Review: The Devil's in the detail

A still from the movie 'Deliver us fom evil'   | Photo Credit: SMPSP

Writer Stephen King, who acquired much fame (and a tidy fortune) by spooking people with creepy horror stories, had a ready explanation to account for the success of his genre: horror, he noted, has an inexplicable mesmeric quality to it. It draws you in, even if you are good of heart, which is why you can’t look away when you pass by the site of a traffic accident, however horrendous you may know the blood and gore will be.

Patrons of horror and paranormal flicks such as *Deliver Us From Evil know pretty much what they’re letting themselves in for: paying good money to get frightened out of their wits inside darkened halls isn’t paranormal behaviour for them. Which is why we have endless recyclings of what is essentially the same formulaic story of demoniac possession, its evil manifestations, the battle between Good and Evil (cue: a spot of evangelical Bible-thumping), a climactic exorcism ritual, and the happy deliverance from all things evil.

Deliver Us From Evil

Director:Scott Derrickson

Cast: Eric Bana, Edgar Ramirez, Sean Harris, Chris Coy, Olivia Munn

Storyline:A New York cop needs help from a chain-smoking Catholic priest to make paranormal sense of some violent crimes on his beat.

Bottomline: *The Exorcist for the post-millennial age. Cliched but spooky nonetheless.

And yet, within that broad story superstructure, the devil is in the details. Director Scott Derrickson is on familiar territory here, given his earlier offerings: *The Exorcism of Emily Rose and *Sinister. In *Deliver…, therefore, he could easily have avoided the trite clichés that characterise film-making in this genre: you know, the Senseless Scenes that Startle, such as a cat jumping onto the protagonist (where the mood has been set up for something evil round that corner). Sadly, he yields too readily to the temptation to trot out cheap thrills.

But, that aside, the movie delivers what every horror flick fan looks for: a gritty narrative that sets hearts palpitating wildly. There’s a brooding creepiness about the entire film, shot in low light to enhance the spook quotient. The storyline, which draws from a book by Ralph Sarchie, a retired New York cop who turned demonologist after his experience of encountering “inhuman evil” in the line of duty, is fairly simple.

Sarchie (played by Eric Bana), a doubting Thomas, is called upon to investigate a string of horrific crimes in New York, but finds himself thrown into the orbit of Mendoza (played by Edgar Ramirez), the chain-smoking Catholic priest (who gives waitresses the glad eye), who sees “inhuman evil” at play. Sarchie finds himself sucked into the vortex of evil, putting his own sanity (and the safety of his family) at grievous risk, but is redeemed in the end, after an overlong exorcism ritual in the interrogation room of a cop station (which, frankly, has you feeling nostalgic for *The Exorcist).

If there’s one jarring note, it is Derrickson’s invocation of The Doors as a shamanic messenger: the band’s songlines play a recurring role among the demoniacally possessed in the film, but that narrative strand hangs somewhat loose. An attempt at meaningless intellectualising, which falls flat.

Read >Anuj Kumar's review of Deliver Us From Evil.

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2022 2:39:21 PM |

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