Directed by: Scott Derrickson
Starring: Eric Bana, Édgar Ramírez, Olivia Munn, Sean Harris, Joel McHale
Ralph Sarchie (Bana) is a New York cop who throws himself into his work, to the chagrin of his long-suffering wife (Munn). Along with his boisterous partner Butler (McHale), Sarchie becomes wrapped up in investigating a series of strange occurrences across the city - a mother throws her infant child into the lion enclosure at the Bronx Zoo, a wife-beating thug appears to be possessed when confronted by cops, and a rotting corpse is found in a home in which bulbs burn out in seconds. The common link is the presence of Santino (Harris), a seemingly deranged soldier recently returned from Iraq.
Scott Derrickson's latest supernatural thriller suffers from the same issues as his previous genre offerings, The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Sinister. Derrickson has proven himself capable of building an effective atmosphere, but he insists on bringing it all crashing down with over the top jump scares and a reliance on horror cliches. Here we get a piano playing itself unaided, a noise that turns out to be a cat in a closet and a priest battling his own personal demons. All that's missing is a coroner eating his lunch in the morgue.
Things start off reasonably well, as Bana and McHale (who both, along with Munn, claim backgrounds in comedy) traverse a dimly lit and rain soaked New York that looks like it should be twinned with the unnamed city of David Fincher's Seven. This first act, in which the mysterious figure of Santino is omnipresent, is reminiscent of Larry Cohen's great 1976 thriller God Told Me To, in which a series of New Yorkers commit deity-inspired atrocities, and is eerily effective. When Ramirez's ex-junkie, now whisky swilling and chain-smoking, Jesuit priest teams up with Bana, the movie loses its momentum as it explores the faith versus skepticism argument in uninspired fashion.
The further the story progresses, the more it begins to resemble a third rate episode of The X-Files, and the climax descends into a noisy and overly bombastic riff on every exorcism movie that came before.
Deliver Us From Evil purports to be inspired by a real-life cop/priest duo in the NYPD. That sounds like the basis for a very interesting movie, but this isn't it.
By Eric Hillis