In Scott Derrickson’s savage and grisly supernatural film, Deliver Us From Evil, Eric Bana portrays troubled NYPD officer Ralph Sarchie, who discovers that he possesses the unique ability to recognize pure evil in human form. Considering that it’s being released during the height of the summer blockbuster season, Deliver Us From Evil is some pretty great counter-programming to all the spectacle films that are currently playing theaters everywhere. It’s very rare to see thoughtful, well-made and truly scary movies being released as it is these days, but Derrickson’s Deliver Us From Evil is everything you could hope for and then some.
Deliver Us From Evil introduces us to Sarchie, accompanied by a wise-cracking partner named Butler (Joel McHale), as he initially responds to what seems like a typical case of domestic disturbance. As it turns out, there’s something far more sinister and evil going on, which neither officer could have ever been prepared for. As more bizarre occurrences in Brooklyn begin to unfold, Sarchie realizes that there is something otherworldly at play, forcing the cynical sergeant to recruit the assistance of the recovering addict-turned-priest Father Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez). Mendoza, who has seen his share of evil over the years, recognizes that a good ol’ fashioned exorcism might be exactly what is needed to put an end to this case and help Sarchie stop the unimaginable and unexplainable horrors that are plaguing the streets of NYC.
The story itself is compelling and often shockingly entertaining, but what cements Deliver Us From Evil as an engaging horror experience are the top-notch performances from Bana, Ramirez and McHale (who sheds his TV personas here with a turn that’s surprisingly badass). However, it’s evident from the very beginning that Deliver Us From Evil is clearly Bana’s show, with the Aussie delivering a wonderfully understated portrayal of a man struggling to keep fighting the good fight even when the odds seem totally against him. Ramirez’s performance as Mendoza almost steals the show from Bana with a moody and mesmerizing turn that's instantly likable and adds a bit of weight to every scene he shows up in.
It’s evident that a major concern for Derrickson as a storyteller was making sure that not only did he create realistic characters in Deliver Us From Evil, but ones that also felt wholly realistic and tangible as well. I can’t think of many genre filmmakers today who can tackle humanity and all its flaws like Derrickson can and his latest directorial efforts here are just further evidence of why his special breed of horror is so necessary today.
Derrickson also does an admirable job of using genuine scares in Deliver Us From Evil for a story that is often jarring and unsettling (the exorcism scene in particular has some wonderfully creepy and cringe-worthy moments of terror that I actually had to avert my eyes from- twice). Derrickson smartly leaves his opinions and his own beliefs as to whether or not supernatural phenomena Ralph faces throughout his investigations does in fact exist. Rather, Derrickson presents the film’s events as factually as possible in the eyes of its main character and it’s that lack of judgment on the material that makes Deliver Us From Evil an effectively chilling experience.
Utilizing a keen sense for evolving tension, Derrickson’s Deliver Us From Evil is precisely the kind of “grown up” genre film that the summer movie season seems to be lacking as of late. It’s a refreshingly taut and intelligently made punch in the arm for a subgenre that so desperately needed it. Horror fans looking for something more than oversized robots and comic book movies to keep them entertained this summer should look no further than Deliver Us From Evil, as Derrickson proves once again that there are still scares to be had on the big screen.
Movie Score: 4/5