Director/screenwriter Scott Derrickson piqued my interest way back in 2000 with Hellraiser: Inferno and won my heart with Sinister in 2012. The Exorcism of Emily Rose didn’t do much for me, but a whole lot of people really seemed to like it. He’s done some other odds and ends — including the execrable Day the Earth Stood Still remake.
Deliver Us From Evil (118 minutes) seems more like an Emily Rose afterthought than an extension of his existing body of work. Possibly this is because Derrickson actually wrote Deliver Us From Evil more than ten years ago — before the successful release of Emily Rose. After reading some interviews, it seems that after the success of that film and the success of his indie horror Sinister two years ago, he was able to re-write his original script to take advantage of an expanded budget, not to mention incorporating some new perspectives on horror.
The film is based on Beware the Night, a memoir co-authored by NYPD Sergeant Ralph Sarchie and journalist Lisa Collier Cool. Depending on your belief system, you might take the “memoir” designation more or less seriously. Sarchie wrote the source material after his retirement, and discusses anecdotes that span more than a decade. Deliver Us From Evil, on the other hand, compresses the accounts into a shorter time span, ties them together with a central demonic thread and takes a number of liberties with the story. While the narrative does touch on his relationship with the demon-fighting Bishop McKenna (Father McKenna in the film), there is no mention of his partnership with famed paranormal investigators, the Warrens, at all. That might get picked up in a sequel, but judging by the box office and critical reaction there’s not much chance of a sequel getting made.
Sergeant Sarchie (Eric Bana) is a police officer and he’s burnt out, possibly because he suffers from some sort of sunlight-deprivation depression. You see, it rains a lot in the movie version of The Bronx and he works nights. During a patrol he and his partner — wait — is that — Joel McHale from The Soup and Community playing his partner? It is. Well that’s just distracting. Anyway, they respond to a call and wind up wrestling with an abusive spouse. This case is the first in a line of increasingly disturbing calls.
Eventually, the guys end up in the Bronx Zoo. Interestingly, at least to me, this is the first movie filmed on location in the zoo since 1980’s Altered States. Hijinks ensue, and they eventually find a woman on her knees clawing desperately at the earth. It’s seriously creepy. Back at the station, Sarchie meets Father Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez). In an amusing twist, the Father is an ex-junkie who drinks, chain-smokes, does topless push-ups and checks out women in bars. I guess you’d call him a progressive?
Sarchie continues to track down leads and finds himself coming full circle, connecting the woman at the zoo to a dead body in somebody’s basement, and finally back to the domestic abuse case that opened the film.
Overall, it was a letdown after Sinister, but not entirely unenjoyable. If movies like The Conjuring are your thing, give it a try.