So far it’s been a weak year for horror in 2014 no doubt. Yet I am a sucker for a good horror film and I have searched high and low for good ones this year (so far I’ve only found “Oculus”). In fact a lot of my top ten worst films of the year are horror movies, which as a horror fan it saddens me. I actually wasn’t going to review this, but I’m ahead on most of my reviews and articles so since it’s still 2014 I thought it was fitting I go back and review yet another horror film, “Deliver Us From Evil”.
This wasn’t exactly most see entertainment for me, in fact I have many more other films I’d rather see right now than this, but I rented it and decided to give it a shot since I missed it in theaters. Does “Deliver Us From Evil” help cure the year of bad horror films? Well not quite; this is better than most of the wide release horror films this year (which isn’t saying much) and does have good acting, some memorable scenes and solid directing by veteran horror director Scott Derrickson. Yet the film is still a mess, it’s way too long, logic gaps, and many points can’t decide if it wants to be a cop movie or a horror movie.
New York police officer Ralph Sarchie investigates a series of crimes and realizes that there are super natural forces taking hold of the city. He joins forces with an unconventional priest to combat the possessions that are terrorizing their city
This is no different than most of the countless other horror films based on a true story (where the real accounts are much different). Yet “Deliver Us From Evil” isn’t here to give us a history lesson but strives to entertain us with a much a smarter script than real life can provide. Right? Wrong…well mostly wrong. The screenwriters do a good job of trying to make an intricate mystery that actually does involve detective work and is appealing to watch on screen. This helps bring in the real life detective work of the police officers and give us a surprising less clichéd storyline to follow.
The problems begin to stem when the writers try to blend police procedural with a horror elements. When you think about some of the most famous works where the two genres intersect the movies come off more as thrillers than horror. “Silence of the Lambs” maybe its beating heart is a horror film but it never shows, and instead feels much more psychological instead outright terrifying. The same can be said for David Fincher’s masterwork “Seven”. Here in “Deliver Us From Evil” the film can’t reconcile the two halves because it’s almost as if it has two beating hearts with the troupes of the same genre.
In the cop portion, this comes across in some moments as a long episode of “Criminal Minds” while also have those clichés we’ve become all to accustom to in the genre. The wife upset at her husband who spends so much time at work instead of at home, the cop taking his work home with him, the buddy cop formula it’s stuff we’ve all seen before. Attempting to mix with horror elements at times makes it much more bearable but it becomes tedious after a while. Then it’s doesn’t help that all the horror elements are essentially tried and true tropes as well. The loud jump scares, the exorcism scene, the never ending rain, again all stuff we’ve seen before. Like I said before though, the attempt to mix it with another genre does sometimes help it but at the end of the day there are two separate and distinct tones that clash up against one another and make for an uneven experience. To make it all worse it doesn’t excel at either one of them. It’s not the best cop movie around, it’s not the best horror movie around and it’s not the best mix of the two. Instead the movie settles for mediocre with both.
Veteran director Scott Derrickson does help elevate the film from time to time. An obvious talent to the genre (I did love “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” and “Sinister”) and knows how to create some memorable scenes. There is a scene where two cops are chasing a possessed man through a building that actually equals part thrilling as it is terrifying. He is able to get a few scares out of us with a couple perfectly placed jump scares and the Exorcism scene may have gone on for far too long but it sure did have its moment.
After a while though it seems like he feels too comfortable with this film. The movie comes across like someone going “okay I need to hit this horror beat and this horror beat”. It’s like a magician trying to show us the same tricks again and again and again. It was cool the first two times but by the third it feels tired and lazy. One of the reasons I loved the chase scene so much is because it showed Derrickson flexing his creative muscles and tried his hardest to marry the two genres of horror and crime together and for that short period of time it worked. For the rest, he seemed to be going through the motions.
One of the saving graces of this film is the well rounded cast that Derrickson and his team managed to bring together. Eric Bana always can command the screen, and carry a film on his back and that’s exactly what he does here; along with excellent chemistry with his co-stars Édgar Ramírez (a breakout performance for him as a priest) and Olivia Munn, and also his partner in the NYPD, Joel Mchale . A common sin of Horror films is bad acting and “Deliver us from Evil” avoids that pitfall.
I wanted to love this film and give it a positive rating; it did have many strengths to the film but the entirety of it is very uneven and divisive . The fact that I liked this than almost all other horror films I’ve seen this year is a testament to their quality.