Saturday, July 5, 2014

Deliver Us From Evil


Itend to ignore the based on a true story or inspired by true events tagline when I see them.  That should be a given when watching "Deliver Us From Evil" as one must remember that this is a Jerry Bruckheimer production.  Scott Derrickson, the man who directed "The Exorcism of Emily Rose," "Sinister," and the direct to DVD "Hellraiser: Inferno" brings us a very loose adaptation of  former NYPD officer Ralph Sarchie's exploits in investigating demonic events as chronicled in his 2001 book "Beware the Night."  The film's title comes from the last petition of "The Lord's Prayer," or known to Catholics as the "Our Father."  Libera nos a malo.  While Sarchie's book contains several stories of demonic possession, none of cases is actually tied together as they are in the film. 

Australian actor Eric Bana ("Star Trek," "Hanna," "Troy") plays Ralph who is going through a crisis of faith while investigating a series of murders.  Venezuelan actor Edgar Ramirez ("Domino," "The Bourne Ultimatum") also stars as a rouge Catholic priest who enlists Sarchie's help in fighting demons.  Olivia Munn ("Magic Mike") co-stars as Sarchie's wife Jen, and the wisecracking Joel McHale ("The Soup") is Ralph's partner Butler.  While watching "Deliver Us From Evil," I thought back to the 1970's TV show "Kolchak: The Night Stalker."  Melding the Crime genre with Religious Horror, Derrickson and Emily Rose collaborator Paul Harris Boardman tell us on a two-hour demon hunting tales.  Rated R for violent subjects, littered with street language and the dark hideous things that lurk in the shadows. 

Three U.S. soldiers fighting in Operation Reaper in Diyala Iraq back in 2010 stumble upon the entrance to some catacombs in a jungle oasis near the desert.  Like "The Exorcist's" Pazuzu, in the Cradle of Civilization resides an ancient evil that changes the three soldier's lives.  Three years later, we find ourselves in the violent Bronx's 46th Precinct, late at night following Sgt. Sarchie as the coroner takes charge of a dead baby.  Sarchie has his own child, 5 year-old daughter Christina (Lulu Wilson) and the death of a child is hard on him.  Apparently Ralph has a thing his partner calls Radar -- in other words, a nose for trouble.  Sarchie and Butler take on cases that range from an apparently crazy woman who throws her young child into a moat at the zoo.  A former Marine who has bout of PTSD who beats his wife and an Italian immigrant family whose house seems to be haunted.  In all these investigations Sarchie, encounters narrow hallways, dark places, scary music, the low rumble of doom, and flashlights that never seem to work when you need them. 

Those of us who watch a lot of "CSI," and "Criminal Minds" will recognize the familiar pattern of procedural investigation that Sarchie and Butler proceed from.  The two begin tying things together when they investigate Jimmy (Chris Coy) the wife beater first.  During Sarchie's examination of Jimmy's office, Ralph discovers that the painters have painted up a wall that had a Persian-Latin inscription that Jimmy and his two-war buddies found in the ancient catacomb.  While watching some of Jimmy's helmet-cam video, he watches as Santino (Sean Harris) led Jimmy and Griggs (Scott Johnsen) into the catacombs and to a wall with the same inscription on it.  The three were all dishonorably discharged for attacking a chaplain after their encounter with something in the tombs.  They find Griggs dead in the Italian immigrants family’s house and he was the husband of Jane (Olivia Horton), the woman now locked up in a mental ward for the kid-tossing incident at the zoo.  While investigating Griggs apartment, not only do they find the place infested with cockroaches but that unholy relics hang on the wall.  The puzzle starts to come together.  

 “A saint is not a moral exemplar.  A saint is a life-giver."  - Father Joseph Mendoza

Enter Father Joseph Mendoza (Ramirez) who helps Sarchie and Butler with more than just a motive, but a reason for these outbursts of insanity.  Sarchie starts out as a skeptic, a Catholic who has lost faith in humanity and himself.  His years on the force have sliced away his hope for humanity and any hope for his own should.  Mendoza is the drinking, smoking, and boxing kind of priest who helps Ralph deal with his guilt.  Mendoza warns Ralph that the demonic spirits will use his guilt against him.  The part of Father Mendoza is a combination of several real life characters drawn from Sarchie's past, and a Venezuelan priest that Edgar Ramirez once knew.  Ramirez shapes his character as a plain, simple, and humble man who has stripped himself of false piety before Christ and is neither a slayer of demons but a man who helps his friends.  He implores Ralph to confess his sins and strengthen his soul in preparation of doing "the Work."  In trying to reach past Ralph's lack of faith and his skepticism, Mendoza points out the problem of good verses the problem of evil.  While sitting in a restaurant that caters to FDYN he points out even with all the evil in the world, what possesses men to sacrifice their lives for others in times crisis.

