I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House

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Release: Friday, October 28, 2016 (Netflix)

[Netflix]

Written by: Oz Perkins

Directed by: Oz Perkins

I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House plays out as a chilly haunted house thriller with a literary twist. It’s something a writer might gravitate towards given the film’s concept-heavy plot, but an over-reliance on mood and atmosphere, not to mention some really pretentious dialogue, also make it something horror fans or fans of interesting movies in general are bound to reject.

Oz Perkins’ sophomore feature is the epitome of style over substance, but the style is actually pretty effective . . . for about 45 minutes. Throughout this slow-burning thriller viewers must contend with ghostly spirits, lots of things moving in slow-motion, artsy shots of a creepy home and its interior, and yes, the aforementioned Cormac McCarthy-syndrome — characters saying (or thinking) things that may sound nice and look snazzy on paper, but that ultimately come across as pretentious and unnatural. Pretty Thing (I think it’s unreasonable to expect me to keep writing out the full title) is actually just that — it’s a pretty thing; it looks good and occasionally, almost haphazardly, its brooding atmosphere leads us into a dark place that we want to immediately retreat from.

A meek and mild-mannered Ruth Wilson plays a live-in nurse hired to take care of a horror author named Iris Blum (Paula Prentiss) in her dying days. Blum has been cooped up in a creaky 18th Century home that may or may not have a lot of spooky history attached to it. Blum’s estate manager Mr. Waxcap (a name almost as good as that of the actor playing the part, the one and only Bob Balaban) encourages Lily to read some of her work, in particular a story that seems to be based on a murder that occurred in this very house. But Lily scares easily so she is unable to get into the book.

As weeks turn into months Lily begins experiencing strange occurrences. She’s seeing weird things and her patient keeps calling her Polly, a character out of that very book Mr. Waxcap recommended she read, The Lady in the Walls. A nasty mold has also started to form on one of the walls downstairs. In the film’s opening voiceover we are told that a house with a death in it can never be bought or sold, it can only be borrowed by the living from the ghosts who remain in it. It’s like some sort of paranormal etiquette: you can sleep in the bed and use the kitchen but we the dead remain the key holders.

Our protagonist isn’t exactly well-developed but we do know that she doesn’t seem to mind being in isolation. We also know she’s sensitive to things that go bump in the night and rarely does she seem to be in control of things. Which just begs the question: what on earth is someone like this doing in this place? Why would you take this job? Often it can be fun watching a character well out of their depth contend with threats, but in this case the contrast seems a bridge too far. Also, how does someone who works in palliative care, scare so easily? Isn’t being perpetually surrounded by death more terrifying? Also also: why am I looking for the logic in a horror film?

Despite its elegance — the likes of which struck me as a hybrid of Alejandro Amenábar’s classic creeper The Others and Jonathan Glazer’s challenging psychodrama Under the Skin — Pretty Thing allows the mind to wander far too often. It is good at building tension and suggesting horrors that may or may not be there (which is my nice way of saying the film’s mythology becomes confusing and in a hurry) but the spirits that plague this cinematic universe are really just thinly sketched archetypes all dressed up with no place to go.

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2-5Recommendation: A film that tries to engage the intellect but falls short with an often infuriating lack of ‘action’ and a glacial pace. Ruth Wilson’s performance is solid which helps keep the viewer engaged but in the end there is so much left to be desired when everything wraps up. I am already well on my way to forgetting this one unfortunately. Though I can’t say definitively if I have been so put off by it that I never want to go near it again. It might be worth a revisit some day. 

Rated: NR

Running Time: 87 mins.

Quoted: “I am very seldom required to wear white by my employers. But, anyway, I always do. It has always been that wearing white reassures the sick that I can never be touched. Even as darkness folds in on them from every side, closing like a claw.”

