Deliver Us From Evil
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.