You may be surprised to discover that the central character of Deliver Us from Evil Sargent Ralph Sarchie played by Eric Bana is in fact a real person, a real person who as a cop not only walked the mean streets of New York for many years but later retired and became a demonologist and then wrote a book Beware the Night which blended fact and fiction in his tales of demons, ghost, ghouls and terrifying evil.
Sarchie’s novel also titled Deliver us from Evil which as the synopsis says takes you “into the very hierarchy of a hell on earth to expose the grisly rituals of a Palo Mayombe priest; a young girl whose innocence is violated by an incubus; a home invaded by the malevolent spirit of a supposedly murdered 19th century bride; the dark side of a couple who were, literally, the neighbors from hell; and more” makes the perfect fodder for a horror film.
The slightly strange thing is when adapting the book filled to the brim with harrowing hauntings and ghostly goings on Paul Harris Boardman and Scott Derrickson (who also directed the film) chose to invent a completely new story and ignore the books many terrifying true tales.
Although the pairing have delivered solid shockers before collaborating on underrated Urban Legends: Final Cut and The Exorcism of Emily Rose together it is slightly frustrating to open your movie with a ‘Inspired by Actual Events’ title card when you know full well little of the contents of the movie actually is.
This quibble aside Deliver Us from Evil is actually a pretty good horror film with a slightly different slant on the usual tale of urban evil blending the gritty nasty realism of a cop action drama with elements of possession pictures to create an innovative horror hybrid.
Opening in Iraq where a trio of unlucky soldiers encounter an unknown ancient evil the film jumps to present day New York introducing us to Eric Bana’s Sarchie a hardnosed Bronx beat cop with a radar for danger and a wise cracking partner played by the brilliant Joel McHale in an action role counter to his usual comedic turns.
Drawn to increasingly more mysterious and disturbing cases involving a woman throwing her child into a wild animal pen at the zoo, a haunted house and a disturbed wife beater Sarchie suddenly realises that they are all inextricably linked by supernatural evil, an evil that is now coming for him and his family.
Facing beings far beyond his comprehension he joins forces with unconventional priest Mendoza (Édgar Ramírez) who he meets by chance and who slowly opens Sarchie’s eyes to the fact that what he is truly fighting is something from the very pits of hell itself.
With every scene seemingly set at night and even the daytime looking dark and gloomy Sinister helmer Scott Derrickson does a great job crafting a foreboding feel for the film that makes the streets of New York look like the twisted decaying Netherworld as Sarchie seeks out the dark souls lurking in every alley way and abandoned building.
Placing brutally violent realism alongside more supernatural elements such as scenes of possession and an epic exorcism makes the movie all the more interesting with the more mystical moments achieved with some fine make up and effects causing the audience some excellent shocks and scares.
At the center of it all is Bana’s tortured performance which displays the true toll of witnessing the darkest acts of mankind on a daily basis something that all police forces face universally with or without the added otherworldly elements Sarchie saw.
Overall Deliver Us from Evil is an interesting horror and an imaginative twist on the usual exorcism genre that provides plenty of thrills and chills while keeping at its core a serious look at the effects of pure evil on a good man.