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

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

Bleed for This

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Release: Friday, November 18, 2016

[Theater]

Written by: Ben Younger; Angelo Pizzo; Pippa Bianco

Directed by: Ben Younger

Bleed for This is an intense title for an underwhelming boxing movie. Its hyperbolic nature suggests a scream-o/punk-rock band’s new single when really it’s meant to describe the mentality of one Vinny Pazienza, a boxer from Providence, Rhode Island who returned to the ring after being involved in a car crash that brought him within inches of total paralysis.

Ben Younger’s third directorial feature takes a rather subdued, psychological approach in retracing “The Pazmanian Devil”‘s remarkable return to the championship ring, a transformation that has been widely regarded as one of the most remarkable in all of sports history. It offers viewers the chance to share the headspace of a boxer who managed to hold world titles in three separate weight classes — one of an elite few who have ever managed to do so — all while making them acutely aware how heavily the odds were stacked against him in his mission to “come back from the dead.”

Going into a film with these sorts of things in mind, it’s difficult not to set expectations high. Plus, star Miles Teller has proven that his scintillating performance in 2014’s Whiplash wasn’t a fluke. He may not have been captivating us quite as intensely since but he continues to give the impression he’s turning a corner in his career, taking on characters more complex than your hard-partying teenage waster. Frustratingly, Younger sets about presenting Vinny’s miraculous story in a very workmanlike fashion, and while it is true many boxing films are genetically similar, the best of them know how to work within the confines and use tropes to their advantage. Bleed for This is unable to rise to that challenge by featuring a narrative that, rather than being complemented by a few clichés, ends up drowning in too many of them.

We first get an impression of the kind of theatrical, charismatic performer Vinny was in his prime in the opening scene, set in Caesar’s Palace in Vegas. Teller, who underwent extensive physical training and dieting to look the part — he dropped from 19% to 6% body fat — swaggers his way on to the scene, late for the weigh-in and nearly becoming disqualified for the next day’s match. He’s fun to watch from the get-go and one of the few aspects of the film that actually feels inspired. Throughout much of the picture Vinny’s flanked by his (many) fleeting girlfriends, a revolving door of Italian stunners — and his father Angelo (a very good Ciarán Hinds), whose level of emotional support is matched only by his blue-collar boorishness.

In the aftermath of another embarrassing ass-kicking and in spite of the consensus opinion that Vinny is washed-up, he begs to be put into another fight. He seeks the support of Kevin Rooney (thank goodness for Aaron Eckhart, who looks like he’s having some fun playing a really, really out-of-shape trainer), whose first appearance tells us everything we need to know about how his career has been trending. Kevin believes Vinny can succeed in a different group and the two set out to prepare for an upcoming light middleweight match, which turns out to be a victory. Things are now looking up for both parties. And then, of course, the accident — by all accounts a fairly tough thing to watch given that this really happened.

I don’t need to tell you what happens from circa the halfway mark onward because if you have seen just one boxing movie you already know. And even if you haven’t, you still already know. Bleed for This, like its star, wears its heart on its sleeve and in so doing advertises the Big Payoff in bright, flashing casino-style lights that are impossible to ignore. What we’re provided en route to Fight #3 (a.k.a. The Moment of Redemption, which always comes last and typically off the back of the fighter’s lowest moments) manifests as little more than tiresome filler material aimed at exposing that which made this athlete unique; that which drove him to the edge of potential destruction — had Vinny actually paralyzed himself in the process of training I hate to think of what would have happened to him then — and how his attitude more than anything helped him overcome.

On that note of positivity, Bleed for This isn’t totally without merit. Dramatically speaking it may be underachieving and formulaic, but the story’s not without heart and some compelling ‘twists.’ For one, it is refreshing to watch a boxer (read: any athlete protagonist) who doesn’t come completely undone at the seams when things do not go their way. When the darkness comes, there’s very little wallowing in self-pity, and that much can be appreciated even by non-sports fans. I mean, the guy returns to his work-out bench in his basement a mere five days after leaving the hospital having broken his neck, for crying out loud. And the screenplay, while far from original, impresses when it deals in specifics, such as the inherent difficulties of a boxer transitioning from a lighter weight class to a heavier one. (Fair warning: there’s also some pretty squirm-inducing stuff if you don’t like medical procedures, particularly when Vinny decides to forego anesthesia for the removal of the Halo, the apparatus that has been keeping his spine from breaking.)

