Scott Derrickson, writer director of 2005’s The Exorcism of Emily Rose, clearly has a soft spot for demonic possession as he returns with another ‘inspired by real events’ of a similar slant.
However, whereas the previous film was a comparatively staid effort, with almost half of the drama being restricted to a courtroom, this is a grittier, fast-paced action approach to the Exorcism sub-genre.
Eric Bana (Star Trek, Munich) is Ralph Sarchie, a plain-clothes detective with a heart of gold and an inability to leave his job in the office.
His wife and young daughter barely see him, and the cracks at home are starting to show. Driven by his ‘radar’ – an uncanny ability to sniff out trouble – he works his cases relentlessly.
Drunken priest to the rescue
When he and his wisecracking partner, Butler (McHale), are placed on the trail of three veterans recently returned from Iraq, his job becomes all-consuming.
The special-forces soldiers, all suffering from some extreme form of post traumatic stress disorder, seem to be mixed up in dangerous behaviour that all points to the occult.
Enter Father Mendoza, a smoking, drinking priest cut from unconventional cloth, whose experience is tailored to the sinister case at hand.
there are plenty of clumsy moments, particularly the scenes in Sarchie’s home that feature domestic exchanges between the protagonist and his wife, with lots of vague, tired clichés about his being “married to his job”, or “not letting anyone in” and how his wife (Munn) doesn’t “even recognise him anymore”.
Fortunately, Olivia Munn is strong enough to carry these sloppily written scenes and her chemistry with Bana is credible enough.
That’s the devil’s work!
There are also unintentionally absurd moments – imagine if you will, a demonically possessed person doing a spot of painting and decorating?
Or another, lamely popping up in front of night vision goggles, a moment shamelessly inspired by one of these ‘BOO – surprise’ youtube videos.
Bana is the film’s greatest asset, his sturdy work here grounds a scrappy script and reminds us of the solid turn he put in for Speilerg’s Munich.
There’s some fun buddy-banter between Sarchie and his partner, Butler, though much of it falls a little flat.
These earlier scenes are reminiscent of last year’s cop-drama End Of The Watch, just set during perpetual night, with a rain soaked Bronx replacing sunny California.
In that respect, Deliver Us From Evil also strongly recalls Martin Scorsese’s paramedics drama Bringing Out The Dead.
Par for the course
Originality certainly isn’t the film’s strong suit – it wears its references on its sleeve: imagine The Exorcist and Seven thrown into a blender and you pretty much have it.
Derrickson deserves praise however, for remaining true to the film’s construction – it never throws a narrative curve ball, nor does it run out of steam and hit us with a deus-ex-machina in the final act, as so many lesser horror films are wont to.
It’s a decidedly B-grade picture, but compelling enough to recommend for fans of the genre.
Its rougher, demented edges do stay with you, despite its derivative nature and occasionally sub-standard craftsmanship. A guilty pleasure for fright fans needing a fix.
Deliver Us From Evil
Dir: Scott Derrickson; US, Horror 2014, 118 mins; Eric Bana, Edgar Ramírez, Olivia Munn, Joe McHale, Sean Harris
Premiered 24 July