Deliver Us From Evil

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Release: Wednesday, July 2, 2014

[Theater]

If the word ‘evil’ here can be interchanged with ‘boredom,’ then this is the perfect title for a film as lacking in personality as Scott Derrickson’s attempt at repackaging familiar themes to produce a unique experience.

Cliches are bountiful to the point of infiltrating the project’s title. Deliver Us From Evil suggests nothing but averageness and the proceedings do everything in their power to reinforce the notion. From Eric Bana’s hackneyed character arc — a man wrestling with personal demons becomes obsessed with a particularly troubling case and subsequently even more distant from his family — to the merciless employment of jump scares, to the predictably lame conclusion that relies on nothing more than a standard exorcism to bring the horror to a crescendo, everything about this project suggests what Derrickson and company have to work with here is hand-me-down material. Material from superior films from the annals of this dark and curiously entertaining genre.

Bana plays a rather unlikable New York cop filled to the brim with machismo. Night and day he works in the slums of the city’s worst and most vile criminal trespassings, most recently discovering a series of impossibly disturbing situations involving babies being found in dumpsters, being dropped into lion’s dens at the local zoo, among other horrendous happenings. As a result he’s emotionally detached and more determined than anything to make sure his job gets done. The film we experience is apparently based on evidence and testimonials from the real NYPD Sergeant Ralph Sarchie, who, after experiencing this harrowing sequence of events, quit the force and reconnected with his spiritual side.

Derrickson’s account of the officer’s descent into demonic dealings in the filth and squalor of New York’s underground, while atmospherically appropriate, is written so as to become classroom-lecture style boring. There is not one lick of originality in any chapter in this police procedural, one partially interspersed with hard jolts of hellish blood-letting and heart-stopping loud crashing sounds as evidence of a possible evil spirit lurking in the air.

Partnered up with Joel McHale’s wisecracking Butler, who injects much-needed enthusiasm into the story — admittedly by forcing humor whenever possible, though he shouldn’t be faulted for at least trying here — the rough and gruff Sarchie is also a man running astray from his family’s religious upbringing. Wife Jen (Olivia Munn) has faith but also respect for what her husband does and the real-world hell he endures on a daily basis so she doesn’t force the issue. Or maybe she just isn’t allowed to; we don’t really know, the family dynamic is so poorly developed we aren’t afforded to know any of them other than Ralph. But even he remains a fairly static character, as his brooding skepticism slowly becomes manipulated into something akin to reluctant acceptance.

His chance encounter with an unconventional priest, a man whose effectiveness in the field of demonology and exorcism is betrayed by his Scott Stapp-esque appearance, helps to strip away that layer of doubt and disbelief. Ladies and gentleman, this is Édgar Ramírez’s Mendoza — or as Ralph likes to continually refer to him, Father Mendoza, despite his being a Catholic priest. He’s the guy who takes the baton from Ralph and Butler when events take a turn for the bizarre upon their discovery of three men who have all experienced severe behavioral disturbances and patterns of extreme violence following their deployment to Iraq in 2010 and subsequent discharge from the armed forces. The cops, even armed with their steadfast belief in being able to take on even the most amoral of mobsters, are well in over their head this time around and Mendoza offers his hand in the matter.

Deliver Us From Evil may ratchet up tension every now and then, but this is owed more to, again, the atmosphere Derrickson manages to effect through this particularly grimy and desolate space. No performance truly juts out from another, though Munn unfortunately bears the brunt of some of the worst lines and most one-dimensional character traits possible. When the violence hits close to home, fear and panic register but only barely. We only feel something because Ralph is inexplicably in wedlock to this gorgeous woman with an equally beautiful outlook on life and endless support for her family. (We don’t gather this info on our own, it’s all but handed to us on a silver platter given the way she’s dressed and her doting care for her daughter and husband, starkly contrasted to Bana’s cold personality.)

There are many frustrations created by this bland piece of cinema, yet the biggest violation has got to be the lack of emotional heft. Given this is based on a series of real events, we ought to feel genuine terror. We ought to feel dread and a desire to keep these characters out of harm’s way. What we ought not to be doing is laughing at several of the scare tactics. We ought to not be poking fun of victims who are slowly decomposing before us. But we haven’t been given much of a choice.

There is such little emotional connection with this film that it’s nice to feel something at all — our funny bones being tickled is better than being left numb to yet another misguided attempt at repackaging the familiar and giving it a new label. Deliver Us From Evil? How about deliver us from the evil that keeps delivering us things like Deliver Us From Evil?

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2-0Recommendation: It’s really difficult to give this a strong recommendation given the film’s underwhelming genericness. Despite an at-times tense atmosphere and chilling environs, there’s not enough significantly ‘different’ about anything that occurs in this uninspired horror to bear mentioning. It might also be worth noting you could do much worse for a bland horror film in 2014 but for want of saving money, sit tight and wait for some better entries that are bound to come out later on this year.

Rated: R

Running Time: 118 mins.

Quoted: “Ninja turtles and hot pockets, bruh. . .”