In a nutshell, Bleed for This would be more appropriately titled Determination: The Movie. That’s certainly more generic — laughable, even — but after my experience, that would be more faithful to the style and tone of this would-be heavy-hitter.

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Recommendation: Sensational true story isn’t done proper justice by a mediocre screenplay and a dearth of predictable elements. Good performances keep it just above totally forgettable. Fans of Miles Teller, boxing and sports movies in general will probably come to appreciate something about this film while others are probably going to need to keep on browsing for something else. 

Rated: R

Running Time: 116 mins.

Quoted: “I know exactly how to give up. You know what scares me, Kev? It’s that it’s so easy.”

All content originally published 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 

Star Trek: Beyond

'Star Trek - Beyond' movie poster

Release: Friday, July 22, 2016

[Theater]

Written by: Simon Pegg; Doug Jung

Directed by: Justin Lin

If this is the movie in which we go where no man has gone before, why does it feel like we’ve been here already?

Star Trek: Beyond, a beautifully crafted feel-good blockbuster, the third such film in a post-modern interpretation of the world’s second most popular star-themed science fiction property, is undeniably an impressive visual spectacle and a lot of fun to boot, but if it had any interest in remaining a topic of discussion amidst all the excited chatter about the year’s two other significant event pictures — Suicide Squad this August and Rogue One (ya know, that Star Wars spinoff thing) in December — it needed to do more than just rely on old-fashioned cast-and-crew camaraderie. Despite a solid 120 minutes of action and intergalactic intrepidity, each aspect strong enough to elevate a lesser narrative on their own, the new adventures we’re sent along in Beyond just aren’t enough to send the film into another dimension of greatness.

The best thing that can be said about Fast-and-Furious director Justin Lin wrestling control of the captain’s chair from previous helmer J.J. Abrams is that he was at least willing to conform somewhat to the rules and pre-established formula. More crucially, he manages to avoid inflecting the wrong intonations, such as those found in a universe in which car enthusiasts with criminal records end up doing favors for government officials unwilling to get their own hands dirty. This franchise’s sense of identity is also not lost in the hands of writers Simon Pegg and Doug Jung, an impressive feat considering how often the former is writing out of his comfort zone — though let’s not kid ourselves, these new Star Trek films aren’t exactly the stuff of bonafide sci-fi drama — and how little experience the latter has in writing for the screen, particularly at the blockbuster level.

In Beyond events accumulate in a way that proves to be, so far anyway, the ultimate test of the moral, emotional and psychological fibers of the crew and leadership of the mighty USS Enterprise. It also poses yet another challenge to the structural integrity of that very ship, subjecting the iconic vessel to one hell of a spectacular crash sequence that is sure to remain on everyone’s minds come the end of the year. Halfway into a five-year exploratory mission, James Kirk (Chris Pine) has grown restless and jaded with his captainship. He’s thinking there could be other ways in which he can distinguish himself from his father, the great George S. Kirk.

When they dock for supplies and some much needed rest at a nearby hub called Yorktown — a floating city protected from the vacuum of space by a transparent spherical shield — Kirk seeks the counsel of Commodore Paris (Shohreh Aghdashloo) as well as a promotion to Vice Admiral. It is here that Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto) receives some life-changing (and potentially mission-altering) news of his own. Their uncertain futures become inextricably linked, leaving us to question whether one could survive, much less function, without the other. It’s entirely too easy to answer that.

