Review: Deliver Us From Evil
The latest offering in the seemingly limitless subgenre of possession horror is better executed than it is written, as a familiar story follows a standard path with only the slightest of worthy detours.
The ‘evil’ from the title is with a capital ‘E,’ the sort of ominous, devil-driven spirit that feeds on sin and doubt. While this time it comes from the Middle East, specifically during a late night mission by a group of soldiers , it’s Evil we’ve seen before and soon tire of.
It turns pretty faces ugly, well-manicured nails into shards, and English speakers into incompressible babblers. It also turns off lights, scribbles on the wall, and of course, kills people.
That’s how two NYPD detectives get involved, and instead of seeing the story from a more familial, personal perspective, we get it from that of officers on the case, though just as skeptical and with more buddy-cop cheesiness.
Eric Bana is Ralph Sarchie, brings some necessary levity and humanity to a weak script and mediocre role. He’s a man with a professional and personal past that haunts him, and he also has a beautiful wife (Olivia Munn) and a precocious daughter, both of whom agree that they don’t see him enough.
He’s out on the case with the very welcome though maybe miscast Joel McHale, who shows off his muscles, fighting skills, and sarcastic tongue with aplomb. Domestic disturbances and a grotesque incident in the zoo put them on the task of tracking down a shadowy figure who looks to be manipulating and killing poor unfortunate souls.
It’s through an endlessly rainy and gloomy New York City that Sarchie and Butler wander, with dark basements and empty hallways abounding. Deliver Us From Evil undoubtedly has the look, but while the eerie atmosphere is a concerted effort, it drops its hand in the grab-bag of horror, bringing out trope after trope with lazy indifference.
There are the creepy stuffed animals, possessed toys, flickering lights, and then everything even the most casual of horror fans have come to learn about the exorcism process. Before that finale, though, we of course have to meet a man of faith, a priest named Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez), who knows all about such doings and is reluctantly solicited by Sarchie.
Evil is ludicrous only in rare occasion, but most of the time it’s ineffectual. Butler’s wisecracks connect every once in a while, though it’s hard not to picture McHale as Jeff Winger poking fun all these procedural.
That this is loosely based on a true story means little to nothing. It’s as if to say that simply because someone experienced this, it’s especially scary; the real or perceived is to take the place of the imaginative. Writer and director Scott Derrickson places the film in the present day, over a decade since Sarchie wrote a memoir detailing the incident.
It’s hard to say what is accurate and what isn’t, but it doesn’t matter. The creepiness of the ‘true story’ aspect is only experienced if the film itself is successful. It’s not; Deliver Us From Evil is derivative, familiar, and momentarily scary, and offers nothing new save for Joel McHale being a tough guy.