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Who knew that throwing Bruce Banner and Jeff Winger in a buddy cop movie with exorcist overtones would make for a good horror movie? A genius, that’s who.
Deliver Us From Evil (hereby known as ‘DUFE’ because I’m lazy and you’re smart) is a ‘based on a true story’ horror flick by Director Scott Derrickson and Producer Jerry Bruckheimer. It follows police officer Ralph Sarchie as he and his partner (Community’s Joel McHale) investigate increasingly bizarre domestic disturbances. After encountering a deranged woman in a zoo who seems to be a big Doors fan, Sarchie meets Castilian priest Mendoza, who suggests there are supernatural powers at work. As Sarchie delves further into his links, he encounters more things he cannot explain, and slowly comes to realise that Mendoza was indeed right, and there really is other-worldly evil at work.
Jump scares are abound (like you expect any less from this genre – come on) so remember to sink into your seat/look at your popcorn for an exceptionally long period of time or whatever it is you do to preserve your pride while your heart leaps out of your chest.
Some people would argue that this is a cheap trick, and in some films it is (I’m looking at you, Paranormal Activity franchise) however I disagree in this instance, as they appear as part of the overall style of the film, rather than a quick and easy way of getting a reaction from the audience.
Another subject DUFE has been criticised over is its attempt to juggle two sub genres of cinema in one film; gritty cop thriller and supernatural horror movie. Some say its attempts were in vain and that it succeeds in carrying its ‘exorcist’ layers well but falls flat on the police thriller side. Again I have to disagree as I thought that both styles seemed to blend very well in this film, and that the overall tone of the film carried through flawlessly.
The tone of the film is dark from the offset; set in the Bronx, predominantly at night, often in the rain. Gritty, drab, and thoroughly oppressive, the visuals of DUFE will have you in some very moody and uncomfortable territory. On top of this the cinematography is key to DUFE’s success; with long drawn sequences that make you buckle under their tension and ‘shaky-cam’ assisting action that really bring you into the moment. However after a while the shaky cam can become tiresome and the grimy visuals may grate on some viewers after watching a film that predominantly keeps you in the dark.
Performances from all of the key cast members shine here; Bana’s self admitted ‘heavy handed’ cop is likeable and interesting, unlike past cliche’s of the character – and Edgar Ramirez is particularly engaging as the well rounded and very unconventional Father Mendoza. However, for me the stand out performances of this film came from Joel McHale as Butler; Sarchie’s police partner who constantly cracks wise and kicks ass as an adrenaline junkie who loves to show off his knife fighting skills. Along with McHale, the other commendable performance comes from Sean Harris as Santino; a possessed soldier at the centre of all the disturbing violence occurring. Harris’s stone-faced performance will send shivers down your spine as he stares soullessly into the camera, explodes into savage violence and displays an all over relentless inhuman agenda.
Sound design works hand in hand with the gripping visuals that make DUFE the standout horror movie of this year so far, between the tense score that draws out like a blade to the juxtaposed Doors’ classics like ‘Break on Through’. The incredibly tense score ehances every shadow and every movement on screen, forcing you to constantly be on your guard for the next scare. Opposed to this (a moment I was particularly giddy over) was the use of an instrumental version of the beautifully melancholy Moby song’ When it’s cold I’d like to die’, which made for a very emotional scene after the climax of the film.
The use of The Doors was another very interesting and intelligent decision for a variety of reasons; many know that Jim Morrison (lead singer of The Doors) was heavily spiritual and is famous for his deeply philosophic quotes, although highly ironic coming from an often shirtless, LSD infused rock star. Morrison’s quote ‘There are things known, and things unknown. And in between there are the doors’ was what gave the band it’s namesake, and forevermore cemented their lyrical connection to ‘the other side’ with ‘Break on Through’ being the most literal of their songs to convey this double meaning. Many (including myself) have longed for Hollywood to utilise The Doors deeply spiritual connections in a film, and finally that has been done here, though it seems the meaning has escaped a few viewers who seem to either not understand or overall dislike the choice of music as they did not see its connection to the plot.
Overall, while cliché in some points (the hard-boiled cop, the neglected-but-loving wife & daughter and the wise-cracking partner) Deliver Us From Evil stands atop many other recent forays into the horror genre of late, with (in this reviewer’s opinion) only being exceeded by the recent works of James Wan in The Conjuring and Insidious: Chapter 2.
Scott Derrickson should be commended for his success in producing a film that may tread the same paths we’ve seen before, but in a way that is refreshing yet nostalgic, something I believe will work favourably for this film in its long life in the annals of horror film history.
It may not be academy award winning stuff, nor a game-changer for its genre, but Deliver Us From Evil does produce great scares, great atmosphere, and an overall good time at the movies, which the key element to all enduring horror films
Rock on with your bad self,