Deliver Us from Evil
Preachy horror from the director of Sinister, starring Eric Bana and Joel McHale
The face of law enforcement in writer-director Scott Derrickson’s latest horror is a horribly self-righteous tough guy who finds religion and lays down his own kind of violent justice. Derrickson's fourth feature is loosely based on the memoir of ex NYPD cop turned demonologist Ralph Sarchie, who acts as the hero of this piece. After the exhilarating scares of the director's previous film Sinister, this grisly, messy mash-up of police procedural and possession horror comes as a great disappointment.
Deliver Us from Evil begins in a similar way to The Exorcist, in the Iraq desert, and also features a Jesuit priest. Unfortunately that's where the similarities end and the stupidity kicks in. We are introduced to a group of US soldiers fighting in the Iraq war, a conflict which provides the impetus for evil to infect New York City, via demonic possession, as the soldiers return home.
Joel McHale proves once again that he is not a good actor (sorry Community fans), acting as a one dimensional annoyance in his role as partner to Sarchie (played by Eric Bana, who at least turns in a decent performance). Together they investigate a series of brutal crimes which reveal a malevolent presence.
There's a heavy handed use of symbolism throughout, with a repetitive and frankly unforgivable use of The Doors songs to – wait for it – signify that a gateway has been opened and the devil is in town. The film speaks down to its audience through a slog of a screenplay, which also throws way too much in, resulting in considerable confusion. To its credit, the gore and prosthetics are masterfully handled, making for a few gag-inducing moments.
Derrickson has a proclivity to imbue his leading men with dubious morals, but this turns out to be the most interesting aspect of an otherwise muddled film. The strong religious overtones are to be expected, but the way religion is depicted purely as a force for good comes across as distractingly preachy; it's a message delivered with all the nuance and balance of Fox News.
General release from Fri 22 Aug.