Directed by: Scott Derrickson
Premise: A New York police detective (Eric Bana) joins with an unconventional priest (Edgar Ramirez) to investigate a series of crimes.
What Works: Deliver Us From Evil is led by Eric Bana as a police detective. Bana is a very good actor, frequently better than a lot of the films he ends up in, and he brings a lot of credibility to the picture. Although he is Australian he puts on the New York accent well without becoming a caricature. Bana’s character is married, with his wife played by Olivia Munn and the domestic scenes play well even if Munn is wasted in a typical cop-wife role. Later in the movie Bana’s character teams up with a priest played by Edgar Ramirez and although there are a lot of problems with his character it is admirable the way in which Ramirez plays against the paternal stereotypes in which priests are often portrayed.
What Doesn’t: The filmmakers of Deliver Us From Evil attempt to combine a possession thriller with a police procedural but they do neither very well. When television and motion pictures portray cops there is a lot of latitude. On one hand are movies like Lethal Weapon in which police officers shoot their guns without consequence and arrest citizens without cause. This has nothing to do with the realities of police work; these kinds of movies are really modern day Westerns and the police officers are cowboys. On the other hand are movies like Zodiac which embrace the intricacies of police work and feature much more realistic depictions of criminal investigations. The contrast in these two styles illustrates one of the many problems of Deliver Us From Evil. The characters of this movie are the cowboy-like cops of films like Lethal Weapon but they are dropped into the middle of a Zodiac-like police procedural and the insolubility of the two elements hampers the film from its opening. No one in Deliver Us From Evil behaves like a credible police officer or even a rational human being and many sequences are incredible to the point of stupidity. Early in the picture, the officers respond to a domestic violence call and a suspect pulls a knife, seriously wounding one of the officers. Instead of tasing him or pulling a firearm, one of the cops draws his own knife and engages in hand-to-hand combat. Afterward they don’t take the perpetrator down to the station for questioning or seek medical attention for the serious knife injury. Instead they stay out and respond to more incidents. This kind of stupidity defines Deliver Us From Evil. The movie has a similar problem with the supernatural parts of its story. Just as all movies about psycho killers have a pathology, all good possession movies have a theology. This is important because it allows the story to make sense. In Deliver Us From Evil there is no internal logic to the supernatural elements. Dark forces creep into the detective’s life and he uncovers animal mutilation and other assorted creepiness but it’s never established what’s linking these things together and when the movie gets to its climactic exorcism scene it is unclear how this will solve the other phenomena going on in the film. Deliver Us From Evil is intended to be scary but there is no atmosphere of dread. This is something that must be cultivated over the course of the story but the filmmakers are unable to do it and resort to jump scares instead. In an attempt to make the movie scary the filmmakers turn down the lighting but the imagery is so murky and edited together so sloppily that the action is difficult and sometimes impossible to follow.
Bottom Line: Supernatural stories have been all the rage in the horror genre lately but Deliver Us From Evil is among the worst entries in this recent crop of possession movies. Aside from not being very scary it is a stupid film that is amateurishly made.
Episode: #499 (July 13, 2014)