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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Deliver Us from Evil movie review: weak spirits


A rote police procedural conducted by a cardboard movie cop investigating a supposedly demonic evil that simply cannot compete with nonsupernatural reality.
I’m “biast” (pro): love Eric Bana

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

I have not read the source material

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Somebody please get Eric Bana (Lone Survivor) a nice juicy TV role where he can actually create a character worthy of his talent and intense presence, rather than being forced to shuffle — yet again — through another underwritten genre pawn. This time out he’s NYPD sergeant Ralph Sarchie, who falls into teaming up with “undercover” Jesuit priest Mendoza (Édgar Ramírez: The Counsellor) to investigate some weird demonic-possession shit going down in the South Bronx. (This sidelines Sarchie’s goofy partner, Butler [Joel McHale: Blended], though not so much that Butler cannot ultimately fulfill his own genre-pawn purpose.) Talk to any actual NYPD cop and he will gleefully regale you with tales of all the weird shit he’s seen, and this tale does, in fact, purport to be based on actual real-life weird shit as experienced by real-life NYPD cop Ralph Sarchie. And yet it’s no more plausible than any of the numerous other horror movies supposedly based on fact. (It’s also far less plausible — and far less entertaining — than some of the weird-shit tales I’ve heard from actual cops.) It’s long since been a problem that allegedly authentic malevolent spirits presented to us by movies are all so old-fashioned and predictable: I mean, dudes are cutting people’s heads off and posting the video on YouTube, and you’re still trotting out some raspy muttered Latin and blowing out lightbulbs? Get with the 21st century, o ancient evil ones. Bad enough that this flick is basically another rote police procedural conducted by a cardboard movie cop, but its notion of evil simply cannot compete with reality. Almost the entire horror genre needs to significantly up its game if it wants to genuinely horrify us today. Deliver Us from Evil is, sadly, almost cosy escapism from reality, which is exactly the opposite of what it wants to be.

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Deliver Us from Evil (2014)
US/Can release: Jul 02 2014
UK/Ire release: Aug 22 2014

MPAA: rated R for bloody violence, grisly images, terror throughout, and language
BBFC: rated 15 (strong supernatural threat, violence, strong language)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • RogerBW

    Genre horror isn’t really my sort of thing unless it tries to get at least a little bit out of the thirty-year-old comfortable groove.

    Does someone here at least admit that the cultural presence exists, or are they all surprised by light-bulb-blowing and Latin-muttering the way nobody who’s actually watched a horror movie now would be?

  • Tonio Kruger

    Given that there are whole books devoted to the stuff real-life cops see — Mark Baker’s Cops and Connie Fletcher’s What Cops Know being the most obvious examples — it is kinda surprising that so many screenwriters feel the need to make stuff up. Especially since it is such uninteresting stuff. (And it’s not like anyone in Hollywood is optioning the novels written by former cop reporter Edna Buchanan but I suppose that is a complaint for another day.)

    Then again as author Stephen King once noted, the horror genre does tend to wax a bit conservative. And you can’t get more conservative than having a character mutter Latin — unless you have some character muttering Sanskrit or Sumerian — and at least one famous horror movie has already done the latter.

  • Clearly, demonic-possession horror movies do not exist in the universe of this story.

  • Bluejay

    There’s a Jesuit priest involved in this? And I always thought the Jesuits were the smart Christians.

  • No no no: this *is* based (allegedly) on stuff a real-life cop experienced! None of this is “made up.”


  • Bluejay

    you can’t get more conservative than having a character mutter Latin

    Pinko commie leftist President Bartlet might disagree. :-)

  • Jurgan

    Jesuits did a lot in the Reformation days to suppress scientific advancement. If it went against Aristotle, it went against the Church, and the Jesuits would not allow it to be printed.

  • Bluejay

    Well, there goes my joke. Damn you, History!!!!

  • David

    Shockingly enough, not that many people in Hollywood learned the right lessons from Scream.

  • Joe Schmoe

    Based on real life experience, ah yeah

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