Review: Deliver Us From Evil

"You haven't seen true evil."

Deliver Us From Evil (2014)
Directed by Scott Derrickson
Written by Scott Derrickson and Paul Harris Boardman

Based on the book Beware the Night by Ralph Sarchie and Lisa Collier Cool

As an admitted fan of the paranormal, I’m surprised that I’d never actually heard of Ralph Sarchie. Sarchie was a veteran of the NYPD who was also a demonologist of some renown, having assisted in over twenty exorcisms. In 2001, Sarchie published Beware the Night, a chronicle of the many unexplainable phenomena he claims to have personally witnessed during his time on the streets of New York and after retiring from the police force. Deliver Us From Evil adapts Sarchie’s book for the big screen, with Eric Bana in the role of Sarchie and Edgar Ramirez as Mendoza, the renegade priest who teams up with him. Joel McHale costars as Sarchie’s partner, Butler.

I haven’t read Beware the Night, but I do know the book contains several different stories, while Deliver Us From Evil focuses on only one: a seemingly routine domestic disturbance pulls Sarchie, Butler, and eventually Mendoza into a web of Satanic violence, paranormal activity, and demonic possession. As Sarchie gets closer and closer to solving the case, he finds that his own family has become targets of the dark and malevolent force he’s searching for.

I saw Deliver Us From Evil in the theater, instead of waiting for a home release, based on the strength of the preview, which was – in a word – harrowing. And the film is, at times, quite scary. But a lot of its potential power is sucked away by more than a few cheap jump scares and a meandering conclusion.

That being said, I enjoyed Eric Bana’s turn as Sarchie and I found he brought a grim believability to the story. Comedian Joel McHale seems an unlikely choice to costar in a film as dark as this one, but his character adds a dose of humor that I won’t say was “much-needed,” but I found it very enjoyable. Edgar Ramirez excels in the role of Mendoza, a priest who is more human and flawed than one would think at first glance, but all the better for it.

What I enjoyed most about Deliver Us From Evil was the depiction of New York City itself. Director Scott Derrickson doesn’t shy away from showing the bleak and disgusting underbelly of the Big Apple, which in this movie is decidedly much more Rotten. There’s times in Derrickson’s version of New York when it almost seems as if the sun is never going to come up.

However, I thought the film began to sag a bit in the third act. The unavoidable exorcism scene comes seemingly out of nowhere, sticks around for far too long, and ends just as abruptly as it began. Deliver Us From Evil also falls prey to that most annoying of horror cliches: the jump scare. Though the amount of jump scares seems to decrease as the movie progresses, there’s still enough to annoy more seasoned horror viewers. Finally, I found myself wondering how much liberty the writers took with Ralph Sarchie’s original story, as well as how much, if any, was fabricated by Sarchie himself. The credit disclaimer “Inspired by the actual accounts of an NYPD sergeant” instead of “based on the true story of…” would lead one to believe there’s not a lot of truth in this tale.

All in all, Deliver Us From Evil was worth the price of admission and, minor issues aside, I was enjoyably scared for most of my viewing. If you can get through the glut of jump scares and deal with a bit of fluff towards the end, you’ll find that there are some genuinely unsettling moments in this movie that you won’t want to miss.

3 Knives

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