My love of movies is well known to those close to me, but those who really know me know my heart lies in the horror genre. There is nothing I enjoy more than a movie that can make me look over my shoulders more than once.
Just like horror movies have been my go-to option since I was child, the paranormal side of the genre has been Hollywood’s go-to option for the past few years. Sure, movie theatres have seen their fair share of zombies, vampires and slashers recently, but the supernatural has seemed to be the most common subgenre put to use. The latest film to come off of the assembly line is “Deliver Us from Evil,” the new film from director Scott Derrickson based upon the accounts of former NYPD Sergeant, now demonologist Ralph Sarchie. While “Deliver Us from Evil” may seem creepy and atmospheric enough for most moviegoers, it fails to bring anything original to the fold.
It is easy to tell that Scott Derrickson is a veteran of the horror genre, having also directed and co-written “Sinister” and “The Exorcism of Emily Rose.” In “Deliver Us from Evil,” he fills out all of the required items for most mainstream horror cinema. In addition to giving us a familiar look to its setting — a pallid, dirty view of The Bronx — the film has plenty of dark, narrow passageways and corridors, discordant noises both loud and creepily quiet and jump scares galore. Derrickson showcases his familiarity with the modern horror film formula, but this familiarity shows a content to play things safe. No matter how authentic Mr. Sarchie may claim these paranormal events to be, their use for effect — and even their existence in the first place — is fairly derivative and do not make true scares.
Even the film’s plot feels as unoriginal as its jumps and jolts. At the center of the film’s story is a classic character matchup between Sarchie and renegade priest Mendoza, played by Eric Bana and Édgar Ramírez, respectively. On one side, Sarchie is an NYPD sergeant who has lost his faith due to the nature of his job, while Mendoza is a devout priest with his own troubled past who means to guide Sarchie through his battle with the demons around him. Placing together two opposite personalities such as these represents another tired genre cliché that Derrickson is content to succumb to and is just one hint to the film’s weak writing.
Despite the film’s all-too familiar nature, there is not much that one might consider off-putting. However, given the film’s subject matter, sometimes it felt a little too pushy when advocating its own message on faith and spirituality, which may have been exacerbated by the advertising claiming that the film was based on the actual events experienced by Sarchie. This all seemed odd, since most other horror films of this nature try to appeal to a more secular audience, creating more mass appeal. Don’t get me wrong, the film does not try to ram its ideologies down your throat, but it does come across as somewhat heavy-handed.
In all likelihood, you will think of “Deliver Us from Evil” as another one of those horror films you’ve seen a million times over, unless you have ostracized yourself from society in the past few years. It might do the job for a late night movie marathon with all of the lights turned off, but it does not do anything truly interesting with the genre, which is disappointing for nerds like me. The film’s advertising made me recall a line from rock band Every Time I Die’s song “Starve an Artist, Cover Your Trash.” Singer Keith Buckley wails, “Just because it’s personal doesn’t mean it’s not cliché.” Ralph Sarchie may be attached to his story, but it was rendered derivative by the Hollywood machine.
Rating: 1.5 stars out of 4