Fortunately the considerably more intense, more tangible crux of Beyond does a lot of the heavy lifting. Beyond has a great big baddie in Idris Elba‘s menacing warlord Krall, on the hunt for some macguffin he needs to fire a weapon large enough to pose a serious threat to the continued existence of the Federation. After the Enterprise encounters and rescues a lone alien named Kalara (Lydia Wilson) who claims her ship has been stranded and needs help getting back, the crew are ambushed by a swarm of vessels that all but dismantles the Enterprise in one of the year’s most compelling attack sequences. There’s little you can do to prepare for these 15 minutes of pure drama. Even more impressive than the sheer scale and graceful movements of Krall’s battalion is the fact that the moment never disintegrates into a pixel party. State-of-the-art graphics rendering, the polished gem of a massive collaborative effort, makes you feel as though you’re swimming through stars and nebulae. (I didn’t see the film in 3D and now regret that decision.)

In the aftermath the crew find themselves disoriented and spread throughout the thick jungle of a nearby planet that they jettisoned to in their cute little individual escape pods. Not all of Kirk’s crew have remained out of Krall’s clutches, however, and the majority of what turns out to be a protracted second act finds the splinter groups trying desperately to reunite. Admittedly, the set-up allows us to become privy to a few conversations between characters we otherwise might never get, particularly between Spock, whose sense of humor is improving, and Karl Urban’s sardonic Bones.

Elsewhere, an isolated Scotty (Simon Pegg) encounters the mysterious Jaylah (Sofia Boutella). Boutella, covered in a striking combination of starkly colored make-up, instantly bolsters an already strong cast. As a warrior with a lot of pain and loss in her recent past following her own encounter with Krall, Scotty thinks she will be integral in helping the crew not only reunite but escape the planet. Despite her vows to never go near the prison camp Krall has established on this planet, Jaylah finds herself with no choice but to be brave, soon carving out her own role in the fight back against Krall’s plans to wipe out the Federation.

One thing that’s certainly surprising is how difficult it is to watch the film without thinking of the untimely passing of young Anton Yelchin, who has for three films enthusiastically embraced the spirited, brilliant Russian ensign Pavel Chekov, a character that in the long run is fairly minor. He has a significant role to fill here though and there’s no denying the tragic circumstances of his demise change the way we interact with him whenever he is on screen. We don’t so much watch him continue to build upon an innately likable persona as we do savor the opportunity.

Of course there’s more to cherish than the stereotype-shattering Russian who enjoys Scotch as opposed to vodka. In spite of itself Lin’s epic space saga often finds the time to thrill on ambitious new levels while paying tribute to the legacy that precedes it. If it can find ways to eliminate some of its more annoying habits like recycling boring clichés and hackneyed storytelling devices, then I see no reason why this franchise can’t live long and prosper.

Anton Yelchin and Chris Pine in 'Star Trek - Beyond'

Recommendation: Not the most inspired event film ever but it gets the job done and in style. Star Trek: Beyond works hard to deliver the fan service and in so doing tends to become something that will be harder to fall completely in love with for anyone who completely misses the significance of the unearthing of the USS Franklin. It is the beneficiary of some exemplary computer graphics technology and the action setpieces are universally thrilling, especially the final battle. If we’re to judge each of these entries based on that alone, this may be the best yet. 

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 122 mins.

Quoted: “This is where it begins, Captain. This is where the frontier pushes back!”

All content originally published 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 

Decades Blogathon – Scream (1996)

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Welcome back around to the second week in Decades, a blogathon in which me and my good friend and inspiration Mark from Three Rows Back are asking bloggers to weigh in on their favorite films from decades past, films that were released in a year ending in ‘6.’ We’ve been posting a review per day, re-blogging each other’s posts (with the exception being this weekend where we took some time off). I had the chance to write my thoughts on Shane Black’s newest film, The Nice Guys. If you missed that piece you can find it here.

But today we have an exceptional piece from the one and only Zoë, who’s the genius behind The Sporadic Chronicles of a Beginner Blogger. It’s a site I have been dedicated to for some time now, and if you want to go visit it here you will soon see why that’s the case. She’s here to talk about horror-comedy classic Scream


Scream movie poster

SYNOPSIS: A group of teens are pitted against a masked murderer that tests their knowledge of horror movies. – via IMDB

Thank you guys for letting me indulge in re-watching Scream. I don’t know how I would have motivated it to anyone without this Decades Blogathon 😛

Alright, alright, alright! Let me get to talking to a movie that I absolutely adore. Scream. Gosh, I watched this so many times as a kid I damn near wore out the VHS. I had way too much fun with this all the time. I have always had a soft spot for horror/slasher films, whether they are good or bad. This one? It is one of the better ones. I know that it has been mocked and ragged on for ages, but Craven gave us something beautiful when we got this.

