Film Review: Deliver Us From Evil (MA15+) (USA, 2014)

deliver us from evil (640x388)

Admit it, you weren’t too confident a buddy cop, action flick could mesh with a supernatural horror film and actually work, at all. I thought the exact same thing. As such, I went into Deliver Us From Evil with unfairly low expectations and walked away feeling defeated; deflated in my ability to judge a film based solely on it’s premise; Deliver Us From Evil is effectively creepy, well shot, and memorable enough to place it as something that’s at least worth watching, if not a tad ridiculous and forced.

The words ‘based on a true story’ are hard to take seriously, even if this tale is taken from the details of real-life NYPD cop Ralph Sarchie, who wrote about this paranormal investigation in his book Beware the Night. The story revolves around a demonic possession which supposedly takes place while three marines are deployed in Iraq; with the possession affecting all three marines and their families in terribly sinister ways, incidents start to bump up onto the radar of the New York Police Department, at which point Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) and his comedy relief partner Sergreant Butler (Joel McHale of Community fame) unwittingly involve themselves with the malevolent force.

Rather than insidious ghost play, the possessed have a certain aggressive and intense way about them, which make the scares much more urgent and effective, even if they all consist of tired jumps and a discordant soundtrack. Perhaps the most effective element of the film stems from it’s hybrid genre; typical supernatural movies are from the perspective of unsympathetic families or seasoned ghost hunters, whereas Deliver Us From Evil places us behind an everyday NYPD cop; his casualness and realistic approach to something entirely unrealistic grounds the scares and strange happenings a bit closer to real life.

Director Scott Derrickson handles the film with a heavy focus on helpless, dark spaces, placing many of the films most exciting sequences in empty, drab spaces, such as a zoo or a rundown apartment building, to further push the film closer to everyday life. Moody and atmospheric shots pair well with the aloof irreverence with which the buddy cops initially approach the inexplicable, with genuinely funny humour thrown in to draw some empathy from the audience. Between investigating a mother who threw her baby into a lion dens and a case of domestic abuse, Bana and McHale do well in portraying two NYCD cops who least expect things to turn out the way they do.

The introduction of Edgar Ramirez as Father Mendoza begins to peel away the novelty of the film and settle this into much more familiar *(and tired) territory. Although Ramirez often gives the greater performance out of the cast, his character – likeable as he is – is so incredibly uninteresting that his dullness begins to splice into everyone around him, dropping things from above average to below around the same time we discover Sarchie’s “chosen one” status, the movie halfheartedly exploring his “radar” for the supernatural with little more than a superficial explanation as to why this Bronx cop is attune to the unseen world of demons and spirits.

It takes an intense and very well executed exorcism scene to save Deliver Us From Evil from dipping too low, with Ramirez and Bana trapped in an interrogation room with the possessed (Sean Harris for a decent chunk of time, things progressively building towards a tense, exciting showcase of “primary evil” that is both terrifying and absurd. Harris does a brilliant job here, splitting himself between an evil Jim Morrison-loving demon and a long-lost marine that really has absolutely no idea just how much this malevolent force has destroyed the vessel which it inhabits.

While Deliver Us From Evil isn’t going to be well-received by everyone, it does a decent job on both sides of its coin, playing as an exciting, fueled cop movie, and a horror decent enough to satisfy those entering with fairly low expectations.

Review Score: THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Running Time 118 Minutes

Deliver Us From Evil is currently screening in cinemas across Australia