Deliver Us From Evil (2014) Review

deliver1Deliver Us From Evil (2014)

Dir: Scott Derrikson

Written By: Scott Derrikson, Paul Harris Boardman

Starring: Eric Bana, Edgar Ramirez, Olivia Munn, Chris Coy, Dorian Missick, Sean Harris, Joel McHale

Running Time- 118 mins.

Brooklyn police officer, Ralph Sarchie (Bana), has to team up with a priest (Ramirez) in order to fight against the spree of demonic possession-based crimes that have been plaguing the city.

It is a gut reaction to be instantly cynical whenever presented with the words ‘inspired by real events’. Expectations of quality of scares are raised to unreachable heights as audiences are expected to believe the impossible. This bold statement might have held more credibility, if there wasn’t the overbearing sense of having seen almost everything that this film presents a hundred times before.

The basis for the possession in the film stems from a discovered tomb in Iraq. There is the formation of an unlikely duo of a policeman teaming up with a boxing, troubled priest to solve a slew of demonic crimes that will test their faith. What few uninteresting little extras that are dashed on top of the threadbare narrative feel like the desperate throws of a fledgling comedian trying to avoid saying “Stop me if you’ve heard this one before!”

deliver2A film that draws so heavily on its influences can sometimes be atoned for if the capable cast are given the space to make it engaging. Deliver Us From Evil has Eric Bana as its leading man. With a horrifically forced Brooklyn accent and lines delivered in monotone, Bana seems to be making the greatest effort possible to show how all he cares about is the money. His performance could best be described as a petulant child, pretending to be a tough-guy cop who then instantly gets chicken when things start to go bump in the night. With his near total disregard for his wife and child and overall lack of emotional depth, his constant presence builds up extreme resentment. He’s simply an out and out asshole, impossible to root for and the emotional journey he supposedly undertakes feels unmistakably hollow.

Beloved funny man, Joel McHale, steals the film completely as Bana’s second in command. Constantly poking fun at everything around him, it seems as though McHale is the only actor awake to the nonsense in which he finds himself. In essence, McHale is just playing himself and is the blessed relief of being the comic relief that is actually funny, so rare in modern horror. It has to be noted, however, that McHale’s mockery, when combined with Bana’s total non-committal attitude, results in it being near impossible for an audience to get invested in or care about the plot or characters in the slightest.

When the film occasionally remembers that it’s supposed to be scary, what little effort it makes can be charitably described as reaching. Relying on the done to death croaky-voice and mad eyes to express possession, this is limply supported by a self-playing piano and the irksome use of flickering lights as if it was going out of style. Lead bad guy, Sean Harris, struggles to make any sort of intimidating impact or determinable identity. His role sees him serving to do no more than look deranged and creepy. Harris’ constant perma-scowl, used in seemingly all his films, has long since lost any effectiveness.

deliver3It would be unfair to say that the film did not have the occasional moment that at least borders on chilling. There is an effective gross-out moment involving flies and a couple of efficient jump scares, legitimately coming from out of nowhere that blur the lines of reality. By far and away the most terrifying moment in the film, however, is a possessed soft toy owl. Adorned with the glassy cold dead eyes of a killer, with a mocking call of “Ha Ha Hoo”, just recalling it makes the blood run icy cold.

The crux of the overall problem of the film is that it is too slick and stylish to be scary. It is impossible to deny how good the film looks as it is presented in a gloriously gritty but sparkling sheen. The efforts made to trim off any rough edges sticks out, however, and the narrative feels too predictably efficient. There is so little evidence to separate it from the pack of other films of its ilk. It also struggles to get a grasp of its own identity, is it a gritty urban crime-drama with horror elements or is it the other way around. This lack of distinct direction sadly results in the film arguably being neither in any sufficient quantity.

McHale’s wise-cracking aside, the film is guilty of taking itself far too seriously with a rigid po-face, making it unintentionally funny. With a total lack of dramatic tension and sub-standard performances, the film makes a fool out of itself when attempting to explore the mysteries of the battle between good and evil through some appallingly wooden and derivative dialogue.

deliver4DUFE’s (isn’t that a Swedish beer?) most spectacular misfire, stylistically, is the use of befuddling constant references to 60s rock band, The Doors. Beginning with the possessed characters mumbling lyrics, having lyrics written on walls, songs mysteriously playing and to top it off, Ramirez’s priest’s entire look appears to be based on the late front man, Jim Morrison. In having ‘Break On Through’ inexplicably playing during the big exorcism finale, it completely kills any fear factor stone dead and is entirely inappropriate. What little explanation given for this is pathetic and the only real conclusion is that director, Scott Derrikson, must be a huge Doors fanboy.

At a flabby and indulgent near two hours, the film is remarkably un-remarkable and will doubtless end up lost in the deep sea of underwhelming exorcism films.

Rating: 4/10

SX_Tape (2013) DVD Review

SX TAPE 001SX_TAPE (2013) DVD

Directed By: Bernard Rose

Written By: Eric Reese

Starring: Caitlyn Folley, Ian Duncan, Chris Coy, Diana Garcia

UK Certification: 18

RRP: £17.99

Running Time: 82 minutes

Distributor: Altitude Films

UK Release Date: 28th July 2014

Oh Bernard, Bernard, Bernard. The man who terrorised my childhood with his mesmerising adaptation of Clive Barker’s Candyman (1992), who gave us the fantasy of the criminally underrated Paperhouse (1988) and who recently has delivered a quite superb trilogy of Tolstoy orientated pictures. Indeed, I urge you to check out the trifecta of Ivans XTC (2000), The Kreutzer Sonata (2008) and Boxing Day (2012) – brilliant films utilising the excellent Danny Huston in each one. Bernard Rose does indeed have some pedigree, however he has been known to deliver the occasional clunker, most notably the awful Snuff-Movie (2005). With Sx_Tape my expectations were low, and sadly that’s where they remained for the duration of the film.

SX TAPE 002We’re firmly in found footage territory here as we open with free spirited artist Jill (Folley) as she receives the news that her filmmaker boyfriend Adam (Duncan) is dead. She’s in a police station as they inform her of this bereavement, and they also tell her that they have found the camera that they were using to film the ‘art project’ that she declared was the reason they were there. For ‘art project’ read ‘sex tape’ as poor old Jill and Adam felt they were in desperate need of revitalising their sex life, and what better way to do it than break in to an old abandoned hospital and record themselves fucking.

Face it – it’s something that we all think about, right? Wrong … it’s a premise that frustrates from the get go with the sheer retarded nature of their plan. There’s no character establishment here, instead we’re thrown into watching Jill gyrate around their apartment in various states of undress while at one point she simply stands bare-ass naked against a window in a brazen attempt to provoke Adam to throw down his camera and give her the intimacy that she longs for. “Get over here and put your dick in me” – Adam obeys, camera in hand, as we watch Jill writhe in ecstasy with the satisfaction of being able to control her subservient boyfriend.

More relentless intercourse ensues as our horny twosome decide to get together in an underground car park, but with the appearance of a homeless guy who fancies a bit of dogging it seems to ruin the mood. This is the point at which our loving couple decide to utilise the fabled Linda Vista Community Hospital (used in Reel Evil) to continue their slutty activities. Initially a general perusal of the facilities ensues, but it’s not long before our amorous two-some have found a bed complete with restraints and predictably feel the need to utilise them. With Jill strapped down, Adam offers to have sex with her – but instead ultimately decides to play a practical joke and leave her for a short while helpless, restrained and alone. Nice guy.Morning arrives and the salacious pairing venture outside to find their car towed. They call friends who upon arrival hatch the brilliant idea to go back inside the hospital. At this point the reviewer picks up his laptop and bites into it in sheer frustration at the narratives absurdity.

SX TAPE 003This is such a generic movie. The two leads are annoyingly vapid with their regular forays into lewd behaviour. We learn nothing about them – be it why the barely seen Adam carries a camera at all times, or why Jill pursues an artistic career yet seems intent on fulfilling a latent sexual desire for promiscuity. It just seems as though screenwriter Eric Reese had the location in mind first then desperately felt the need to shoehorn in a vague semblance of a plot. Whether this is accurate or not it’s a tiresome, turgid, stinker of a film with little to recommend.

For Bernard Rose to be attached you really have to question his reasoning. Then again a cursory glance at IMDb highlights that this film registered twice (and more) the level of interest as the awesome Boxing Day (2012), so I guess as a career enhancer a sex-obsessed abandoned hospital set piece of trash will probably get you a better gig than an immaculately shot Tolstoy based masterpiece. That’s Hollywood.

2 out of 10