studio meddling… something is just a little “off” when it comes to the horror aspects of the film. In short: It fails to, er, deliver. But if you’re a sucker for the subject matter, you’ll probably want to check it out anyway.
2 1/2 out of 5