It’s tough to find a good horror movie these days, one that gets under your skin and unnerves you, makes you anxious to look in dark corners, makes you wonder about that strange sound you don’t recognize in your home. And who doesn’t love a good story of the supernatural to share around that communal campfire that is the modern-day theater?
Sadly, for me, Deliver Us From Evil, the latest effort from Scott Derrickson who brought us The Exorcism of Emily Rose (which I did enjoy) and Sinister (which I thought was ridiculous), did not have me jumping at shadows and worrying about my eternal soul.
Having been described as a cross between the gritty hyper-realism of Fincher’s Seven and the terrifying, it could happen next door nature of The Exorcist, the film has a lot to live up to, and I think overreached its grasp.
Based, loosely, on the true life experiences of a New York police officer, Ralph Sarchie, played ably in the film by Eric Bana, the story follows an investigation into a wife-beating, that leads to a case of demonic possession, pulling the curtain back to reveal a dark,evil world that lurks at the edges of our reality.
Whether you believe the story or not, it hopefully translates nicely to the big screen, and while it’s always nice to see a director try to expand his repertoire, Derrickson seems to be a one trick pony in terms of orchestrating his scares. Every single scare in the film is a jump-scare, telegraphed in advance if you understand framing and camera movement, and augmented by a musical sting. Right there, you lose the comparison to The Exorcist, a film which works not because of jump scares but because the film truly works on your nerves, and makes you wonder about your own soul. This one doesn’t do that.
Sarchie’s partner, Butler, was played by Community’s Joel McHale, in a performance I quite liked, it was cool to see him in a different kind of role. Bana is surrounded by a fairly solid cast, including Olivia Munn as Sarchie’s wife, Jen, and Edgar Ramirez as the Jesuit priest, Mendoza, who inducts Sarchie into the darkness of Primary Evil.
As a police thriller, the film actually works pretty well, and both Bana and McHale seem to be right at home in the roles of New York cops. There are overtones of a police procedural, the film trying to ground itself as much as possible in reality before throwing us into the complete darkness of the supernatural, though that doesn’t quite work as smoothly as Derrickson would like.
I could tell that was what he was hoping to do though, ground the film in as much reality as you can, making it accessible to the everyday viewer, before taking us around the corner into Evil.
There are some nice ideas, the sounds and images that Sarchie can only here, and how it ties back to a fateful moment in his past. But sadly, along the way, the film visits and exploits every jump scare and cliché of ‘scary’ movies, and cop films, since their beginning, much to its fault.
It did however make me want to hunt down Sarchie’s book, Beware The Night, and I’ve added it to my pile of books to read.
It is by no definition a bad film, but it is nowhere near the level of a true horror film. I just wasn’t spooked by it, and was able to predict everything that was bound to happen.
What did you think of it?
I guess we’ll see what Derrickson does next, with the remake of Two Eyes Staring, a Dutch ghost story, and then taking on the Marvel Universe with Doctor Strange.