Deliver Us From Evil repeats – less successfully – the beats of many possession movies that have preceded it. But that’s not what I really want to talk about. Director Scott Derrickson has proven himself capable of effective scares before, particularly with 2012′s disturbingly grisly Sinister, and Deliver Us would certainly have been better if it had delivered in this area, but those shortcomings ultimately seem to be beside the point.
Eric Bana plays Ralph Sarchie, an NYPD officer who discovers a series of related crimes that might just have a demonic flavor to them. It turns out a crew of dishonorably discharged soldiers stumbled upon something supernatural while in Iraq. The demon they uncovered is using them to create doorways, presumably for the transport of evil spirits. And, as connoisseurs of the most obvious puns imaginable were hoping, this method is used to justify every possible diegetic inclusion of Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, and Robby Krieger.
And as luck would have it, the Doors had a thematically appropriate hit befitting their name, as we are reminded when a possessed woman is babbling the lyrics to “Break on Through (To the Other Side).” To make it overwhelmingly clear what is going on, whenever a Doors song is playing, just about every other word spoken is “door” or “doorway.” It’s like product placement run amok, in which the product being promoted is “doors.” The only reasonable conclusion is that Deliver Us From Evil is some weird experimental tribute to the Doors.
Initially, this film seems like it intends to be more than just your typical exorcism movie. It opens as a fairly straightforward buddy cop thriller featuring Sarchie and his partner Butler (Joel McHale, who doesn’t even bother to attempt a New York accent). It has a chance to be a gritty crime/supernatural horror hybrid, but it mostly ignores the former and hews too closely to the formula of the latter: Sarchie is initially skeptical about the demonic explanation, then a priest slowly convinces him, then the demon starts threatening his family, and ultimately there is a climactic exorcism.
Deliver Us is mostly disappointing, though it avoids being simply boring. It is instead weirdly fascinating, especially insofar as Sarchie and Father Mendoza (Édgar Ramirez, giving a fairly nuanced performance that doesn’t have much of an effect on the overall quality of the movie) seem to exist in a vacuum, as Sarchie’s fellow officers have essentially no idea of the supernatural truth. Also, his wife (Olivia Munn) and daughter (Lulu Wilson) are placed in peril by the demon, but with tactics that a regular human criminal could have used. McHale, meanwhile, appears to be in another movie entirely – a much better one, in which he gets to parody cop clichés and crack wise, while the characters in the movie he has stumbled onto stare stone-faced, unable to register humor.
Deliver Us From Evil Overall Rating: C
Jeff Malone is a voracious entertainment consumer and entertainment creator. He currently resides in New York City, where he is working on a Master’s in Media Studies at The New School. In addition to his pieces on TMRzoo.com, you can check out his blog (jmunney.wordpress.com), where he provides regular coverage of Community and Saturday Night Live, as well as other television, film, music, and the rest of pop culture.