July 10, 2014

Movie Review: Deliver Us from Evil

From the moment I first saw the trailer for Deliver Us from Evil, I knew I wanted to see it. Not just because I am a horror fan, but because it looked legitimately good. The trailer built up some scares, plenty of atmosphere, and certainly a distinct level of interest. It is a horror based on a true (or supposedly true) story, and we generally know how that goes, there is a certain amount of embellishment that goes on to the reality of the story, some rearrangements made for the sake of the cinematic take on the tale, but there is still a core of truth somewhere in there.

Deliver Us from Evil was directed by Scott Derrickson. Derrickson has been carving himself a nice little corner of the mainstream horror market, having previously delivered The Exorcism of Emily Rose and the excellent Sinister, those wrapped around the awful remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still. In any case, he has acquitted himself nicely on horror related projects and this one is no different. He co-wrote the screenplay with frequent collaborator Paul Harris Boardman, based on the book by Ralph Sarchie and Lisa Collier Cool.

The movie plays out like a mash of horror, noir, and police procedural. The three distinct styles come together to form an interesting slow burn, reminiscent of 70's era films, with healthy doses of The Exorcist. It is difficult to make a possession themed movie and not reference the granddaddy of them all. The question is whether you are ripping it off or are being genuine in your homage. In this case, I distinctly feel the genuine side of the coin.

Eric Bana plays Ralph Sarchie, a dedicated member of the police force, family man, all around good guy. Still, there is a darkness to him that cannot be denied, and will come into play for much of this movie. He forms a reluctant partnership with an atypical priest, Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez), when it becomes clear that there is more to his latest investigation than can be explained by normal means. Sarchie goes down the rabbit hole while looking into the strange actions of a few people exhibiting a level of evil that can only be caused by demonic possession.

At times, it feels like it runs a touch long, but I can never actually say it is boring. There is a nicely paced slow burn quality as we are led further into the investigation. Almost the entire time we are in the perspective of Sarchie, which somewhat explains the inconsistencies and holes. We are not meant to be in on the whole story, Sarchie is very often a step behind and never able to fully comprehend what he is experiencing, and being this is his story, from his perspective, we cannot be expected to understand what he does not.

Relationships are built and while they may have some typical dialogue, there is some depth and variety to them. There is that between Sarchie and his wife (Olivia Munn), with his partner (Joel McHale), and with the priest. Each one fleshes out an aspect of what makes up Sarchie as well as keeping the movie moving along. We follow Sarchie as he investigates these bizarre deaths/occurrences/possessions, while also confronting his own past and his own demons. It all builds to a finish that feels a bit anticlimatic, but also feels right.

Deliver Us from Evil is a solid horror/thriller that works because it is not straight up horror. It is built on atmosphere and character. It is supported by solid direction, good acting, same really nice cinematography from Scott Kevan, and another solid score from Christopher Young (Hellraiser, Drag Me to Hell, Sinister).


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