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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Deliver Us from Evil 2014 * * Stars

Deliver Us from EvilDirector: Scott Derrickson
Year: 2014
Rated R
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: Eric Bana, Edgar Ramirez, Olivia Munn

Deliver Us from Evil is yet another horror film that's based on a true story (aren't they all). And if you pay really close attention to a couple of scenes, you'll notice that its star Eric Bana, looks a lot like Jason Miller's character from 1973's classic, The Exorcist (mainly when his face falls into a dark shadow). A subtle nod perhaps? Maybe. But what's the point? There have been at least twenty plus exorcism movies to venture into theaters since Linda Blair spewed green pea soup all over Max Von Sydow's light rimmed glasses. Basically "Deliver" is just another one in that stylistic, empty assembly line. What starts off promisingly as a campy mixture of cops and robbers and demons and such, becomes uneven while eventually running out of steam. Oh and I almost forgot, it's not really scary despite some grotesque images (a slaughtered cat nailed to a crucifix not to mention a man with flies coming out of his eyes, how lovely) and a few standardized jolts. No my drive home after the screening by which I almost hit a deer, now that's scary.

With a blink or you'll miss it moment referencing Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, two zooming shots that might make William Friedkin proud, and video monitoring scenes that had me conjuring up images from John Carpenter's Prince of DarknessDeliver Us from Evil begins with a desert war sequence in Iraq. Three soldiers go into an underground cavern and detect an evil presence in the form of bats. Three years later they come home from the war only to find themselves crazily possessed in modern day Brooklyn, New York. For reasons unknown, they pass the evil residue on to their wives and other loved ones. And it's up to a gruff, no-nonsense cop named Ralph Sarchie (played with a strained, forced NY accent by AWOL actor Eric Bana) to save the day. He is aided by his partner Butler (played by an unrecognizable Joel McHale who provides some comic relief in spades) and a Spanish priest named Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez from 2005's Domino). As things progress, Sarchie because of his amazing hunches as a ranking officer, attains the gift of seeing and hearing things that no one else is capable of. That leads him to confront a demonic entity that looks to attack his wife and child.

"Deliver" is goofy, confusing, and generally fast paced. At times it can make you cringe one minute while laughing the next. But with a ton of build up concluding with an all too familiar exorcism (in a padded, police interrogation room of all places), this film is only worthy as a rental to go along with five leftover slices of pizza and a six pack. The lowest point: The dialogue containing exchanges so inept and trite, they could have been written on napkins. And finally, there's something that lingered with me as I viewed this sloshy hour and 58 minutes of running time. I was constantly reminded of the 1990 Lou Diamond Phillips vehicle entitled The First Power. It surely wasn't a masterpiece but at least it had the generosity of telling a straight story as opposed to this mess. "Deliver" simply jumps from one scene to another without warning. Disjointed and garbled? Oh you betcha.

Overall, Deliver Us from Evil throws at us a lot of subplots about demonic possession, the occult, and mind numbing references to the music of The Doors (I love The Doors just as much as anyone else but this became laughable, tired, and annoying really quick). If anything, it suffers from having too many ideas in roughly two hours. Because the filmmakers can't tie all these ideas together, well the result is to tack on a quick, tidy ending making your inevitable theater exit unsatisfying. Director Scott Derrickson I guess, seems awfully bent on making a lot more movies about quote unquote, "the evil that men do". Let's hope he finds his footing and "delivers" something better the next time around.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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