Deliver Us From Evil
This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 27th July 2014
There don’t have to be big-name film stars in a horror movie to get me into the cinema, but unless the story otherwise promises a clever, innovative conceit (like the terrific horror parody Cabin in the Woods), then the casting of actors I’ve rated highly in more general fare will get my hopes up.
With versatile Australian Eric Bana (Munich being my favourite of his showcases) and talented Venezuelan Edgar Ramirez, who has played both Che Guevara and Carlos the Jackal to accolades, even this based-on-truth story of an exorcism wasn’t enough to dull my expectations.
Alas, the only thing delivered by two hours of this turgid nonsense will be the new car Bana presumably had in mind when he signed onto the film.
Bana plays a New York cop whose paranormal ability to sense evil in the neighbourhood makes him a useful member of the force but a lousy husband and father (yep! – clichés abound, including the old “I walk through the sewer every night, I don’t want to bring it home” chestnut). Embroiled in a series of sinister cases involving missing people, “crazy” behaviour (immediately identifiable by the audience as demonic possession, but alas diagnosed a little slower by those fine upholders of the law), he meets a local priest (Ramirez) whose ways are curiously unorthodox. Together they must uncover evil deeds, but they’ll need to find a way to meet each other on the faith spectrum by sharing some background anecdotes first.
Writer-director Scott Derrickson has adapted the novel of this true story, and having dabbled already in exorcism movies (although my companion felt his The Exorcism of Emily Rose was superior to this), he’s clearly in his element. He certainly knows how to craft the aesthetic – darkness and heavy rain paint it atmospheric throughout, and the photography is often fast-paced and intense with plenty of birds’ eye (God’s eye?) camera shots. Ironically, it is lethargic editing in some key scenes which lets down the tension, and jump-scares are frequently undercut by the missing of a beat.
The couple of genuinely scary moments are undermined by a ridiculous night time caper in a zoo and some heavy signposting, Bana’s acting becoming more OTT as the minutes pass towards an underwhelming finale. My advice is there are far finer exorcism movies in the “Classic” section of your video store, and they will deliver you of a lot less cash.