July 23rd 2014 04:29
The ‘based on true events’ assertion holds even less water than usual in this ludicrous new supernatural film from Scott Derrickson. The director’s past work in the genre has produced the fine, underrated The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) and the genuinely creepy Sinister (2012). But his latest, based on cases covered by New York detective Ralph Sarchie - here played by an underwhelming Eric Bana - aims to jolt audiences out of their seats with a series of drearily regular attacks. Forget any notion of slowly building tension or unease through stringent narrative development. Rather, Derrickson and his co-screen writer Paul Harris Boardman seem interested only in doling out electric shocks as a means of cheap, crass entertainment.
It’s uncomfortable watching Bana fumble his way through perfunctory scenes of domesticity as the ruthless malevolence Sarchie hunts down – in the form of a soldier whose exposure to an ancient text in Iraq has possessed him – begins to infect his own life. He has a partner, Butler (Joel McHale), but one who in the tradition of all such temporary foils, is assuredly earmarked for an absurdly unnecessary demise very early on. Since when does an American police officer decide to go toe-to-toe with an opponent with a blade when he’s got a trusty firearm loose at his hip, especially when facing off against a demonic lifeform? Stranger than any of the goings on is the appearance of Edgar Ramirez slumming it as a holy man who begins to tag along with Sarchie when one of his female parishioners becomes infected. You can sense the inevitable exorcism climax coming on. 40 years on, The Exorcist still has nothing to fear from lame, chaotic, CGI-drenched wannabes like this and other recent B-graders like Mikael Håfström's The Rite (2011).
Dredging through the heart of this overdrawn, overblown mess, you’d be hard pressed to identify a single scene in the film that rings true, let alone one that conveys the supposed exploits of the real Sarchie. You have to wonder what the man thinks of the finished product? Can he really be satisfied to see his toil, which at its core, contains intriguing elements in a poor man’s X-Files kind of way, surrendered to overblown clichés and special effects experts? Perhaps the allure of an almighty paycheque was too hard to sidestep. Deliver Us from Evil (2014) is a one-note, deadeningly dull affair that forgoes any opportunity for social commentary about the lingering psychological effects of war and its reverberations back home for the sake of tried-and-tested cinematic trickery. Inexplicably, Bana has been able to keep a straight face in his promotion of the film, something insulted audience members emerging from the morass of this flop will be unable to do.
Deliver Us from Evil is released in Australian cinemas on Thursday, July 24.