I will begin by saying that Deliver Us from Evil is not a bad movie. Flawed perhaps, but not a failure, and certainly not as bad as some people say it is.
The film is based on a book titled Beware the Night, which details the supernatural exploits of NYPD sergeant Ralph Sarchie, played by Eric Bana in the film adaptation. The film begins like a typical cop movie, and we follow Ralph and his wise-cracking but nonetheless tough partner, Butler (Joel McHale), as they respond to calls on the nocturnal streets of New York. These cases become increasingly bizarre, and soon Ralph finds himself drawn into and attempting to stop a larger scheme perpetrated by demonic powers, teaming up with priest and exorcism specialist Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez), and confronting his inner demons along the way.
The plot isn’t very hard to get, Ralph used to be a practising Catholic and is a hardy New York cop who thinks he has seen it all. Initially sceptical, he soon realises what he’s up against and heeds the advice and accepts the help of Mendoza, even as adversaries close in on his family. It’s all pretty much what a seasoned movie-goer would have already discerned from the trailer. Needless to say, the plot is not its strongest point, but as far as horror movie plots go? Forgivable.
Bana’s portrayal as Ralph is not him at his dramatic finest, but admittedly there isn’t much for him to work with, and I cannot help but feel the talents of Bana are a little wasted here. The character of Ralph Sarchie is little more than a righteous brute with anger issues, who is known by his colleague to “never laugh”. Very much a typical tough guy. McHale is not much better, and his character mostly exists to provide Bana’s with somebody to talk to for the first half of the movie.
Bana’s real dramatic rival here is Ramirez. He arrives early on in the film, but only injects himself into the story halfway through, all but replacing McHale. From the moment we first see him, it’s obvious how cool he is. He’s got an exotic accent, he’s a priest but wears a leather jacket instead of robes, he drinks, he smokes, he works out, and he hunts demons while describing himself as “a specialist”. He has his own little back story and it’s not spectacular, but like I said, it’s a horror movie.
What does that entail anyway? Truly good horror movies are hard to come by as most just go through the motions, using the same old camera tricks, same old jump scares and same old creepy soundtrack. Is Deliver Us from Evil guilty of this? Yes, definitely.
For a start, there were more jump scares in the first half of the movie than any other movie in recent memory. I was shocked many times, sure, but never scared. The film in its entirety was nearly void of actual horror, and for a horror movie, that’s not really very good. I stayed awake most of the night I watched The Blair Witch Project. The night I saw Deliver Us from Evil, I slept like a baby.
But I’m ok with this, because in such a saturated film genre, at least it still attempts to be different. It might be so different it hardly counts as a horror movie, but the cop/horror movie hybrid approach has not really been done before. Admittedly the fusion does not synergise as much as the makers might have wanted, but it did not come out all that bad either.
I’m a sucker for thematic atmospheres, and Scott Derrickson’s gloomy depiction of night-time New York oozes atmosphere. Most of the film takes place at night, and even in the daytime it looks overcast and ominous which does wonders for setting the tone and immersing a viewer in the scene. Then there’s the fact that the movie is about a demon-hunting cop/priest duo, and that, if nothing else, is worth checking out. In those aspects at least, Deliver Us from Evil delivers.