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Deliver Us From Evil (2014)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 10/28/2014
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/17/2014
In the recent reviews forThe Quiet Ones and The Sacrament, we discussed the need for or the lack of horror movies identifying themselves as being based on true stories. This raises another question: As horror films often concern terrible things of a supernatural nature occurring, do we really want them to be based on true stories? I know that I want tales like that to remain firmly entrenched in fiction. So, this brings us back around to, why do these movies advertise themselves as true stories? Does that make them more appealing? And does it backfire when just a modicum of research shows that there is any much truth to the "true" part? Let's tackle those ideas as we look at Deliver Us From Evil.
Deliver Us From Evil introduces us to Brooklyn Police Detective Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana), a man who is known to be fearless in the face of danger. As the film opens, Sarchie and his partner, Butler (Joel McHale) respond to a domestic violence case, where they find the suspect to be unusually strong. They then travel to the Bronx Zoo to help search for a women who throw her baby into one of the exhibits. They find her and Sarchie notices a mysterious hooded figure who flees the scene. Sarchie is then confronted by Father Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez), who takes the woman into custody, claiming that she is possessed. Sarchie has no time for this, wanting to get home to his wife, Jen (Olivia Munn), and daughter, Christina (Lulu Wilson). What Sarchie doesn't know is that these seemingly unrelated incidents are part of a wave of evil which is about to engulf Brooklyn.
OK, is Ralph Sarchie a real person? Yes. Was he really a cop in Brooklyn? Yes. Did he write a book about his experiences entitled Beware the Night? Yes. Did it have anything to do with the supernatural? No. Super-producer Jerry Bruckheimer wanted a movie which was "Serpico meets The Exorcist" and thus Sarchie's biography was co-opted to create a movie which is mostly fiction. Does the "Inspired by the Actual Accounts of an NYPD Sergeant" inspire viewers to want to see the film. That sort of advertising doesn't work on me, and it feels incredibly disingenuous when you learn that the story doesn't reflect the real-life events. Whether or not you believe it, knowing that movies like The Exorcist and The Amityville Horror are based on things that people witnessed seeing somehow makes them a bit creepier. Learning that abundant liberties were taken certainly doesn't help the case of Deliver Us From Evil.
Assuming that you don't care one way or another about how genuine the movie is, does Deliver Us From Evil offer any thrills? Not really. The story is very formulaic and there isn't anything here which we haven't seen before. I liked that the movie hit the ground running, but we don't get much characterization here and everyone is merely a stereotype -- Odd, given that at least one of the characters is based on a real person. Similarly, the movie isn't interested in explaining exactly what is going on, save for that there is some evil stuff going on. It thinks that it's being clever by tying it into the U.S. military presence in the Middle East, but they only serves as a plot point which would have been much more interesting had it been explored more.
Director Scott Derrickson brought us some somewhat unique moments in The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Sinister, but not so much here. First of all, this movie is too dark. I don't mean in tone, I mean in its look. Derrickson took David Fincher's style and ran with it. I get that the sinister forces in the film cause light sources to fail, but you mean to tell me that no one at the police station in Brooklyn bothers to turn on a light? This approach makes for a ludicrous looking movie. In addition, the pacing is very slack. Despite some action sequences, the movie is actually pretty boring, as we wait for everything to come together.
So, the real question here is, why bother? I haven't read Sarchie's book, but odds are that his real-life accounts of crime in Brooklyn would be far more intriguing than the recycled ideas we get here. Other than some cheap jump scares, the movie is dull and it's never creepy. The only real draw here is to see the typically comedic Joel McHale playing a bad-ass cop.
Deliver Us From Evil could have gotten a lot more mileage out of that owl-head thing on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image shows no notable grain and no defects from the source materials. I suppose that this is a good transfer, as we are able to make out most of the action amongst the dark photography (I imagine that the Blu-ray Disc looks better in this regard.) In the scenes which aren't too dark, the level of detail is acceptable and the depth is OK. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which delivers clear dialogue and sound effects. The surround sound effects are notable, as they offer many distinct sounds. The stereo effects are wisely used to alert the viewer to activities occurring off-screen. The subwoofer is often involved with the "shock" sounds.
The Deliver Us From Evil DVD contains only two extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Scott Derrickson. "Illuminating Evil" (14 minutes) is a making-of featurette which contains interviews with the creative team, including Author Ralph Sarchie and the cast. The piece explores the film's story, the location shooting, the characters, and the amount of realism in the story. This includes a nice amount of on-set footage.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long