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'Deliver Us from Evil' review: Grotesquely satisfying

Deliver Us From Evil

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"Deliver Us from Evil" began its theatrical run across the country yesterday.

Eric Bana as Ralph Sarchie.
Eric Bana as Ralph Sarchie.
Photo courtesy of Screen Gems, used with permission.
The official one-sheet theatrical poster for "Deliver Us from Evil."
The official one-sheet theatrical poster for "Deliver Us from Evil."
Photo courtesy of Screen Gems, used with permission.

"Deliver Us from Evil" is based on the real life of Ralph Sarchie (played by Eric Bana) when he was part of the NYPD as he crosses paths with a rebellious priest named Mendoza (played by Edgar Ramirez). Ralph's time as a police officer introduced him to so many relentless, barbaric, and inhuman acts that he eventually lost his faith and refused to bring that horror home to his wife and daughter. If God exists, why would he allow such atrocities?

But a case Ralph is working on quickly turns supernatural and Ralph's time with Mendoza quickly reveals that what Ralph is dealing with isn't just a strange, hair-raising phenomenon but is perhaps demonically related.

Writer and director Scott Derrickson was able to deliver something genuinely terrifying in 2012's "Sinister." Originality isn't something that horror is able to boast about very often, but "Sinister" is unique, riveting, and a horror film that was actually frightening in the month of October. Deliver Us from Evil" is his follow-up and it is mostly in the same frightening vein as its predecessor.

The biopic, crime, horror, thriller has a bit of a clunky start as you're shown the events of 2010 in the country of Iraq as three men raid a creepy underground lair in the middle of nowhere, come across every dark creature imaginable (spiders, snakes, and bats), and experience something terrifying that culminates in a found footage scene that seems to deliberately pay homage to "The Blair Witch Project."

Joel McHale plays Sarchie's partner Butler and the character seems to completely throw the film off track. While he is amusing, Butler seems to add this extremely awkward buddy cop dynamic to the film that really doesn't belong. Comedy and horror are often blended together, but the result isn't always satisfying. Butler is the goofy sidekick that represents comedic relief with a predictable fate.

The film doesn't really begin to pick up until Mendoza is introduced. This is a priest who drinks regularly, smokes heavily, and seems to enjoy the night life, so there's obviously something different about him. Not only is his back story intriguing, but the scenes Edgar Ramirez shares with Eric Bana are the best in the film. Pretty much the entire second half of the film is superb because of Bana and Ramirez.

Along with the inclusion of children in horror (something Derrickson played with in "Sinister"), another element that isn't always easy to swallow in the genre is exorcisms. Some of the most influential sequences in horror have been exorcisms, but they've become so common that they've lost their appeal and most of all their bite. "Deliver Us from Evil" is able to feature an exorcism that is not only as memorable as the one in "The Conjuring," but actually surpasses it.

"Deliver Us from Evil" is slightly clumsy at first as it flounders about in the dark and juggles comedy when it isn't necessary, but the film is intense, disturbing, and gruesomely clever once it finds its footing. "Deliver Us from Evil" is dirty and grungy like "Seven" and eerie and nerve-racking like "Sinister." At its peak, "Deliver Us from Evil" is a macabre, supernatural odyssey.