All content originally published by Digital Shortbread and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

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24 thoughts on “Deliver Us From Evil

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  3. Oh dear. I agreed to see this with a friend tonight…guess I should go in with low expectations, huh? Lol. Great review, Tom! Although now I’m kind of dreading tonight… :/

    • Crap! So I guess you’ve seen this by now. What did you think? I guess I’ll be scoping out your review at some point, but man this thing did not to it for me! There was one cliche after another. . . and personally I’m just kind of at the end of my line as far as horror cliches go. I don’t mind them in most films, they’re unavoidable. But most other films also have an original thought going on at some point. I didn’t find the original idea laying here. So it was based on a true experience by this cop. They could have made it more effective in that regard. I dunno.

      Can u tell this one frustrated me? hehe

      • Bahaha I can tell it frustrated you, my friend. I’m with you though–this one was definitely filled with cliches. The one thing it did have going for it was Joel McHale and–well, but you know what happened. Lol. Also, the priest wasn’t bad to look at, but I guess you wouldn’t have appreciated that as much as me. 😉

  4. I don’t know dude. I had a great amount of fun with it! I went with two friends of mine and both of them were incredibly scared. One of them is a girl that I’ve known and worked with for eight years at an haunted amusement park (Only in October)! Thus meaning she is a bit braver than typical due to you know…scaring folks herself! The second is a good bud who found himself so terrified that he had to sleep on my couch.

    I’m against this whole “exorcism phase” that horror cinema seems to be going through. Where are the serial killers? Where at the monsters? However, I enjoyed this one a lot more than most of them. Scott mixed in a few inventive moments and the atmosphere turned out to be extremely impressive. I do have problems with the weak climax and family development but I believe things worked out a certain way to pay respect to the real story. For example, the real daughter “experienced” things at home as well. No possessed stuffed animals though! Also, Hollywood horror movies tend to force happy endings due to major studio bullshit,

    Not amazing. But…I wasn’t bored the slightest bit haha.

    • That’s a pretty good way of looking at it man, I’m inclined to agree with most of what you said. I still think the fact that it was based on a true story shouldn’t have been a hindrance to the scare-factor, though. It should have done the opposite and come across more creepy. I personally didn’t get any chills from this, but you’re 100% right about his creation of atmosphere and mood. I really dug that about his movie, I can’t lie about that. But I was just confounded by how many cliches there were here and I was predicting each development as they happened. Hahah.

  5. When I saw the trailer, I knew that there’s something wrong with this one. Thanks for the review, you probably saved me from 118 mins. I couldn’t ever take back. haha
    I feel they should just stop making the-devil-is-everywhere-so-lets-have-a-dramatic-exorcism type of horror, it’s getting really exhausting! 😀

    • I feel you Maria, I really do. Once upon a time a demon exorcism was a truly intense, terrifying experience that the cinema could really bring to life. Now it’s a gimmick, which is pretty ridiculous.

      I’m glad to have saved you the time and effort. Lol. There’s certain redeemable qualities to it (Eric Bana is always a good guy to have around), but this more often fails than succeeds, unfortunately. Thanks for coming by. 🙂

    • Yeah man, it really was. Still like everyone involved here, but the surrounding story just isn’t worth discussing lol

  6. I saw a trailer for this during a local comic con. Can’t say it’s my cup of tea since I don’t watch horror. Heh, whatever happen to Eric Bana?? I hope he goes back to doing good drama, he’s such an underrated actor!

    Btw, did you change the rating so it doesn’t display the score anymore, Tom?

    • We share the enthusiasm for Bana as an under-rated actor! 🙂 I wish he would just choose his work more carefully. Or, he needs to get rid of his current agent. I really didn’t think him terrible in this movie but his involvement at all doesn’t help his career going forward I don’t think.

      And yes, indeed you are correct. I have updated the graphic for the rating. 😀

    • I would still like to think there’s a bright future for Bana, but he must get away from poor scripts such as these. I agree on that level. I don’t think he’s a bad actor by association, as some might say.

      😀 Thanks man. Glad you enjoyed yourself here yet again. 😀

    • Funny you should mention ’embracing its own silliness,’ b/c in the interest of full disclosure, there are a few moments that are like that. The problem was I wasn’t entirely sure if the comical bits were intentional or just resulting from insanely shitty writing! lol

  7. This seems to sum up the common problem in the modern horror genre – basically nothing new and nothing to distinguish it from the slew of other films we get.

    I did have hopes for this one mainly because of Bana. I’ve always liked the guy. Doesn’t sound like this one does him any favors.

    • I actually at first misunderstood what you were saying, I thought u were meaning most of horror have this issue. But that’s not what you meant. I do agree, the cliched and hackneyed writing seems to be in abundance in this genre, but every now and then there are ones that defy the genre’s tired and shopworn appeal. I was hoping this would be one of them but it boasts most of the cliches about horror that you could find in a single movie! lol

      This one does not do Eric Bana any favors, no. It is unfortunate. Thanks for stopping by Keith.

  8. This didn’t look good and your review just confirmed my suspicions so thanks!

    P.S. Did you remove your numerical score rating or did I just miss it?

    • Deliver Us From Boredom, please. . . .and thank you. haha. Best to sit this one out if you had any skepticism whatsoever. Likely all of your worst fears are realized within a half hour of this film. Unfortunately, Eric Bana is still pretty good here. I don’t know what he has been seeing in scripts recently. Between this and Closed Circuit, it’s weird. And I know those are obscure choices, but still.

      And yes, you are correct sir. I have removed the numerical counterpart. I just think the pie itself speaks more than the numbers do. 🙂

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