2012’s genuinely scary Sinister was – after the better-than-it-had-any-right-to-be Hellraiser: Inferno and the underrated The Exorcism Of Emily Rose –enough to establish director Scott Derrickson as, if not a new master of horror, then at least a talented filmmaker working in a now-disreputable genre.
For that reason alone, Deliver Us From Evil – despite its silly ‘inspired by the accounts of an actual NYPD sergeant’ selling point (it is indeed based on 2001’s Beware The Night, written by Ralph Sarchie, a police officer and demonologist) – carries a bit of promise. And so does the opening of the film itself, as Sarchie, played by a Noo-Yawk-accented Eric Bana, investigates some strange goings-on around his precinct.
Abetted by richly detailed, creepy sound design, these early scenes – including a chase of a crazed Iraq War vet and the apprehension of an even more crazed woman at a Bronx zoo after she’s thrown her infant child into a lion’s cage – sustain a palpable, almost Samuel Fuller-esque mood of hysteria, peaking with a face-off between Bana and a lion that recalls Anchorman more than any supernatural horror. Derrickson displays, in these scenes, a keen awareness of the mutually beneficial relationship between horror and absurdity, and as long as the film stays in ghost-train mode, it’s reasonably effective.
Which, unfortunately, isn’t very long; when Sarchie teams up with Catholic priest Joe Mendoza (Edgar Ramírez), Deliver Us From Evil settles into a stultifying rhythm of deadly exposition followed by the jump scares that occasionally marred Sinister, finally ending with a tedious exorcism scene that’s only redeemed by being the culmination of the film’s loopy Doors/Jim Morrison motif (there’s the sense that the desired effect is that you’ll never listen to The Doors in the same way again, which… no). Ridiculousness isn’t the film’s problem, so much as that it doesn’t go far out enough.
Deliver Us From Evil is in cinemas now.