Deliver Us From Evil
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Deliver Us From Evil

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Before 1976, exorcism was not considered a main staple of the horror genre. After the definitive novel by William Peter Blatty, ‘The Exorcist’ was made into a movie by filmmaker William Friedkin, the expulsion of demons from the innocent victims has been frequently visited but never coming close to matching that incredible piece of cinema. The topic has been around for quite a while with the first exorcist with widespread notoriety being Jesus Christ; it took this film to expose the movie-going public to the concept. Unfortunately, it has become a rather formulaic, go to theme amongst horror filmmakers. One recent movie that held some promise was ‘Deliver Us from Evil’. The director and co-author of the screenplay, Scott Derrickson, is no stranger to this topic. Previously, he was responsible for the far better received film ‘The Exorcism of Emily Rose’. The majority of his resume has been in horror with the notable exception of directing the 2008, remake of ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’. Many ardent fans of the original would categorize that flick as horror rather than science-fiction, and loyalty to the original Klatu. The film can do consideration here did have significantly more potential than was achieved. ‘Deliver Us from Evil’, never makes the claim of being based on actual events or people. This is despite the fact that a real New York City police force detective, Ralph Sarchie, they profess to have had a number of supernatural experiences. He did although the novel by the same name used as the source material for this film. His name is he being used as the protagonist in the movie. The film did rely on a marketing ploy that is all too often used; ‘based on actual events’. The actual name of the New York detective is used here in the producers does make claims that this story relates actual supernatural activity. Many will understandably consider this incredulous, particularly since demons, the use of holy water and things impossible to explain in a rational they occur. The event depicted here were not included in the book. That novel was promoted by the author and publisher to be nonfictional.

Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana), a detective in New York City’s Police Department. Ambitious and a natural investigator and diligent in the performance of his cases, his career has consisted of the usual murders that unfortunately common to large cities such as New York. All that would change drastically when the results and him crossing paths with the Castilian priest, Mendoza (Édgar Ramírez), who proposes a supernatural motive. The priest maintains the victim in the current case was involved with demonic possession. So many years, Sarchie has witnessed the horrendous atrocities that people click on one another; his faith has been eroded away. His dubious of the claims made by the priest confident that no matter how terrible the crime scene may be demons are not necessary; evil within humanity is more than sufficient. Sarchie questions, the benevolent God existed, how could such evil be permitted to go unchecked?

A touch of modern real-life horror is infused at the start of the film with a flashback two 2010 that takes us to Iraq, where we witness three men make their way into an underground room. Located in an extremely remote location, the understandable first impression that the audience receives is that this is some terrorist hold. As the men enter they are met with the release of every animal ever associated with a horror film; bats, spiders and snakes, prominent in the onslaught. It appears that cinematic prologue taking place in the remote part of the Middle East has become virtually mandatory for any film involved with exorcism. The rationale for that is that has become shorthand to establish an ancient evil, as opposed to one with rookie status in the eternal battle against goodness. Adhering to the traditional views this initial scene, it does provide an efficient means to introduce the antagonist of the film, Santino (Sean Harris). From there, the film slides into the necessary exposition to establish the main characters. Aside from detective Sarchie, we meet his wife, Jen (Olivia Munn), and his partner, Butler (Joel McHale). On the surface, this may seem to be in our choice and casting, and in fact, it is. Ms. Munn came into the public eye in the video game oriented cable show, ‘Attack of the Show.’ After a stint as a faux reporter on the ‘Daily Show,’ she has begun to come into our own as a dramatic actress thanks to a featured role in the Showtime series ‘The Newsroom.’ Mr. McHale has been in a few films, including a bit part in the Tobey Maguire Spiderman 2. McHale is best known for the popular satiric clip show, ‘The Soup’ broadcast on the ‘E!’ network. Ultimately, the script does not provide Ms. Munn with a sufficiently detailed character worthy of her talents. While McHale’s decision to broaden his range is commendable is not able to adequately pull off the sidekick cop.

The stunted pacing that plagues the beginning of the film does pick up considerably once the priest is introduced. In many respects, Mendoza is straight from central casting, filed in the category of the rogue cleric. This presentation of a Catholic priest is as far from the archetype created by Barry Fitzgerald as possible. A priest has replaced the kindly man of unshakable devotion that drinks heavily, chain smokes and has a perchance for with the nightlife has to offer. When Mendoza relates his backstory to Detective Sarchie, the details, although familiar, are presented intriguingly. There is an undeniable believability that is generated in the scenes between the unorthodox priest in the disbelieving detective. Much of this is due to the innate talent and professionalism of Bana and Ramírez. The manner in which the present the growing partnership between the two represents some of the best movies has to offer. From a personal perspective, the locations in and around New York City immediately caught my attention. Many of the places shown are well known to me, invoking not only a touch of nostalgia but a sense of realism to the production.

The progression of the story is reasonably well-crafted, initially appearing as a run-of-the-mill crime drama. It’s when various elements of the crime cannot be explained by any normal means, flying in the face of the detective’s sensibilities, that he is forced to accept the challenge and ultimate collapse of his worldview. This is the crux of the storyline, the transformation of a pragmatic, agnostic police detective into a demon hunter. Character development, such as this, requires that the capability of making the audience believe both the before and after personas. Bana is one of the most underappreciated actors possessing the intensity to accomplish this goal. Perhaps if the script focused more on his internal struggle rather than the external factors pressing upon him, Bana would’ve had more to work with, and the film would’ve come close to what it could have been. Still, it is understandable that the film was intended to be an exorcism driven horror flick, there is a rationale for the reliance on the effects. The cinematographer, Scott Kevan, does a remarkable job in creating an appropriately spooky mood and maintaining a throughout the film.

Deliver Us From Demons
The Two Sergeants
The Demon Detective
Director's Commentary
Illuminating Evil: Making Deliver Us From Evil

Posted 11/26/2014        01/10/2018

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