Rating: 4/5 Stars
While the crime-horror subject for 2014’s Deliver Us From Evil is not new, it is distinguished by the fact that the story is based on secret police journals of actual events, and the police are a part of civil society not normally known to put much stock on the supernatural as a purveyor of crime. The film, released last July 2, follows the specific timeline when New York City cop Ralph Sarchie is involved both on a professional and personal level with a criminal case involving a bunch of NYC demoniacs or devil worshippers. It is distributed by Sony Pictures and was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by Scott Derrickson, an experienced hand who has given some noteworthy films in the genre. Paul Harris Boardman co-wrote the screenplay.
The non-fiction work for the film is called Beware the Night but this was changed to Deliver Us From Evil, a move that critics viewed as a typical Hollywood search for a bland but popular title. In any case, the story is far from being bland, and horror is not a subject with wholesome tags. The main role for the film, that of Detective Ralph Sarchie, is well-played by Eric Bana, who was actually the second choice for the role after Mark Wahlberg. The criminal and supernatural aspects are very well-delineated and are mixed seamlessly in both storyline and plotting. The film does not have the visual or technical pyrotechnics and globe-eating villains of more recent horror blockbusters, but it is as chilling and suspenseful. The more obvious production aspects of supernatural horror films are much in display, and while critics score this in the negative, in my opinion, the intent was to establish all the supernatural fixings and proceed to up the psychological tension/s from there. It works well in the film, and in a genre which is recognized more for screaming, eye-popping and horrified faces and not good acting, Derrickson makes his cast develop with a delicacy from out of their safe middle-class habits into intuitive realisation and the related character developments that gradually become aware of evil in the night. We can thank Eric Bana for helping tell the tale of Ralph Sarchie with his brilliant acting.
The NYC cop join forces with a Castilian priest named Mendoza (played by Edgar Ramirez), who is trained by the church for exorcism and the detection of demonic activities. New York is a place where the rise of a demoniac criminal cult is not surprising, but the Satanic cult practises seen here are ones that you can believe are actually practised where the sons of Satan are. The cries from their victims are very real, and are probably happening anywhere in the world. Filmed mainly in NYC, the production also took some shooting days at Abu Dhabi’s Liwa Oasis. It earned some $9.5 million in its opening weekend, and placed fourth in the rankings during that period. It is a very respectable performance for this not-run of the mill production – the average layman may not have knowledge of the police procedurals involving the supernatural developed by Ralphs Sarchie, Father Mendoza and the NYPD, and in this film we see that crime in any world is a horrible thing that law enforcers are tasked to stop at the expense of their sanity, relationships and their normal lives.