Deliver Us From Evil
If "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" (2006) was a thought-provoking, practically gore-free exercise in the demonic possession subgenre of horror cinema, then "Deliver Us From Evil" is the antithesis of that picture: Soulless, brain-dead and full of grisly bloodletting.
What a shame, considering that both films are directed by Scott Derrickson, who's decided to go down a more cheap and manipulative route in his attempt at generating scares this time around.
Inspired by "true events" (as most horror films claim to be these days), Eric Bana stars as Ralph Sarchie, a macho New York cop who's become worn down by the brutality of the multiple crimes occurring within his city. As a result, he's become a cold, distant husband to his wife, Jen (Olivia Munn) and a practically absent father to his young daughter, Christina (Lulu Wilson).
After Ralph deals with a series of horrific incidents, one of which involving a mother throwing her toddler into a lion's den at a local zoo, he's introduced to an unorthodox priest named Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez) who attempts to persuade him of the possibility that supernatural forces may be a factor in these bizarre occurrences. At first Ralph remains skeptical, but the more progress he makes in solving the mystery that links all of the disturbing atrocities together, the more he begins to believe in the "true evil" that Mendoza believes lurks in the hearts of the culprits that are responsible.
It's a bland, cliche-ridden plot that's been played out many times before, but if the film were tense, well-made and genuinely creepy, then it could've been an entertainingly old-fashioned spine-tingler.
Unfortunately, Derrickson's film is a long, dreary exploration of the nature between good and evil, offering no new spiritual insights into the possibilities of demonic possession while recycling every idea from "The Exorcist" into something far more dull and mundane.
In addition to that, it's a relentlessly ugly film. The cinematography is saturated through various shades of puke-green and murky gray, which may seem appropriate in capturing the griminess of New York City for the themes of the picture, but the film is already so ridiculous that any stylistic attempt to make it feel gritty only ends up making it feel more unappealing and implausible.
The film is also rife with gruesome images, including flies popping out of eyeballs, chunks of flesh being bitten off, and abundant sprayings of blood, mucus and saliva. Not that William Friedkin's 1973 horror classic didn't have its fair share of gross-out moments, but they were the result of effective build-up and were supported by stimulating ideas that hinted at the terrifying possibility of its scenario. Without any thematic weight, the sequences of violence in this picture are just purposelessly nasty.
There are also no characters to get emotionally attached to despite some solid actors at play here. Bana and Ramirez do what they can with the material they've been given, but they're playing such hollow retreads of characters that have been portrayed on-screen so many times before, and the script offers barely any wiggle room for the two actors to develop any personal trademarks.
As for Munn, who's badly miscast as Bana's wife, she's less of a character and more of an archetypal plot device designed to walk around in flowy, white dresses and spew out monotonous forms of exposition centered on how her husband is never there to take care of her and their daughter... Groan...
Based on his previous films, Derrickson's proved that he's capable of producing nightmarishly sinister work (pun intended), but "Deliver Us From Evil" feels shockingly workmanlike, in which manipulative jump scares and vile moments of bloodshed trump over almost every sequence of genuinely crafted suspense. It's cheap, icky and most sinful of all, downright boring; a quality that "true evil" never possesses.