“The Exorcist” is the gold standard when it comes to films about exorcism. Many titles since, including the film’s sequels, have attempted to explore the subgenre further. A few have reached a respectable status, whereas many others have fallen into obscurity. Horror films have always had a connection the occult and religion. This symbiotic relationship has made playing Satan a more exciting role that Jesus Christ himself. The former allows for over-the-top antics and an excuse to try anything for the sake of appearing diabolical. Playing a demon or a possessed human has a similar appeal. Contortions, absurd and violent scenes, and the ability to embrace the dark side, possession/exorcism has become a staple of the macabre.
So far this year, horror has hardly made a splash at the box office. Looking back at the releases that hit theaters, nothing seemed to connect either to the audience or the critics. Last year, “World War Z,” “The Conjuring,” and “The Purge” celebrated the summer and gave horror fans something to sink their teeth into. With the year over half over now, it will be surprising if the genre gets any major victories outside of obvious success in October.
The title for first major horror release of the summer belongs to “Deliver Us from Evil.” Based on the non-fiction book of the same name, we follow New York police officer Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana). The evils of work follow him home, which has him working more and more, causing disconnect within his family. Assisted by his partner Butler (Joel McHale), Sarchie finds an investigation that begins to connect seemingly unrelated crimes. The woman at the center of case is Jane, a veteran’s wife under psychiatric care overseen by a priest (Édgar Ramírez). The deeper Sarchie and Butler dig, the more eerie and potentially satanic things become.
“Deliver Us from Evil” is a story more rooted cop procedural drama than horror. The execution feels like a David Ayer movie combined with a slight twist of supernatural. Bana does a solid job of anchoring the film and keeping it grounded. The script itself doesn’t create elaborate sets or situations, thus making the story unfold in a more believable fashion. By allowing dread to outweigh gore, “Deliver Us from Evil” provides a handful of jump scares but elevates the tension similar to films like “Se7en.” With no competition in the spook department for a few weeks, director Scott Derrickson has the market cornered on scary cinema. It may not have legs at the box office, but it’s competent enough to have a chance as a midnight movie or achieve cult status. 2.5 out of 5 stars
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