"Deliver Us From This. Please."
One of the latest of Hollywood’s New Wave of rip-offs of William Friedkin’s THE EXORCIST (1974) comes to disc as Scott Derrickson’s DELIVER FROM EVIL gets a Blu-ray and DVD release. With THE HAUNTING OF EMILY ROSE and SINISTER under his belt, it seemed until last year as if Mr Derrickson was just going to get better and better, which just proves you can’t anticipate anything in this business.
We kick off in Iraq. Actually, no we don’t, we kick off with one of those ‘Based on True Events’ cards that are now so common I’m actually surprised when I don’t see one. The only time that was used to any effect was on Dan O’Bannon’s THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD. Nowadays it feels more like a justification or an excuse, rather than the promise that we are going to see something special.
But then oh my does DELIVER US FROM EVIL need excuses. Three US soldiers on a mission in Iraq in 2010 open an ancient underground chamber, complete with incantation on the wall, and then their video cameras cut to black.
The Bronx in the present (well, 2013). Cop Eric Bana encounters a number of odd cases that lead him to suspect that Something Strange is going on in New York. A woman goes insane at the zoo and throws her baby into the lion enclosure. Those Words from the beginning are painted on the wall and the outline of someone talking to one of the beasts is caught on security camera. A man is found dead in a basement, his body bursting with flies, and another beats his wife to the point of death. Curly haired, hard-drinking chick magnet Catholic Priest (now there’s something original) Edgar Ramirez tries to convince Bana it’s the work of a demon. At least I think he does as it’s rather difficult to understand what he’s saying at times. After ninety minutes of wandering around New York while the film tries to find a focus and work out what it wants to be about we get an EXORCIST-style climax in a prison cell.
DELIVER US FROM EVIL really is a bit of a meandering, plodding mess that’s too darkly photographed and too muddily written. If I hadn’t known it was from the director of SINISTER my jaw would have dropped at the end credits reveal. Scott Derrickson showed an admirable love of classic Italian horror cinema in EMILY ROSE, with two fine sequences, one that was almost Bava-esque and the other suggesting Fulci at his most atmospheric. Here, however, we’re in crappy Italian possession movie territory, and DELIVER US FROM EVIL is more Assonitis than Argento. Every now and then we see a flash of an attempt at atmosphere - a roundabout where the rides are huge insects, the fly-bloated corpse in the basement - but they feel like the fumblings of an amateur rather than someone who knows what he’s doing. The fine shocks and scares of SINISTER are replaced by mechanical jumps, aided by the kind of loud stingers used by people who know they’re desperate.
So I’m sorry to have to report I didn’t much like DELIVER US FROM EVIL. In fact the quote from FHM on the box cover is entirely appropriate, but not in the way that was intended. Even James Wan’s THE CONJURING is better. Sorry Scott Derrickson. I will still come and watch your next film. My expectations just won’t be as high.
Sony’s Blu-ray and DVD release comes with a short (14 minute) featurette on the making of the film, as well as a commentary from its director. There are also some previews for upcoming movies.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released Scott Derrickson's DELIVER US FROM EVIL on Region 2 DVD & Region B Blu-ray on 5th January 2015