Ginger Nuts of Horror
Deliver Us From Evil (2014) Dir: Scott Derrickson
Based on the supposedly true experiences by New York police officer, Ralph Sarchie (make of that what you will), Deliver Us From Evil follows Eric Bana as the detective himself, who seems to have a knack of knowing which of the dispatch calls will result in violence, no matter the innocuous nature of the incident. His partner dubs this his 'Radar'. When one of these calls leads them to a seemingly 'simple' case of domestic violence, it kicks of a spiral of events that increasingly leads to three ex-US Marines and their encounter with something terrible in the wilds of Iraq...
First off, I thought I was going to hate this film, or at least, mildly dislike it. It seemed like yet another in a long, long line of Hollywood demonic possession flicks that have flooded the cinema and DVD shops for a number of years, most of them not very good. This expectation was somewhat mollified by the knowledge that director had helmed the previous chiller, Sinister, and whilst I felt that film had a number of flaws, it was at least an attempt to do something different within the constraints of Hollywood horror.
So I sat down to watch this. And to be honest, the first ten minutes did not fill me with confidence. There was something forced and a bit awkward with the situations and dialogue. But then, something changed. I find it difficult to say precisely what it was, but all of a sudden, I was really invested in what was happening on-screen. Perhaps it was the premise of New York cops investigating what they think are random, run-of-the-mill crimes, when in actual fact, they're dealing with the paranormal. It's something that's not been explored all that often in film and only occasionally on TV (X-Files, Fringe). Regardless, I began to really enjoy myself. I've always had a soft spot for that sort of story-telling device in books.
There were a few effective scares throughout, although most of these were the tried and tested 'jump scares'. But on a couple of occasions, the director managed to create a nice atmosphere of dread, using locations filled with shadow to his advantage (there's a scene in a basement that, while you know something is going to happen, you still feel the skin-crawl). As the film progresses, we have a natural segue from the pretence of police investigation into the realms of the supernatural. To be fair, the procedural side of the film is mostly window dressing and there isn't much in the way of real detective work, but it doesn't matter. What drives the film is Sarchie's growing realisation that he may be more than just intuitive with regards to his 'Radar'. His realisation and eventual acceptance of the demonic events is aided by his fledging friendship with unconventional priest, Mendoza (played by Edgar Ramirez).
Whilst there's nothing really all that new or original in the film, I found it very entertaining once I got past the initial opening. The acting is fine and while Bana rarely seems to reach the heights displayed in his early films, such as Chopper, he is nevertheless still engaging. It's nice to see a slightly different spin on the possession type films and I feel that this is one of the better examples of that style. I do think it requires a bit of an open mind, and a more critical mind might, for example, tear apart the way Bana and his colleagues operate (it's never really clear exactly what their unit is for), but really it's more of an experience than an exercise in authenticity, and I found the experience very effective. Not the greatest horror film I've seen, but by far, not the worst and has much to enjoy.