Deliver Us From Evil (dir. Scott Derrickson, 2014) – Officer Ralph Sarchie finds the answers behind the erratic crimes from an unconventional priest.
Replicating the genre’s best (including his own), Scott Derrickson presents a well-structured supernatural entry that lacks distinction, save for a bizarre incrimination of classic rock jams that opens doors to ridicule.
“You haven’t seen true evil,” the trailer boasts. But if you have seen one on film, you have seen it all. From grisly self-mutilation to scratching floorboards, Deliver Us From Evil promises nothing outstanding in the overcrowded genre of exorcism. Chills remain in the distant past of Linda Blair’s spider-walking contortions and pea soup spew.
The haunting notably traces back to the sands of Iraq, where Pazuzu of The Exorcist fame had first laid dormant. Strange events soon follow in the city of New York as officer Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) hits a dead end in his investigation. He meets Father Mendoza (Édgar Ramírez), who believes that the key may be a greater evil than what man can do.
It takes a skeptic to delay the resolution. And so Sarchie’s lapsed Christianity comes into the formulaic equation. The two men’s theological debate between God and the Devil inadvertently becomes the meat of the dialogue, but there is nothing interesting here. Shallow discussions with empty words come off hollow.
Resulting palaver leaves only terror to sustain the audience’s attention, which it does with dexterity. Director Scott Derrickson (Sinister, Exorcism of Emily Rose) shows an admirable knack for crafting absorbing suspense. Latin ramblings, wall scrawlings, and a slight appetite of the flesh are well-worn tricks that still remain effective in creating a disquieting atmosphere.
Solid acting helps hold the fort, rousing much excitement for Édgar Ramírez’s involvement in the Point Break remake. Sarchie’s auditory hallucinations on the other hand contrast in gravity.
Hysterically blunt in its literal interpretation of Jim Morrison’s indelible outfit, the bemusing attempt to lyrically dissect The Doors trades well-built suspense for laughs and sheer incredulity. Perhaps the band’s namesake truly points to the gates of Hell? Could Jim Morrison be onto something? Are the writers taking the piss?
At least the amusing references were much less of a bore than the inevitable exorcism finale, during which Mendoza elucidates the six stages of the ritual aloud: Presence. Pretence. Break point. Voice. Clash (a missed opportunity here, ha). Expulsion. This familiar lesson in demonology only serves to emphasize on a repetitive process that horror fans would have seen too many times before.
The ludicrous musical references resurface, quelling any remaining bit of suspense and credibility that comes with its ‘true story’ title card. Does anyone believe in this label anymore? The real Ralph Sarchie does. He continues to purport the events to be nothing short of the truth, and there’s one thing we disbelievers can very well agree on – people are strange, indeed.