DELIVER US FROM EVIL is a curious blend of intensity and lassitude. Though rife with images of gory mutilations, animal and human, there is in its decorous pacing the whiff of the better Merchant-Ivory productions of times gone by, where things unfold in their own time and without any unseemly rush amid lush surroundings and formal dress. Its a bold choice for a film about demonic possession, and the tough New York City cop out to put a stop to it.
But before we find ourselves in the gritty environs of The Bronx, there is a prologue set in Iraq, where Marines on patrol find themselves wading through slithering snakes and battling bats into an ancient cave. As in all good horror stories in which there are caves, this one has a dismal secret, and some arcane writing on the wall, of which we get the merest glimpse before all hell breaks loose and the action makes its way to Sgt. Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana), a good cop, a loving husband and father, and a magnet for the weirder cases that come up. Or so says Butler, his adrenalin-junkie partner with the mordant humor and too many tattoos. Their latest case involves domestic violence, and though seemingly mundane, it soon ties into several other cases, the one more bizarre than the next, including a house where things go bump in the night (and day), and a woman throwing her baby to the lions. Hence, as is de rigeur in tales of this ilk, its just a matter of time before the exorcist, Father Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez) arrives on the scene, cool in his leather jacket, unkempt hair, and ability to knock back shots without interrupting his chain-smoking.
There are the expected tropes of disbelief by Sarchie as Mendoza makes his case for this being more than just human evil, and of the two slowly bonding. There is also a half-baked sub-plot about Sarchies difficulties at home because of the stress of his job, which comes in handy when the cop starts to inadvertently bring his work home with him via the evil spirit that hes chasing. Bana and Ramirez have a fierce commitment to their characters and the story, giving fine performances that resonate with all the strength they can muster in a film that stretches the action out and dissipates the necessary suspense as logical explanations become less and less compelling. What little success there is with the jump-and-scare tropes demonstrates the missteps in filmmaking that have rendered this into an interesting, occasionally exasperating film instead of a solid scare fest with the added delight of a tie-in to Jim Morrison and The Doors. Even the exorcism, and, of course there is one, has a staleness to it, despite the gruesome twists, literally and figuratively.
DELIVER US FROM EVIL is based on true events, and one can only think that while the screen version of Sarchie et als beat back Satan in real life, cinematically at least, the curse lingers on.