Deliver Us from Evil: Satanic Panic in the Big Apple

Like his 2005 debut feature The Exorcism of Emily Rose, screenwriter/director Scott Derrickson’s Deliver Us from Evil is reportedly based on actual events – in this case the experiences of former New York police detective Ralph Sarchie, played by Eric Bana.

The tough but tender Sarchie, conveniently a lapsed Catholic, becomes enmeshed in a murder case with seemingly supernatural origins – one that involves a military mission in Iraq and the music of The Doors. Simple reason isn’t providing our hero any answers, so he turns to Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez), a former junkie-turned-priest who’s far less skeptical about evil forces than Sarchie is.

Thanks to cinematographer Scott Kevan and composer Christopher Young, Deliver Us from Evil certainly looks and sounds scary – even if it’s grimy, grungy atmosphere recalls Silence of the Lambs (1991) and Se7en (1995). It’s almost as if New York City has already gone to hell. Derrickson also serves up some effective jolts along the way, even if the flickering-lights motif becomes rather predictable.

Unfortunately, the film’s momentum flattens out during a protracted second half. There comes a point in the story when it “jumps the shark” (or, in this case, “jumps the cross”), falling back on the tried-and true (and rather tired) over-emphasis on gory special effects and incessant camerashaking. Some judicious editing wouldn’t have hampered the narrative in the least and likely would have improved the film’s pacing, which becomes very flabby in the second half.

Bana and Ramirez are appropriately earnest as doers of good, Olivia Munn and newcomer Lulu Wilson are saddled with the thankless roles of Sarchie’s wife and daughter (who are inevitably threatened), and Joel McHale plays Sarchie’s wise-cracking partner, who lasts longer than most cop-movie partners and is the sort of joker who courts danger by wearing a Red Sox cap while working the Bronx.