Sarchie : I’ve met a lot of priests. You don’t seem the type.
Mendoza : And I’ve known a lot of cops, and you’re exactly the type.
The most common topic in the horror genre is exorcism and everything that has to do with possessions. I admit that this is the closest match to everyday life because everyone has something he’s excited and passionate about. It’s like he or she is possessed by it. There are also individuals who must fight their personal demons every day. It’s obviously not quite the same as the case detective Sarchie is confronted with. I’m obsessed about watching movies and sometimes I consider my job as a real demon that needs an exorcism. But rather that, than the entity that rages in “Deliver us from Evil”. It’s not an original film and certainly not groundbreaking, but I’ve seen worse creations the past year.
Personally I never came into contact with someone or something possessed by a demon and I don’t understand why a normal person in such circumstances stays calm and tries to look at it rationally. I would surely run away and disappear without a trace. It seems like nothing or no one is immune to getting possessed, because I’ve already seen a whole collection passing by that evil took possession of : a church, a doll, the claw of a monkey, a Jewish casket, houses and innocent teenage girls. In “Deliver us from evil” for once it’s an adult male who’s the victim of an evil demon. Just as in “The Exorcist”, where Father Merrin finds a statuette in Iraq as an archaeologist (which in turn causes a lot of misery), evil also originated out of Iraq. Some American soldiers end up in a kind of crypt which subsequently also causes all kinds of misery. Apparently the Middle East isn’t only the main supplier of oil, but also a repository of all sorts of supernatural scum.
Nowadays horrors tend to be based on true facts and stories. This film also follows this tradition and is based on a book written by Ralph Sarchie ten years ago, in which he describes his experiences with paranormal situations. The film is not 100 procent the same as the book. Certain passages were used by Scott Derrickson (Sinister, The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Devil’s Knot) and Paul Haris Boardman (Hellraiser: Inferno, The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Devil’s Knot). Taking into account that also the production was in hands of the “Jerry Bruckheimer Films” production company, which is responsible for some well known movies like Pirates of the Caribbean, Deja Vu, Black Hawk Down and Pearl Harbor, you’d expect an extraordinary movie.
Those who watch a horror only occasionally, will have a pleasant and scary evening. For the tender-hearted among us, it will be a nerve excruciatingly, exciting film. Seasoned horror film lovers will get a “Well, haven’t we seen that before” feeling. In terms of creating the right atmosphere they did a fine job. The entire film is immersed in a dark and oppressive setting in dreary New York City, more specifically the Bronx, and you get the impression that it’s Sodom of America. A sinister, eerie scenery where Sarchie (Eric Bana) and his partner Butler (Joel McHale) face the pernicious that manifests itself in man. The dark alleys full of filth, the slums with dilapidated buildings and shabby accommodation, and the human suffering they encounter there. The body of a dead baby in a dumpster, domestic violence, murder, suicide and violence. Every day they are confronted with this. Until a nightly intervention concerning domestic violence leads to more obscure and sinister cases with an evil entity that’s responsible. Expect the necessary cliches: a crucified cat, the well known scare effects, some gore moments (including the ever-present meat maggots), the self-playing piano, once again it’s raining practically all the time, a foam-spitting confused woman who speaks gibberish in a foreign language and a traditional exorcism ritual that goes through all stages. And obviously mostly it takes place in the dark….
It’s no suprise that “Deliver us from Evil” couldn’t outperform the classic “The Exorcist”. And mixing up a horror with an ordinary police thriller isn’t a mind-blowing idea. Yet I found the duo Sarchie and Butler a successful formula. Sarchie is more of a coolheaded and fearless type who’s gifted with the ability to detect mischief, while Butler takes care of the comic part. A bon vivant who eagerly uses sarcastic and cynical comments (humming the “The Adams Family” theme was pretty funny). It’s not exactly brilliant acting that’ll get them an Oscar, but it wasn’t annoying bad either. I only felt that Bana, as a non-believer who renounces everything that has to do with religion since years, surrendered very quickly. Also Olivia Munn as Sarchie’s pregnant wife, couldn’t escape the cliché and appeared again as another neglected wife of a hardworking New York police officer. Personally I found the roles played by Olivia Horton and Sean Harris as respectively Jane and Santino , were the most imaginative. The moment Jane comes crawling out of the dark, drenched by blood with a bunch of keys between her lips, yields an image that can compete with some of “The Exorcist”. They both look demonic, fearless and destructive. But surely Edgar Ramirez excelled the most as the modern priest Mendoza, who himself had a self-destructive past and who throws himself fully in a fight against the demonic evil.
“Se7en” was a masterpiece in the police thriller genre. Also dark, hallucinatory and unnerving exciting. But Satan didn’t perform in it. Not literally anyway. “The Exorcist” was an unmatchable milestone in which exorcism played a key role. But here wasn’t a detective involved. One would think that the mixing of two masterpieces would provide a unique film. Apparently not. “Deliver us from evil” manages to fail in both categories. It seems like a constant battle between the two genres. The end result is that it doesn’t know which way to go. It’s not bad, it’s grim and horrible at the same time, but ultimately it’s also not that impressive !