Starring: Eric Bana, Édgar Ramírez, Olivia Munn
Director: Scott Derrickson
Screenplay: Scott Derrickson, Paul Harris Boardman
Crime/Horror/Thriller, Rated: R
Running Time: 118 minutes
Release Date: July 2, 2014
Sarchie & Mendoza: Duo, P-PP Emotional, Pro (Classic Buddy Heroes)
Satan: Single, N-N Moral, Ant (Untransformed Pure Evil Mastermind Villain)
Scott, I was afraid I’d want to be delivered from this film. But it wasn’t bad.
There were some bad odors, Greg. Straight from the bowels of hell. Let’s recap.
We’re introduced to Bronx Police Officer Sarchie (Eric Bana) and his partner Butler (Joel McHale). The duo are investigating a strange event at the zoo. A woman has thrown her child into the moat surrounding the lion’s pit. A strange hooded man (Sean Harris) is painting the walls of the pit when Sarchie gives chase. The man escapes but not before he sicks the lions on Sarchie.
Sarchie escapes harm and discovers that the hooded man, named Santini, was painting over the same kind of cryptic Latin writing that was found at another crime scene. Sarchie meets an unconventional Catholic priest named Mendoza (Édgar Ramírez) who has spent years hunting down violent demonic spirits at work in the city. Skeptical at first, Sarchie ultimately becomes convinced, and he teams with Mendoza in hunting down and expelling the malevolent spirit that has taken over Santini’s body.
Scott, I’m not a fan of horror movies. I find they use cheap tricks to pull you in and then throw things into your face (in 3D, quite literally). They are all about shock value and appeal to the basic fears we all tuck away inside our reptilian brain. I just don’t find that entertaining.
But Deliver Us From Evil really had me in its grip right from the beginning. It is based on Sarchie’s actual experiences on the streets of New York City which makes it all the more compelling. Unlike last year’s The Conjuring, Deliver Us is a smart and compelling story that makes the unbeliever think twice about dismissing the demonic world.
I agree, Greg, that Deliver Us From Evil is a more effective horror movie than last year’s The Conjuring. There are several things working in its favor, and chief among them are stellar performances by Bana and Ramirez, an unlikely pairing with great chemistry. Their terrific acting delivers us from boredom, which is the worst kind of evil for us movie critics.
This film also scores high on the creep-o-meter scale. Yes, there are the usual assortment of cheap frights and false scares, but there are enough meaty, gruesome chills and thrills to keep us in terrific suspense. Deliver Us From Evil knows how to yank our chain in all the right ways.
Oh yeah, like the corpse that was found behind a wall that had been sitting there for two weeks. It was all full of gruesome flies and maggots – perfectly hideous.
I compare all horror movies to the classic The Exorcist and the two films shared many features in common. There was the little girl that was stalked by evil demons. There was the unlikely priest who specialized in demonic possession. An evil demon that just couldn’t leave people alone. And a great exorcism in the end.
Eric Bana performed well as the NYC cop with a Jersey accent. He starts out as a skeptic and is slowly turned into believer. He’s a tortured soul with a deep secret that will be his undoing as the demon can use it against him. He’s a good hero character as he lives to protect and serve not just the people of New York, but also his little family. While he has a partner in the form of police officer Butler, this is more of a Hero and Sidekick affair rather than a buddy cop film. In fact, Mendoza (the priest) works out as the Mentor, leading Sarchie around the special world of demons and possession. Ultimately, though, it looks like Mendoza graduates from his Mentor role into one of the buddy.
You’ve put your finger on a very complex social relationship between Sarchie and Mendoza, one that almost defies categorization. There are elements of mentorship, buddy heroism, and side-kickery here. In the end, they are two men with equal status who have complementary strengths — Sarchie is the law enforcement expert while Mendoza has the PhD in demonology. In this movie, Sarchie assumes more of the primary hero role, and he in fact is the one who undergoes the greatest transformation on his journey here.
The villains in Deliver Us From Evil are an interesting assortment of hellish henchmen of Satan, or of one of Satan’s main operatives. In other reviews of movies released in 2014, we’ve discussed a common pattern of villainy that features a central mastermind villain who outsources his evil tasks to underlings who do all the dirty work. This film appears to follow that same pattern, as poor Santino and two other characters are compelled by devilish forces to perform horrific acts. There isn’t a lot of depth to the villains in this movie, nor is there much backstory. Still, they are effective in their own bloodthirsty way.
I liked that the demon in this film is not always an unseen evil. Santino’s possession gives us something to focus on as the villain in the story. But as you point out, there isn’t much depth here. I don’t think they ever even named the demon – only that it came from Iraq.
As I said, I was pleasantly surprised by this film. It had more characterization than other films of the genre and the acting was pretty good. I can happily give it 3 out of 5 Reels for keeping me interested and a little grossed out without stepping over the line that makes most horror films look ridiculous.
The hero is nicely molded here. He’s a good cop and a good father who is stretched to his limits. He has a dark backstory and a strong desire to do right. He overcomes his past transgressions and is redeemed in the end. A very nice hero’s journey that I can give 3 out of 5 Heroes.
The villain is pretty nasty and performs as the typical mastermind/puppeteer that we see in most films these days. We don’t get much detail about why the demons exist or what their goals are – they’re just evil. This is a pretty unidimensional evil and I award just 2 Villains out of 5 for the possessed Santini.
Deliver Us From Evil delivers exactly what you’d expect — a scary, creepy story of demonic possession that derives much of its appeal from the claim that it is based on a true story. There’s not a lot of new ground broken here, but I was captivated by the outstanding performances of our two unlikely buddy heroes and by the strong “ick” factor in several scenes involving various gooey bodily fluids. Like you, Greg, I believe that this film deserves 3 solid Reels out of 5.
The complex relationship between our two heroes is fun to watch, as each brings different strengths to the game and grow in their interdependence. With help from Mendoza, Sarchie’s heroic transformation unfolds before our eyes and is absolutely necessary for him to crack the case. The heroes are a commendable pairing, thus producing a rating of 3 Heroes out of 5.
As you point out, Greg, the villain here isn’t developed terribly well or with much depth, but then again we neither expect nor want a movie that delves into Satan’s childhood woes that led to his evil lifestyle. All we really crave is for Satan to behaviorally manifest his bad-ass ways, which this movie allows him to do with gory flair. A rating of 2 Villains out of 5 seems about right here.