“Vengeance always destroys the avenger.”  - Father Joseph Mendoza

There is another aspect to "Deliver Us From Evil" that strikes at the very heart of the home.  Literally.  As Ralph is tuned to the paranormal, there is a danger of the paranormal following him home.  As we saw in the "Exorcist," that opening oneself to welcoming the supernatural into your life could have tragic outcomes.  In this case, because of his work, something is haunting Ralph's daughter.  In the scenes concerning his young child we learn the sad truth that Jack in Boxes and stuffed owls are creepy.  As Derrickson gives us plausible reasons for seemingly strange and creepy phenomena, including the possible psychosis of the soldiers, alternatively, the evidence for possession builds.  As a father and a husband, the psychological cost of focusing too deeply on his work strains his relationship with his wife and child.  As his daughter, Christine, feels threatened by some malignant force stalking her, Jen believes Ralph’s mental state is affecting their daughter.  In Scott Derrickson's "Sinister," Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) seemingly opens himself to the demonic by watching the evils committed upon past victims of the demon Bughuul, The Eater of Children.  Like Ralph Sarchie, the spiritual and psychological effects of his work affect not only him, but his family as well.

"Made the scene, week to week. Day to day, hour to hour. The gate is straight, deep and wide.Break on through to the other side."  - The Doors

Christopher Young's scoring brings out the ambiance of utter dread.  Adding to the mood are the ethereal sounds of Atrium Carceri.  Tying the film together and providing the musical cues to the motives of the possessed are selected cuts from The Doors.  Tracks include "Break on Through," "Soul Kitchen," "People Are Strange," and from their last album, "Riders on the Storm."  The breaking on through that Morrison referred to in the song was about tearing down the walls from one level of consciousness to another. However, in the film, Boardman and Derrickson, mean breaking down gates to hell.  Similar in fashion Boris Balkan's attempt to open the gates to hell in the 1999 Johnny Depp paranormal thriller "The Ninth Gate."  Cinematographer Scott Kevan (“The Losers,” “Underworld: Awakening,” “Cabin Fever”) sets the visual mood very well. Imagine the image of a hooded Santino, face marked in blood while standing backlit in the rain as "Riders on the Storm." plays in the background.  The image is creepy. 

 Ralph Sarchie not only writes novels, he is also associated with The New England Society For Psychic Research ran by Lorraine and the late Ed Warren.  Ralph started a chapter of the Psychic Research center in New York City.  If you remember, last year in "The Conjuring," Vera Farmiga from "The Orphan," "Source Code" stars as Lorraine Warren.  Patrick Wilson who starred in "Insidious," "Passengers" and "Watchmen," played her husband Ed. Last year, James Wan did a marvelous job of invoking the sense of fear and dread throughout the whole film.  What gave "The Exorcist" its ultimate horror was that we get to know Regan first as a young innocent preteen girl before the procession.  Then the horror grew as each time we met her in her possessed, peas vomiting, head turning Pazuzu self.  

In "Deliver Us From Evil," we get three possessions for the price of one, but we don't really get to focus on any of them.  Instead, Derrickson gives us a character study of a troubled cop (what cop isn't troubled), trying to deal with the secondary evils of man when he comes head on with primary evil of the the demonic kind. Some folks are going to hate this film while others will find it scary and intense.  For me, “Deliver Us From Evil" is a better than average demonic exorcism flick, with solid character development, excellent acting by Edgar Ramirez and a decent Bronx accent delivered by Eric Bana.  Munn and Hale give strong performances and Derrickson, builds a decent story, but the ending felt a bit rushed.  Although Derrickson does a mighty fine job of building tension and conjuring up a sense of fear, the ending leaves something to be desired.  The name of the demon Jungler is barely audible when Santino finally chokes out the name.  Who the hell is Jungler?  There are no offerings of where or who this demon is but only hints.  Where do the demons go once exorcised from the victim?  None of these questions has answers leaving the viewer unfulfilled at worst, and intrigued at best.  

"Deliver Us From Evil"  is in theaters, July 2, 2014. 


Deliver Us From Evil: What Do You Believe
Deliver Us From Evil: Beware the Night

Movie Data

Genre: Crime, Horror, Thriller
Year:  2014
Staring: Eric Bana, Édgar Ramírez, Olivia Munn, Sean Harris, Joel McHale
Director: Scott Derrickson 
Producer(s): Jerry Bruckheimer
Writer: Scott Derrickson, Paul Harris Boardman, Ralph Sarchie, Lisa Collier Cool
Rating: R
Running Time: 118 minutes
Release Date:  7/2/2014

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