Director: Scott Derrickson
Cast: Eric Bana, Edgar Ramirez, Olivia Munn, with Sean Harris, and Joel McHale
Release Date: July 2nd, 2014
In many horror movies, decease it’s the scary music that tells viewers to close their eyes or to look away because something terrible is about to happen. The music oftentimes foreshadows the surprise “scare” of a person appearing out of nowhere to frighten the audience (or a false scare where the buildup is all for naught). In the new supernatural thriller Deliver us from Evil, case it’s not the music that often brings fear into the viewer’s mind. It’s the story itself, medicine which is loosely based on true events.
Eric Bana stars as New York City Police Sergeant Ralph Sarchie, a man who believes he has witnessed true evil firsthand. That is, until he starts investigating a group of seemingly random crimes that he eventually connects to each other. The main crime concerns a woman who throws her own child in a pit near the lion’s den at the Bronx Zoo.
When she’s eventually found, she no longer acts like a normal person. She seems possessed by something greater than she is. As the case becomes more convoluted and connected to other local crimes, Sarchie teams up with Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez), a flawed priest who believes that the devil’s work is at hand. Mendoza eventually tells him about primary versus secondary evil, the latter of which is the evil that men do and the former of which is coming from the devil himself.
Director/co-writer Scott Derrickson approaches the material with a serious appreciation of the story alongside a willingness to add in lighter elements so as not to overwhelm the audience with its dark tone. Joel McHale, known for his comedic work on The Soup and the NBC show Community, appears as Sarchie’s wise-cracking partner and at first, his humor seems a little off-beat but it eventually serves its natural purpose. These two men witness horrific crimes every day so of course, there needs to be some relief in their jobs and McHale helps provide that.
To his great credit as well, the director offers a more unique spin on the material. For most of the feature, he barely uses the creepy music that is often used to show that a scare is coming. Instead, using a smart tactic of ‘less is more,’ he simply creates fear and a sense of foreboding by showing the characters acting normally as they face otherworldly beings. Additionally, the family that appears here— Olivia Munn appearing as Sarchie’s wife and Lulu Wilson as his daughter— aren’t used in the same way that they are usually used in films like this. No cliched third-act trope putting them in immediate danger. They are haunted during the film but the fear is more genuine than it is in other films that use family members as props in the third act to make the conclusion more personal to the main character.
Deliver Us from Evil doesn’t have the same potency as Derrickson’s earlier work like Sinister and The Exorcism of Emily Rose but it’s a genuinely creepy thriller that is surprisingly effective at slowly building suspense. Horror movies don’t have to fall into the same slasher traps that have proven so prevalent in the genre and Derrickson continues to show that scary movies work better when they rely on strong stories and solid scripts, rather than music and effects that tell you when to be afraid.
Review by: John Hanlon