In “Deliver Us From Evil” Eric Bana is Sarchie, an NYPD cop partnered with Butler (Joel McHale), his wisecracking sidekick.
Like Messrs. Tango and Cash, they are fearless but somewhat mismatched. Sarchie is a cop with “radar,” a nose for trouble, while Butler is a wisenheimer who, when a disheveled suspect grimaces at him, foaming at the mouth, says, “Do you think she’s single?”
A series of seemingly unrelated 911 calls—a domestic dispute, an incident at a zoo and a possible home invasion—change the story from cop drama to supernatural police procedural. Strange things happen. Holy candles won’t burn in the house of one of the 911 callers. One of the perps speaks Latin and scratches until her fingers bleed.
Skeptical at first Sarchie refuses to blame “invisible fairies” for the strange behavior, but working with a Jesuit Priest, Father Mendoza (Édgar Ramírez), Sarchie and Butler become convinced there is more at play here than just human nature.
The investigation leads them to a trio of men, (Chris Coy, Dorian Missick and Sean Harris) soldiers who returned from Iraq with PTDS (Post Traumatic Demonic Possession.) Piecing together the links becomes a dangerous job for Butler, Sarchie and even the officer’s family (Oliver Munn and daughter played by Lulu Wilson).
“Delivers Us From Evil” relies on jump scares—those “boo” moments that get your heart racing—and while a few of the jumps work, most simply deliver a jolt with nothing behind it, but there is at least one shock cat lovers are going to h-a-t-e.
There is plenty of atmosphere—apparently it rains all the time in the Bronx—and a few creepy moments—was that a snake or an old pipe?—but the truly eerie stuff is underplayed when a movie like this should be really dialing up the action.
It’s all a bit dull. There are no truly memorable moments. We’ve seen the exorcism stuff before—without the head spinning and pea soup—in everything from “The Exorcist” to “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” but the thing that really sinks the movie’s momentum aren’t the stock characters or lack of new thrills but the exposition scenes that explain the obvious. Director Scott Derrickson, who also made the considerably creepier “Sinister,” doesn’t trust the audience to follow the simple story so he has the characters walk us through it almost one line at a time.
“Deliver Us From Evil” doesn’t feel like a summer movie. Usually we look to July and August to deliver us from lame movies but this one has the feel of those horror flicks starring a familiar-but-less-than-household-name that fills up theatres in January and February.
The spooky new supernatural thriller Deliver Us From Evil sees Eric Bana play a jaded NYC police officer. “I’ve seen some horrible things,” he says, “but nothing that can’t be explained by human nature.”
That changes when he meets a renegade priest (Édgar Ramírez) who convinces him a plague of demonic possession has infected the Big Apple. Working together, they combat the evil forces with exorcism and faith.
Deliver Us From Evil is based on a nonfiction book of the same name authored by Ralph Sarchie (with Lisa Collier Cool), a sixteen-year NYPD veteran who investigates “cases of demonic possession and (assists) in the exorcisms of humanity’s most ancient—and most dangerous—foes,” in his spare time.
“Before going out on a case,” he writes, “I put aside my gun and police badge and arm myself with holy water and a relic of the True Cross.”
Sarchie’s story joins a long list of exorcism movies with roots in true events.
The Exorcist, the granddaddy of all demon possession movies, is based in part on the 1949 case of an anonymous Maryland teenager dubbed Roland Doe. He was determined by the Catholic Church to be under a diabolical spell when strange things started happening — levitating furniture and holy water vials crashing to the ground — after he played with a Ouija board.
Exorcist author William Peter Blatty first heard about Doe’s story when he was a student at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. in 1950. He drew from newspaper reports and a diary kept by the attending priest, Fr. Raymond Bishop, as the backbone of his novel.
The character of Father Lankester Merrin, the elderly priest and archeologist played by Max von Sydow in the movie, was based on British archaeologist Gerald Lankester Harding. Blatty said Harding “was the physical model in my mind when I created the character, whose first name, please note, is Lankester.”
In recent years hits like The Rite, starring Anthony Hopkins as a real life exorcist tutor, and The Exorcism of Emily Rose with Tom Wilkinson as a priest accused of murder when a young woman died during an exorcism, are based on true events.
Finally in The Possession, a haunted antique carved “Dybbuk” box — containing an evil, restless spirit — turns the behaviour of a young girl (Natasha Calis) from angelic to animalistic. The owner of the real-life box offered to send it to producer Sam Raimi but the filmmaker declined. “I didn’t want anything to do with it,” he said. “I’m scared of the thing.”