Pretty much everyone knows the intro, I am sure. Not much should in theory be a secret there… I think. Anyway, within minutes, you get the setup. Open with Drew Barrymore making herself popcorn, getting a strange call, which starts funny but ends in a terrifying fashion. Recipe for something amazing. End it with an insanely brutal murder and staged corpse scene? Winning all the way. The Scream franchise touts some horrifying deaths, but hers will forever remain right up there for me, because it really set the tone of what was to come in the movies.

Scream ghostface mask

Scream is way smarter than it is given credit for by most. The movie knows exactly what it is, and doesn’t beat around the bush about it. It is in your face honest, and tackles all the conventions of horrors/slashers up until that point, and yet still masterfully crafts a film that feels fresh and new. Obviously these are things that became more clear to me the older I got. Back in the day, it was all about the silly jokes, the phone calls, and Ghostface. Let’s not even pretend. Then I grew up, and got to see exactly how clever Scream actually is. It’s gory, it balances humour and horror, and it does so with great finesse.

Scream bad movies

As for the cast, I thoroughly enjoy them all. You don’t see many of them that much anymore, because they were the reigning nineties champs, but they all did what they were to do. Neve Campbell was perfect to play sweet, innocent, emotionally damaged Sidney, the virgin, and David Arquette is the absolutely adorable Deputy Dewey, and I will always love him. For reals. What a sweetie. Courtney Cox owned in her role of the bitchy and unscrupulous Gale Weathers. Skeet Ulrich was also the perfect pick for Billy, a little dodgy and strange, but rather entrancing nonetheless. Fan favourite Randy Meeks was helmed by Jaime Kennedy, and his character will always be important to the end. He was the one who told us what was happening, who shared the rules and etiquette of survival and the perfect crime.

Scream Gale gets punched

Another thing I enjoy about this movie is how quotable it is. It doesn’t get old, and you are bound to find someone who recognises some of the obscure references and quotes you can yank out of it. That is something that I always appreciate in movies, the ability to stick with you, via imagery or some infinitely awesome quote. The score also complements the movie every step of the way, and all the little references make this film a little gem. I loved the humour here, too, which at times was really dark, and other times really silly. I am glad that it was Craven who helmed this film, as he balanced this out. Apparently other directors that were considered initially viewed Scream as more of a comedy than anything. Phew. Luckily it didn’t go that way!

Scream rules

Overall, Scream is still a highly entertaining watch, even after all this time, and peddles tons of humour, horror, and gore. If you haven’t seen it (*cough cough* TOM), I would highly recommend checking it out! Obviously I am a fan, and I know I am not alone on that front!

When the Game Stands Tall

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Release: Friday, August 22, 2014

[Theater]

Dignity and courage. Those are two words you cannot separate out of any sports movie, good, bad or ugly. Whether handled delicately or with blunt force, there comes a point where the film either shoehorns in these values or cleverly suggests them through a combination of strong writing and impassioned performance.

When the Game Stands Tall is a film based on the trials and tribulations experienced by the De La Salle Spartans, a central-California high school football team put through the wringer when they first surrender an unheard-of 151-game winning streak to a team they could have beaten. They then lose their head coach temporarily to overwhelming stress that culminates in a heart attack and his sitting out for a good portion of the season. And finally the increasingly desperate Spartans tragically lose a key player and good student to a senseless act of street violence.

Reality is often more like a nightmare, and this is hardly the first time young players’ mettle has been tested for the sake of general audience entertainment. The fact’s not offensive so much as it is uninspiring. As trying a time as this is for a once-proud team (goodness only knows what it was like for the real community), this particular film — one built almost exclusively out of cliches — is much more so.

