Deliver Us From Evil

By on July 3, 2014
Deliver Us 2

Going into “Deliver Us From Evil,” to say I had high hopes is putting it mildly. Not too long ago, I was bitching and moaning about the truly sad state of affairs that was horror at the movies in a article for this site, made all the more tragic after last year’s strong showing for horror not only at the movies, but at the box office as well. Now, here we are over six months in, with nary a strong contender to make a case for in sight. Until now.

Yes, friends and neighbors, your nightmares have been answered, because we finally got a good one, and just in time for the holiday. “Deliver Us From Evil” is the real deal- it’s scary, adult, and doesn’t remotely talk down to the audience, or water things down, for that matter. This is gritty, hard-hitting stuff, which plays a bit like the freakiest episode of “Criminal Minds” ever. Think a crime procedural-meets-“The Exorcist” and you’re in the ballpark.

It all begins when Bronx cop Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana, “Munich”) investigates a series of interconnected crimes with some decidedly weird trappings that include a freaked-out family of immigrants, a team of painters that used to be military special ops, the worst trip to the zoo this side of “The Omen,” and a wacked-out, Doors-lyrics spouting woman that’s the worst parent ever. Oh, and demonic possession. So, you know, just another Friday night in the Bronx, basically.

This is one of those movies that claims to be based on a “true” story, and I don’t know, or care, how true it might be, but it’s certainly riveting viewing. Right from the jump, the film grabs you with an intense opening sequence, and it barely lets up throughout the entire movie. Normally, I would object to most movies that run two hours or more- I prefer my movies lean and mean and around ninety minutes, tops- but this one earns it. There’s just so much going on that you really need the expanded running time to contend with it all.

Eric Bana and Joel McHale investigate spooky goings-on in "Deliver Us From Evil." Courtesy of imdb.com

Eric Bana and Joel McHale investigate spooky goings-on in “Deliver Us From Evil.”
Courtesy of imdb.com

Sure, there are some extraneous scenes involving Sarchie interacting with his family and trading quips with his partner (Joel McHale, of “The Soup”!), but you need those scenes to provide a little breathing room between all the insanity. But when it’s time to get down and dirty with the horror stuff, this “Evil” really delivers, with an emphasis on the dirty, as this may be the grungiest film I’ve seen since the likes of “Se7en.”

There are some knock-out sequences in this movie that you won’t soon forget, and though the film can’t resist the occasional jump scare- i.e. the hissing cat and freaky flashes of gory stuff- it’s the slow-burn stuff that sticks with you, including the aforementioned zoo sequence, a tense scene at a bar, some chill-inducing scenes at an asylum, and an even more intense apartment showdown where the Bana and McHale characters go after some bad guys and complete chaos ensues.

The film tops it off with a fantastic exorcism sequence that manages to sidestep most of the clichés and avoid being overtly showy like a lot of films of this ilk tend to do, winningly going for comparative subtlety instead. In short, “Deliver Us From Evil” kind of nails it. And none too soon, given the truly slipshod state of affairs of horror films as of late.

I think a major part of why the film works as well as it does can be attributed to the director, Scott Derrickson, who made one of the better horror films of the last decade in “Sinister,” from 2012. It doesn’t hurt that this isn’t his first rodeo, having made the exemplary “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” back in 2005. Like “Evil,” “Rose” also combined two seemingly disparate genres- the courtroom drama and horror- and made it work in a way that was wholly original and completely engaging, so it makes perfect sense that Derrickson would be the perfect man for the job here, combining a tough-as-nails cop drama with full-blown horror.

Another thing this film has in common with his previous work is a superlative cast. Horror doesn’t always get the big name actors, but Derrickson has consistently worked with first-rate casts that include Laura Linney, Campbell Scott, Tom Wilkinson, and Jennifer Carpenter (“Emily Rose”); Ethan Hawke (“Sinister”); and Jennifer Connelly, Kathy Bates, Jon Hamm, John Cleese, and, um, Keanu Reeves (“The Day the Earth Stood Still”). Okay, maybe that last one is questionable, but still, we’ll let it slide because the others more than make up for it.

Olivia Horton has the key to your nightmares in "Deliver Us From Evil." Courtesy of imdb.com

Olivia Horton has the key to your nightmares in “Deliver Us From Evil.”
Courtesy of imdb.com

Here, in addition to Bana and a surprisingly effective McHale, there’s also a winning, left-of-center turn by Édgar Ramírez (“The Bourne Ultimatum”) as a priest with a decidedly off-color background; Olivia Munn (“The Newsroom”) as Sarchie’s long-suffering wife; Dorian Missick (“Southland”) as a skeptical fellow cop; and riveting turns from Chris Coy (“Treme”), Olivia Horton (“The Enemy Within”), and Sean Harris (“Prometheus”) as the various possessed people Bana and company have run-ins with throughout the movie. Harris, in particular, steals the show with his part in the bravura finale, as the subject of the big exorcism set-piece.

Please bear in mind that this is not horror for the faint at heart. After soft-pedaling the genre with one after another horror films of the PG-13 variety, this one is a hard R, to be sure, and a hard watch at that. I don’t mind admitting that I cringed a few times, and left the theater feeling genuinely creeped out- and I saw it in the afternoon, mind you. As someone who has seen more than their fair share of horror movies over the years, let me tell you, that doesn’t happen all that often.

As such- and I fully admit that I might be high-balling this one a bit due to the dearth of quality horror films this year- I’m giving this one a solid A. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it’s the best exorcism-themed film I’ve ever seen- I think we all know which film garners that particular honor- but it’s certainly up there amongst the best, and that’s saying something.

If you love horror, and have a special affection for possession-themed flicks, this one should be right up your alley. So, by all means, deliver thyself to the theater and see “Deliver Us From Evil.” You won’t be mad you did, but you might just cross yourself before going to bed that night, and really, what more can you ask for in a horror movie?

Related Posts:

About Mark Trammell

Mark Trammell is the resident entertainment critic at UAB, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he is also a Graduate Student and does a vid-cast movie review show. He is a life-long fan of films and has a pretty whacked-out, all-over-the-place movie collection that would give most sane people pause. He loves horror movies and Disney flicks and isn't entirely sure there is a difference. He one day hopes to put his money where his mouth is and inflict his own perverse vision on society, entirely so that he can tell people who ask: "If you think you can do better, why don't you make a movie yourself?" to shut up.
 
%d bloggers like this: