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!”
A 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.
It 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.
DUFE’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.