"Deliver Us From Evil" Leaves Sensationalism to the Other Exorcism Films

I’ve always enjoyed Director / Writer Scott Derrickson’s work over the years. Not just because he’s a Christian like myself, but because his choices in projects are so hard to pinpoint. He started in the horror genre by penning the slasher sequel “Urban Legends: Final Cut” before tackling the fifth installment in the “Hellraiser” franchise entitled “Inferno.” He then co-wrote the drama “Land of Plenty” before launching into the worlds of horror and science fiction with “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” and the ambitious “The Day the Earth Stood Still” remake.

However, “Sinister” is the movie that completely sold me on Derrickson’s talent as a filmmaker. Any time I’m asked to suggest a horror film to someone, the first one that comes to mind is this wonderfully creepy genre piece. Every time the movie is brought up in genre circles, I make it a point to let people know it’s one of my favorite supernatural thrillers of 2013.

After witnessing a string of unexplainable occurrences while working his beat as a police officer, Ralph Sarchee comes into contact with a Catholic Priest named Mendoza. Mendoza is convinced that the crimes Sarchee is investigating are tied to demonic possession. The two work together to solve what is beginning to look like a dark wave of supernatural atrocities.

From the first trailer I saw for “Deliver Us from Evil,” I was excited to see the movie opening weekend and show my support for Derrickson. I missed the advanced screening and had no problem shelling out money to see it at its first showing Friday morning of its release. I left the theater with mixed feelings as the credits rolled.

It’s not that I didn’t like “Deliver Us from Evil.” I can’t complain about the story, which is based on the true life experiences of NY police officer Ralph Sarchie as he accompanied Father Mendoza on a series of exorcisms. I think Derrickson was aiming for a slow-burner. He was and attempting to achieve the sort of 1970’s build-up the classics like “The Exorcist” and “Rosemary’s Baby” are known for. I can appreciate that, but at the same time felt like the pacing was a little off.

One thing I appreciated about “Deliver Us from Evil” was the way he handled the exorcisms and demon possessions. As a believer in the supernatural and spiritual world, they were what I would expect to witness in real life. There was no projectile vomiting or head-spinning like what we see in Hollywood versions of the same subject. Some gore hounds might even find them too tame.

After watching an interview with the real Ralph Sarchee, I was very curious as to how Eric Bana would do with his New York accent and mannerisms. I couldn’t believe how well he nailed it. Bana was completely believable in the role. Everybody did a great job embracing their characters and taking the material seriously. I would like to give Olivia Munn special praise. I know many people like to throw rocks at her because of the whole “Attack of the Show” ordeal, but she really shows a lot of potential in “Deliver Us from Evil.”

“Deliver Us from Evil” is rated R for bloody violence, grisly images, terror throughout, and language. Although the movie definitely has gore, it wasn’t enough to make me wince at any particular moment. The characters all speak the way you would expect hardened police officers and other Bronx roughnecks to talk.

“Deliver Us from Evil” strives to show demonic possession as a believable phenomenon by keeping the sequences as far from sensationalism as Director Derrickson can get. If you’re expecting the over-the-top antics of Regan in “The Exorcist” or Anthony Hopkins in “The Rite,” you’ll need to mentally prepare yourself for a less flashy visual approach. What we get here is a movie that wants to convince you of the reality of a dark spiritual realm versus parlor tricks and other typical shocks we always find in these types of movies. I find myself wanting to re-visit the film in the future to see how it plays out on a second watch.