Thursday 5 August 2021

Movie Review: Deliver Us From Evil (2014)

A demonic horror movie about a series of disturbing deaths, Deliver Us From Evil creates a strong sense of dread but spends too much time fumbling in the dark.

In Iraq of 2010, three United States Marines stumble into a hidden cave and encounter something horrific.

Three years later in the Bronx, New York Police Special Operations Sergeant Ralph Sarchie (Erica Bana) and his partner Butler (Joel McHale) confront a series of grisly incidents. An infant is found dead, then ex-Marine Jimmy Tratner is arrested for violently beating his wife. Deranged woman Jane Crenna throws her baby to death at the zoo, and after a family complains about unusual sounds from the basement, the dead body of ex-Marine David Griggs is discovered. He was Jane's husband and Tratner's army buddy. 

All the incidents are accompanied by power failures and flickering lights, and Spanish priest Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez) warns Sarchie they are dealing with supernatural events. Sarchie and Butler focus their investigation on Mick Santino (Sean Harris), who served with Tratner and Griggs in Iraq. Sarchie also starts to have unusual visions, and his wife Jen (Olivia Munn) and child are threatened.

Inspired by events recounted in Sarchie's book Beware The Night, Deliver Us From Evil meets expectations as it moves purposefully through a supernatural story of ominous gates, cryptic messages, demonic beings, inhuman strength, disturbing possessions, and finally an all-out exorcism. Director and co-writer Scott Derrickson adopts a grim, dark aesthetic and finds the damp and downtrodden corners of the Bronx where evil lurks.

The plot secrets are revealed in steady increments, maintaining engagement as the initially sceptical Sarchie and more jovial Butler connect the dots and identify the impossible as possible. Mendoza starts on the sidelines but gradually moves to the centre, the mounting evidence nudging Sarchie towards considering metaphysical explanations. Eric Bana and Edgar Ramirez forge a grounded duo, and the evolving partnership between Sarchie and Mendoza provides a human core amidst the abominations. In contrast the repeated references to the music of The Doors is a rather more quirky angle, the demon's preferred playlist either too obvious or left unexplained.

While Derrickson maintains tight control over the material, he is also too quick to lean on repetitive scenes slowly exploring dark spaces, light bulbs flickering and flashlights piercing the black, the next jump scare - a crazed assailant! a dead body! and yes, a cat! - just around the corner. Deliver Us From Evil delivers the requisite scares, accompanied by the typical cliches.

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