Cinema Spotlight on Scott Derrickson Part IV: ‘Deliver Us From Evil’
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With three films under his belt, including the successful ghost story Sinister, Scott Derrickson collaborates with film and television producer Jerry Bruckheimer (whose extensive resumé includes the television crime drama CSI and the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise) and screenwriter Paul Harris Boardman (previously worked with on The Exorcism of Emily Rose) as we return to the exorcism genre in Derrickson’s fourth theatrical fright fest: Deliver Us From Evil.
Premiering on July 2, 2014, it tells the story of NYPD Officer Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) and his partner Butler (Joel McHale) who are on the case of a series of crimes involving some deranged suspects. At least that’s the way they see it. When the situation proves to be more difficult to handle, especially for Sarchie, who seems to share some sixth sense ability or “radar” as Butler calls it, Father Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez), an undercover catholic priest, joins in on the case, believing that something demonic is afoot in these crimes.
I was excited for this film, but within the first five minutes I grew concerned. It felt like a mash of Derrickson’s previous horror flicks with a cop story thrown in. The presence of an ominous being that isn’t human and the involvement of the law enforcement are elements found in Sinister. Also, with a catholic priest performing an exorcism loosely based on true accounts, like in Emily Rose, traces of his previous work were plainly visible. It didn’t help that the first act was a tad underwhelming at times, from the tonal shift, slow pace, and fast jump cuts. Despite that minor setback, the plot does pick up in the second act.
At first, I had my doubts with Eric Bana as Ralph Sarchie, but as the film progressed he does become a fleshed out character, as we see him trying to comprehend the case, his “radar” ability, and finding time to spend with his wife (Olivia Munn) and daughter (Lulu Wilson). Joel McHale, whose comedic work I enjoy on the TV show, Community, is hit or miss at times, but I still liked seeing him try out a more dramatic role. Edgar Ramirez as Fr. Mendoza is without a doubt the best thing about this movie. He brings a very different take of a Catholic priest. To paraphrase what the character says, he breaks the stereotype one thinks about priests; this isn’t the kind of pastor you greet on Sundays.
Another standout is Sean Harris as a suspect who may be involved in these series of creepy crimes that he brought to mind the antagonist of Sinister.
The aspects of faith and belief are presented as well. Despite his family going to church, religion is the last thing on Sarchie’s mind. With Fr. Mendoza in the picture, one can predict where this story will head, but it’s not in the way one expects. Mendoza may be a holy man, but that doesn’t mean he’s perfect. This is something he acknowledges with a past failing that continues to haunt him. Even with that burden, he continues to make the effort to carry out what he was ordained for. This is a trait that Sarche also shares. In an era where religion is seen as either corrupt or the subject of a punch line, the Horror genre is one of the few Hollywood genres where it’s presented in a more positive light. The recent Conjuring films are a recent example of that.
The best way to describe this is with the 2013’s Gravity with Sandra Bullock. At first, I had my doubts when the film started as well as with the main lead, but as it moved on from the middle to the end, it improved so greatly that I was looking forward to watching it again. It may not be as good or provocative as The Exorcism of Emily Rose, but Deliver Us From Evil despite a bumpy start does deliver some scares and welcoming themes on faith and belief.
We have reached the end of Derricksons’s directorial work and ready in anticipation for his newest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but there is still a tad bit left to discuss before that day arrives. What could it be? Find out in the penultimate installment of Cinema Spotlight on Scott Derrickson in the next East Texan issue.
Final Film Fact: Scott Derrickson, Eric Bana and Olivia Munn have had involvement in Marvel films.
Derrickson will be directing the upcoming Doctor Strange, Bana played the first big-screen iteration of the Hulk in 2003, and Munn recently portrayed the mutant Psylocke in X-Men: Apocalypse.