Last year’s Sinister ended up being one of my favorite films of the year, and Scott Derrickson is quickly becoming one of my favorite horror directors as well. He has a way of presenting these chilling set pieces that are bone-chillingly frightening and become embedded to memory. While Deliver Us From Evil isn’t quite as effective as Sinister, it still has its moments that will stick with you for quite some time.
Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) is a New York City police officer who has seen it all from domestic abuse to child murder, but when strange things start happening around himself and his family that he can’t explain he turns to a rebellious Spanish priest named Mendoza (Édgar Ramírez) for assistance in what can only be described as supernatural.
The film opens as Detective Sarchie and his gung-ho partner Butler (Joel McHale) investigate a series of crimes that are linked to one man, Iraq soldier Santino (Sean Harris). Apparently while on tour he and his squad accidentally stumbled upon a demonic doorway and awakened something evil that they then brought back to New York. While Ralph is initially hesitant to believe in something so abstract, he is soon convinced by Mendoza that what they’re dealing with is not from this world.
Deliver Us From Evil is a slow burn that builds up the tension to the point where you’re just waiting for something, anything to happen. Eric Bana plays your standard cut-and-paste police officer aiming to change the lives of New York City’s citizens one criminal at a time. The first half of the film is more like a criminal drama than a horror film and doesn’t feature many scary moments. It does feature some random bedroom floor scratching and a creepy stuffed owl, but those are far from terrifying.
The real terrifying moments occur at the end of the film when Detective Sarchie and Mendoza have caught Santino, who by this time has carved various Latin words and symbols all over his body, and are performing an exorcism on him as he is the source of the demonic possession. The scene is well worth the wait as Sean Harris delivers a disturbing performance as they go through the various stages of the ritual. No doubt the scene will haunt your dreams for weeks to come.
Besides the exorcism, however, there isn’t all that much that stands out above all other horror films that are based on some true story. Deliver Us From Evil isn’t Scott Derrison’s best work, but the film gets some decent performances out of Édgar Ramírez and Sean Harris to make it worthwhile.