Directed by: Scott Derrickson
This film is based on the real life events of Ralph Sarchie (Banna), a New York cop working the midnight shift in the Bronx, who meets a Castilian/Hungarian renegade priest, Fr. Mendoza (Ramírez), when he is pulled into a very bizarre case involving not just what Fr. Mendoza refers to as “Secondary Evil” (evil that man does) but “Primary Evil” (true evil). As can be expected, Sarchie (even though he himself experiences strong hunches in regards to certain cases) who is something of a fallen Catholic and doesn’t truly believe what Fr. Mendoza says. However, he is now involved in a case where the priest convinces him, against Sarchie’s better judgment, is demonically related. Together, they work to solve the case and combat the paranormal forces working against them as inexplicable chaos erupts around them.
While the film itself deviates a bit from the real Sarchie’s actual experiences (while still a cop, Sarchie reached out to the famed ghost hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren eventually leaving the force and cofounding the New York chapter of the New England Society for Psychic Research where he continues to investigate many cases of demonic possession. As a demonic possession film this movie falls a little flat — offering us up several standard tropes of the genre — however, as structured, it really is more of a dark, disturbing cop thriller that doesn’t truly morph into a demonic possession film until the last half hour or so. Needless to say, this made it more of interest to us, but might dissuade others (those who actually prefer that type of film)
This particular story is apparently extracted from Sarchie’s book Beware the Night, where he writes about investigating cases of demonic possession and assisting in the exorcisms. Here the story starts out in Iraq with three deployed U.S. soldiers and then picks up three years later when they’ve all been dishonorably discharged and the evil that they encountered there begins to manifest itself. Again, as it unfolds as more of a cop thriller with dark underpinnings, than a film of demonic possession, it makes for a better, more relatable tale, but (for us at least), it falls apart at the end when it goes full Exorcist on us.
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing films for some 30 years. During that time, his movie reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web. Subscribe to receive regular articles and movie reviews.