From the man who brought us the horror classic, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, comes Deliver Us From Evil, the terrifying dramatization of supposedly “true accounts” from New York police officer, Ralph Sarchie. In the film, Sarchie (Eric Bana) and his partner Butler (Joel McHale) are called to to the New York City zoo where a young mother has attempted to throw her own child into the lion’s den. After further investigation, Sarchie starts to make connections between this case and a previous one of domestic abuse, discovering both are linked by some strange wall markings and a mysterious painter named Santino. But when Sarchie starts to look deeper, strange things start happening – he’s seeing things, hearing things, and there’s something terrorising his young daughter. Cue the not-so-priestly demonologist Mendoza (Édgar Ramírez), who believes Santino is possessed by a demon and must be exorcised if Sarchie’s life is to return to normal.
This is what I would call a scary-but-not-scary movie. While you’re actually watching the film, the pop-ups and disturbing imagery are frightening at the time, but the story isn’t realistic enough to leave you so terrified that you can’t turn out your bedroom lights. There’s no resonating fear or believable horror, funny considering it is allegedly based on true events. What this move does have in bucket loads is suspense. If you are one of those people who just can’t handle when the music stops and everything goes quiet and you know something’s about to happen but when is it going to—BAM! SKELETON JUMPS OUT OF THE CLOSET, then you really aren’t going to enjoy this movie. To make up for the unsubstantial horror story, director Scott Derrickson completely drowns the movie in suspense and pop-up scares. There are very few scenes without this tension, so the whole movie is spent at the edge of your seat. For me, this was actually rather enjoyable, but I could definitely see it being a massive turn-off for others.
The film’s aesthetic appeared almost like a videogame, or maybe a vivid nightmare, with CGI that had an almost 3D effect. While it made the movie look good, it once again detracted from the believability, particularly when the settings were so stereotypically “scary”. The demon not only had the ability to switch off the power, but always tended to lurk in basements of dank, seedy buildings, and for some reason it was perpetually thunder-storming for the entire movie’s duration. There was also an obvious use of cheap editing tricks and rapid camera movements to obscure those supernatural aspects that were difficult to film or create using CGI, which unfortunately put a damper on the scare-factor. On top of all this, the writing was unimaginative and predictable, with some very cliché one-liners, while the performances were fine, but bland.
When you pick it apart like that, it doesn’t make for a really great movie. However, in saying that, I actually had quite a lot of fun with Deliver Us From Evil, as it’s a real test for your nerves. Generally speaking, horror movies don’t always have to be meticulously made to be well-received, and although I would have liked to see a bit more ingenuity and subtlety in the way the horror was handled, it was scary enough to be worthwhile.
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