De­liver Us From Evil

Ed­u­cat­ing Sarchie

SFX - - Rated / Cinema - Ian Berriman

Eric Bana’s New York cop bat­tles su­per­nat­u­ral evil in this based-on- a- truestory shocker.

Re­lease Date: 5 Jan­uary

2014 | 15 | Blu- ray/ DVD Di­rec­tor: Scott Der­rick­son Cast: Eric Bana, Édgar Ramírez, Joel McHale, Olivia Munn, Sean Har­ris, Chris Coy

Un­for­tu­nately, the story that un­folds just isn’t par­tic­u­larly com­pelling

thing In­sid­i­ous di­rec­tor Scott Der­rick­son’s lat­est has go­ing for it, it’s an air of gritty verisimil­i­tude. It’s “in­spired” by the real- life ex­pe­ri­ences of for­mer NYPD cop Ralph Sarchie – well, “real” if you give any cre­dence to Be­ware The Night, his 2001 ac­count of his para­nor­mal ex­pe­ri­ences dur­ing his 16 years on the force. Filmed largely on the south Bronx streets that were Sarchie’s turf, it has a strong sense of place; and it’s any­thing but a wel­com­ing en­vi­ron­ment – an omi­nous realm of squalid cel­lars and con­stant driv­ing rain.

Eric Bana plays Sarchie, a lapsed Catholic who grad­u­ally be­comes a be­liever in dark forces after en­coun­ter­ing a se­ries of cases – a wife- beater; a mother who tosses her two- year- old into the moat around a lion en­clo­sure; a rot­ting corpse in a fam­ily’s base­ment – which can be traced to a common source: the

If there’s one

dis­cov­ery, by an Amer­i­can pa­trol in Iraq, of a mys­te­ri­ous in­scrip­tion writ­ten in Latin on a cave wall. An in­scrip­tion which – for rea­sons never sat­is­fac­to­rily ex­plained – can cause peo­ple to be­come pos­sessed. Though not, ob­vi­ously, ruggedly hand­some cop pro­tag­o­nists.

Bana has to carry the film, and does a good job, bring­ing a sim­mer­ing phys­i­cal­ity to Sarchie. Com­mu­nity’s Joel McHale pro­vides de­cent back- up as his wise- cracking part­ner. The News­room’s Olivia Munn does the best she can with the role of Bana’s wife, who ex­ists – as hor­ror movie moms all too fre­quently do – sim­ply to pro­vide the hero with a yard­stick for their mono­ma­nia and some­thing pre­cious to lose. But the main rea­son to watch is Sean Har­ris. The Bri­tish ac­tor has played some re­mark­able char­ac­ters, from Ian Brady to Ian Cur­tis, but pos­sessed veteran Santino might eclipse them all. Ac­cord­ing to Der­rick­son, Har­ris ba­si­cally put him­self into a trance state to film one key, cli­mac­tic se­quence, and re­mem­bered noth­ing the next day. Sounds like hype, but when you watch him prac­ti­cally burn­ing a hole in the screen with the in­ten­sity of his stare, it rings true.

Strong per­for­mances then, pre­sented within what is, for the most part ( bar­ring an asy­lum that seems like a throw­back to the ’ 50s), a solid- seem­ing world. Un­for­tu­nately, the story that un­folds there just isn’t par­tic­u­larly com­pelling: a stan­dard tale of pos­ses­sion/ an in­ves­ti­ga­tor’s jour­ney from scep­ti­cism to faith. Only the po­lice pro­ce­dural el­e­ments feel re­motely fresh, and they aren’t enough to mask the pong of fa­mil­iar­ity ris­ing off the heap of hoary hor­ror clichés.

Scary an­i­mals, for one. You would think that by now there wouldn’t be a film­maker left alive who isn’t too ashamed to use the sud­den ap­pear­ance of a cat as a jump scare. But you’d be wrong. And puss is just the tip of the furry ice­berg. We also have ( deep breath) scary lions, a scary bear, a scary dog, scary flies, scary bats, a scary owl, and scary trop­i­cal fish. Even­tu­ally, hav­ing ex­hausted prac­ti­cally the en­tire an­i­mal king­dom, Der­rick­son is forced to re­sort to a scary soft toy owl. To be fair, this se­quence – in which said toy sin­is­terly rolls to­wards Sarchie’s wide- eyed daugh­ter – is ex­tremely ef­fec­tive, but the fact that it’s sound­tracked by a mu­sic box crank­ing out “Pop Goes The Weasel” tells you ev­ery­thing you need to know about the film’s lack of orig­i­nal­ity. It may also in­spire a weary sigh that most of the in­te­ri­ors are il­lu­mi­nated by flick­er­ing bulbs; will we ever see a hor­ror film that plays out en­tirely in build­ings with ad­e­quate wiring? When it comes to putting a fresh spin on old tropes, all De­liver Us From Evil re­ally has to of­fer is switch­ing the usual el­derly Ir­ish priest for an un­fea­si­bly

hunky Latin ( Édgar Ramírez) with a junkie back­story.

It’s a well- made film, and if you have a friend who’s never seen a hor­ror movie – or is se­ri­ously zoo­pho­bic – it will prob­a­bly scare them out of their socks. And if you’re steeped in this genre, it’s a sat­is­fac­tory way to pass an hour and a half. Only prob­lem is,

De­liver Us From Evil is nearly two hours long.

Ex­tras: Scott Der­rick­son pro­vides an il­lu­mi­nat­ing com­men­tary in which he dis­cusses such mat­ters as cast­ing and his view of the su­per­nat­u­ral, points out in- jokes ( a fam­ily called the Al­berghet­tis are named after his agent), and ex­plains what was shot where and when. But his most in­trigu­ing in­sights con­cern the “so­cio­pathic side” of best buddy Joel McHale; fans may be stunned to dis­cover that the Com­mu­nity star has a fetish for knives, to the ex­tent of spend­ing

$ 6000 on one as a Christ­mas present for the di­rec­tor. Ho ho ho!

Buy the DVD and you get one fea­turette: over­view piece “Il­lu­mi­nat­ing Evil” ( 14 min­utes). The Blu- ray ( rated) adds three more: “De­liver Us From Demons” ( eight min­utes) fo­cuses on pros­thet­ics guy Mike Marino’s work, par­tic­u­larly the scar­i­fi­ca­tion on Marino’s body, which in­volved over 150 dif­fer­ent pieces. “The Two Sergeants” ( eight min­utes) dis­cusses the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Bana and the real Sarchie, who was on set through­out shoot­ing. Fi­nally, “The De­mon De­tec­tive” ( ten min­utes) in­ter­views Sarchie, dis­cussing how he car­ries out his work, and re­veal­ing some sur­pris­ingly dog­matic views: “If you’re not wor­ship­ping God then you’re on the side of the Devil”, ap­par­ently. That’s us told. An as­ton­ish­ing $ 2 mil­lion was spent on the rights to use songs by The Doors. That’s 11% of the to­tal pro­duc­tion bud­get!

All those late nights brows­ing the in­ter­net had fi­nally caught up with him.

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