Deliver Us From Evil
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment – 2014
Directed by Scott Derrickson
Written by Scott Derrickson & Paul Harris Boardman
Filmmaker Scott Derrickson (Sinister, The Exorcism of Emily Rose) is very smart. He understands the most important part of a good horror film is the people, the characters. It’s not about flashy visual effects, tons of action or loads of gore.
Think about it. How much screen time did John Carpenter give “The Shape” (Michael Myers) in Halloween? He focused on Laurie, Annie, Lynda and Dr. Sam Loomis. Did Ridley Scott really show the alien that much in Alien? The centre of his attention was Ripley, Dallas, Lambert, Parker, Brett and Ash. Did Steven Spielberg allocate inordinate amount of time on the shark in Jaws? No, it was all about Matt Hooper, Martin Brody and Quint.
Deliver Us From Evil is a gripping, supremely well-acted and directed horror film grounded in reality. Inspired by the actual accounts of New York Police Detective Ralph Sarchie, we are taken into the crime ridden streets of the South Bronx to experience life. We see that Detective Sarchie (Eric Bana) and his partner Butler (Joel McHale) are called to investigate scratching noises coming from the basement of a family. Derrickson doesn’t have the hardened; maybe even jaded police officers jump to any far-fetched conclusions as they investigate the basement and find some things that would rattle most people. This is such an intelligent approach because as you settle in that the movie feels reality based, once the something supernatural occurs its impact is magnified.
I don’t want to give anything away from the thrilling experience this movie gives. I value that too much to do. What I will say that everything is well-thought out and given the most serious treatment a great horror film deserves.
The cast is absolutely, positively dynamite. I completely believed Eric Bana as a tough as nails detective fighting in the world’s most dangerous neighborhood. A place where there are situations that would stop most people from going there. But Detective Sarchie has a job to do and is on a mission to make the world a better place. He’s a big-time screen hero that many will admire. Bana physically looks the part and his connection with giving the part depth was amazing to behold.
Edgar Ramirez was a brilliant choice by Derrickson to play the unconventional priest, schooled in the rituals of exorcism. There are some dialogue scenes of acting in the highest order that blew me away. Quiet scenes done with incredible restraint that reminded me of similar performances in Michael Mann’s Heat.
Sean Harris is phenomenal as the possessed soldier who’s brought havoc back to the Bronx from an incident he and two others sustained while fighting in Iraq. Harris uses every bit of his physicality and acting ability to convey he is being used by a wicked dark force without even knowing it. The way Derrickson stages his scenes are creepy, grounded and powerful.
I was pretty much blown away with Joel McHale. The comedy talk show host presents a totally different side of himself and a tough, knife-wielding police officer who could handle almost any situation. I completely bought him as a badass cop who is an expert knife handler and Detective Sarchie’s partner. I’d even call this a breakout role for the actor.
I don’t always get excited about listening to audio commentaries, because most current movies don’t deserve such a listenable track. But after seeing this modern masterpiece, I was more than interested in hearing the Audio Commentary by Director Scott Derrickson and the filmmaker didn’t disappoint. It was fascinating to hear Derrickson tell how he first got involved on this project. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer had Derrickson adapt former NYPD Officer Ralph Sarchie’s novel Beware the Night. While Derrickson was researching the book, he got to know Ralph Sarchie very well and was more than impressed with Sarchie’s track record as a cop and learning about the situations he experienced. Sarchie turned Derrickson onto different demonic possession books and events. When Beware the Night got caught up in development hell, Derrickson used one of these books as the basis for his film The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Derrickson says that after the success of Sinister, Sony asked him what he wanted to do and he said make Beware the Night, which title was changed to Deliver Us From Evil.
Another Special Feature is Illuminating Evil: Making Delver Us From Evil. This thorough mini doc (just over 13 minutes long) addresses the most important aspects of what went into making this film. Cast and key crew talk about their work and I enjoyed it all.
There are three Blu-ray Exclusives. Deliver Us From Demons is an 8-minute look at the special make-up design for “Santino” and how involved it was to apply. Since it took 8 hours to do, actor Sean Harris would even resort to sleeping in the make-up to avoid going through the long process. Scott Derrickson makes it very clear that Harris was just as committed to whatever it took as Special Make-up Effects artist Michael Marino. The Two Sergeants discusses the difference between the real Ralph Sarchie and the character in the movie. Sarchie clearly states he never murdered anyone, but understood the reason for the film containing it. Eric Bana talks in detail how he played the character and Scott Derrickson details how the two worked together on set. The Demon Detective is a 9-minute piece going over Ralph Sarchie’s work as a demonologist. What I liked most about this is when Sarchie admits that when he was young he was bullied and since then doesn’t like bullies. He said the Devil is the ultimate bully, so that’s why he stands up against him. Sarchie also makes it quite clear that he doesn’t think about Satan all the time but rather God and all his goodness. That’s really what he’s all about.
Deliver Us From Evil is exactly the type of movie I always hope to see. Masterful direction of strong actors playing well-written characters, telling a dramatic, suspenseful story that engrosses you for the entire duration. It honestly doesn’t get much better than this.