Generally speaking, the horror genre doesn’t see too many big-screen outings these days. The usual low-budgets associated with these films are obviously big factors when it comes to distribution and marketing, but the sad truth is that this is a genre that is arguably seen as a “quick and easy” win by studios and producers. Mediocrity is what follows that approach, leading to countless direct-to-video releases that bring down expectations of the genre as a whole. The rare horror films that manage to see cinematic releases are often responsible for continuing this trend. Not to say that they’re all terrible, The Conjuring was a good example of an effective cinematic release, but there are too many horror flicks that aim for the easy path, packaging together a bucket-load of genre tropes and then throwing them at the audience with a lame, “Boo!”
This brings us to Deliver Us from Evil, a lacklustre studio release that manages to give horror naysayers the perfect reasons to avoid giving potential winners a chance.
Inspired by a “true story”, Deliver Us from Evil sees Eric Bana star as Ralph Sarchie, a NY police officer who is drawn into the world of the supernatural after he and his partner, Butler (Joel McHale), begin investigating the strange occurrences connected to three Iraq war vets. What follows is a clumsily put together collage of clichés, which, according to your mood at the time, could offer you a good bit of unintentional humour.
As soon as a character points out Sarchie’s barely mentioned “radar” as a spiritual gift, you can call it a day. It’s all here. The Middle East as the origins of evil? Check. Possession? Check. An oh-so-cool cigarette-smoking priest? Check. A little girl with randomly creepy toys? Check. Jump-scares caused by freakin’ cats? Check. Honestly, at times this approaches a spoof with how many tropes it piggybacks on. That’s not to say that director Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Sinister) doesn’t try his best to deliver an eerie sense of dread, it’s just unfortunate that the screenplay (by Derrickson and Paul Harris Boardman) dulls every moment more than the incessantly drab lighting does.
Eric Bana, certainly a good actor in his own right, is downright flat here, delivering a by-the-numbers performance as a humourless cop (the unconvincing New York accent doesn’t do him any favours either). Édgar Ramírez fares better as the film’s exorcism-delivering priest, but the wearisome dialogue and laughably written character simply defeats the actor’s talents. The supporting cast, including a wasted Olivia Munn and an out-of-place John McHale, who one would assume was placed here to provide some sort of “comic relief”, just disappear into the monotony.
This isn’t a horrifyingly awful film, with the potential of becoming an oh-so-bad-it’s-good flick, it’s just mind-numbingly tiresome. Deliver Us from Evil won’t scare you or intrigue you, but it will have you thinking about all films that have done it better. So, in that sense, this film works as a way of appreciating great horror films. Thanks, Deliver Us from Evil.
THE REEL SCORE: 3/10