New York police officer Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) has been a cop for many years and has witnessed first-hand the true, horrific nature of human violence. Along with his partner Butler (Joel McHale), they work out of a notoriously dangerous precinct and are called in to investigate a series of disturbing and inexplicable crimes. Sarchie reluctantly joins forces with an unconventional priest named Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez) when evidence leads to the occult. Schooled in the rituals of exorcism, Mendoza reveals what he thinks is happening, which makes Sarchie challenge his own fears to defeat a primal evil that’s threatening to sweep across the city.
Deliver Us From Evil is a very effective chiller that expertly merges conventional horror with a taunt crime-thriller. It echoes Seven in the way it creates fear, with a foreboding sense of dread running deliciously throughout the story. There are plenty of creepy moments that really leave their mark, and the film manages to balance the supernatural with the horrors we witness in everyday life very well. It consistently holds your attention in a palpable, uneasy bliss. Throw in a clever back-story and a predictable but very effective ending and you have one of 2014’s best horrors.
It’s worth mentioning that this film is inspired by actual events… ‘inspired’ being the operative word. Any criticism levelled at this movie for not being true to life is completely redundant because Deliver Us From Evil is a work of fiction first and foremost. There are certain elements to this story that actually took place (and if you do some research online, you’ll see just what I mean), but ultimately this is a very well made horror that merges inspirations from a lot of different angles to create a masterfully-implemented scarefest. Director Scott Derrickson is no stranger to the genre with previous efforts Sinister and The Exorcism of Emily Rose both fine examples of modern horror – this trend continues with Deliver Us From Evil.
The casting is its trump card, with a quite brilliant ensemble doing stellar work here. Eric Bana adds an air of reliability to everything he appears in and helps make Deliver Us From Evil such a captivating watch. His obsession to solve the case is played just right, with Sarchie balancing his gut reactions to the case with his increased anxiety at what’s going on around him. Bana’s pedigree as an actor keeps you deeply invested in this drama as he struggles with his faith. It provides a great platform for this story to grow.
Édgar Ramírez’s role as the unconventional priest Mendoza is a joy to watch. The character is fictional but is actually based on two priests who have collaborated and helped the real Ralph Sarchie in the past. It’s great to have a character of faith not conform to the usual stereotypes and this change in dynamic provides a lot of the films best moments. He shares a solid chemistry with Bana and they make a great onscreen duo. Community’s Joel McHale steals every one of his scenes as Bana’s wise-cracking partner and his crazy knife-wielding skills showcase a welcome side to him that we haven’t seen before.
The rest of the supporting cast are all superb with perennial bad-guy Sean Harris dutifully responsible for haunting your next few sleepless nights. From his painted face to his general creepiness, this is a wonderful performance from the talented Brit and one that deserves a lot of praise. Olivia Munn hasn’t got a lot of screen-time here but she gives the small but pivotal role of Jen strong meaning and purpose.
Deliver Us From Evil creates some very unsettling and gloriously effective moments that give the film a big fright-factor. The opening sequence in Iraq is perfectly poised, the zoo sequence is a masterclass of palpable tension and any scenes involving Olivia Horton as a possessed mother are suspenseful and very unpredictable. There are situations and environments that make full use of light and dark to create some breathtaking uneasiness and kudos to Scott Derrickson for making a stuffed owl toy so damn frightening!
Deliver Us From Evil is an accomplished horror story that unsettles throughout and leaves you with a permanent sense of dread. It dices with convention but still manages to give the audience a fresh experience thanks to its superlative use of the source material. It may not be a true story, but there is no doubt that former NYC police officer Ralph Sarchie has witnessed some terrible and unexplainable things. If even part of what we see is based on fact, you’ll definitely have trouble sleeping for some time to come.