Beginning with a ruthlessly jejune Jim Caviezel as head coach Bob Ladoucer, any honest evaluation of this poorly-conceived model of sports-as-therapy must take note of him and his flat delivery first and foremost. After all, this is ostensibly his movie, given the fact he was responsible for building such a winning team over the years. However, his part is written so poorly and unfortunately Caviezel delivers so awkwardly that whatever dignity remains in the film, it pertains more to side-line issues. Where Coach is meant to inspire and invigorate his team — indirectly, us — with spirited pep talks that emphasize brotherhood, faith and character, he instead lectures and recites, driving any interest to continue listening right out the door. . .along with any reasonable viewer or casual sports fan.

The many tough faces of Ladouceur are intended to reinforce the unique circumstances; evidence of how thin he had stretched himself to make the team exceptional. But Caviezel takes it to the point of effecting numbness. Even the practice dummies players drill themselves into repeatedly have more personality than he does. It should be mentioned that the emphasis on his listless expressions throughout many scenes is one rather ill-advised move on the part of director Thomas Carter. The actor is absolutely not the only one to blame. Unfortunately he bears the distinction of being caught in the act.

When moving away from this disastrous crusade to prove the head coaching position ain’t for everyone, we thankfully intercept only decreasing levels of terribleness on the offensive and defensive ends. Supporting cast isn’t exactly impressive but they at least offer up something akin to what is expected of a sports-film, performance-wise. Richard Kohnke, along with Alexander Ludwig, Matthew Daddario, Stephan James and Ser’Darius Blain round out the key players at the quarterback position and offensive line, respectively.

While Kohnke’s Rick Salinas is at the star position, he’s largely bereft of complexity but that’s not really a problem, as he doesn’t have much screen time. Ludwig follows the trajectory of every most mis-interpreted jocks who have issues at home. In this case, he’s slave to an overly-enthusiastic father (Clancy Brown) who demands the best from his son, and wants nothing more than for De La Salle to get back on track. Who knew statistics were more important than family? Meanwhile, Daddario is handed the part of the coach’s son Danny, whom Ladouceur is compelled to protect until the very last minute. No need to worry; nothing terrible happens, though I’m sure you’re aware already of that kind of conflict resolution. “Show me what you got, kid.” (And then he does precisely that.)

The Game somehow finds a pulse in James’ T.K. Kelly, an impressive athlete and genuinely nice guy who is struck down at the ripe age of 18. Not only is his story the strongest of the lot, the young actor offers up an affectionate spirit we can actually support. Sports fans often seek enthusiasm out of the stories they seek out on the silver screen. James is  one of the few who doesn’t look disinterested in being on set. He’s also not an uncompromisingly stereotypical player, though his journey to a heartbreaking premature end isn’t the biggest break from convention.

There’s no denying some of the emotional build-up is actually earned. An overt religious overtone actually helps elevate moments of sadness rather than drown them in off-putting sentimentalism. One particular speech comes to mind. And Caviezel has a moment or two where he doesn’t seem to be rehearsing his lines. But as far as I am concerned and the way I like my sports represented, I should have come equipped with more padding for the beating I was going to take when it comes to the cliched and predictable.

When it comes down to it, When the Game Stands Tall forgets to really take a stand for anything.

Michael Chiklis un-bald is a very different Michael Chiklis

Michael Chiklis un-bald is a very different Michael Chiklis

2-0Recommendation: One can probably do much worse than Thomas Carter’s woeful interpretation of a community rallying around their local sports team in the wake of multiple difficult circumstances. But that’s a coin with another side to it, and of course you are going to come across far superior versions. Hopefully one day there’ll be a better movie to represent this incredibly resilient community. I don’t really recommend this one even to sports buffs considering the other competition that’s out there waiting.

Rated: PG

Running Time: 115 mins.

Quoted: “Family isn’t just blood relatives. You’ve got me and 60 brothers. . .”

All content originally published 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 

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. . .”

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