As both a fan of Eric Bana being badass and the director’s last movie Sinister, I originally was planning to check this one out in theatres. However it only lasted a couple of weeks before disappearing from this area completely, sealing its fate as a Redbox rental. Appropriately, I feel a Redbox rental is about the correct price to pay for this movie.
Deliver us from Evil claims to be inspired by true events but from what I can tell, that just means the character Eric Bana is playing is in fact a real person and the rest of the movie is completely made up. “Inspired by true events” is a pretty bullshit blanket statement anyway. Any movie could bust that claim out and technically be accurate. Guardians of the Galaxy is inspired by true events because space totally exists and people have gone there. Godzilla is inspired by true events because there are, in fact, animals on Earth. And sometimes they can get pretty big too! It’s such an odd marketing gimmick. Was there really a single person out there on the fence about the movie who was pushed over into a viewing by seeing that line?
So anyway the movie itself! Eric Bana is a cop who, along with his partner Joel McCale, spend an evening responding to an increasingly strange set of calls. First they wind up at the apartment of a veteran who suddenly went crazy and started beating his wife and daughter. Then it’s off to a zoo where a woman threw her 2-year-old son into a lion pit and took off into the night, found later furiously scratching at the pavement. Also they find a creepy painter dude who looks like a member of Slipknot and can talk to lions. This all kicks off a tale of hauntings and psychic powers and possession and exorcisms.
Not surprisingly from that last sentence, Deliver us from Evil is kind of all over the place. It starts almost as a cop procedural with some supernatural elements before delving head first into a religion/demon possession story in the latter half. Honestly I was much more into the first half as it felt a lot more unique. At this point these guys don’t know about all the weird shit, they are just two cops dealing with some bizarre situations and it’s interesting to watch. It has an original feel and leads to some genuinely suspenseful and creepy scenes, such as the call at the zoo. The enjoyable first half makes it all the more disappointing when the second half journeys down a path that has been tread by many, many movies in the past.
Bana is of course good though it does take some time to get used to his Bronx accent. It’s strange to see McCale in what is largely a non-comedic role. He handles the material quite well, providing some of the sole laughs in a very dour movie and also doing some pretty convincing knife fighting. We know his character is an adrenaline junkie because the movie tells us straight up that he’s an adrenaline junkie, but he doesn’t really live up to that characterization. Olivia Munn is also here as Bana’s wife but she isn’t given much more to do than worry and be concerned for Bana. Oftentimes the family stuff seems forced in and with a bloated run time of just under two hours, the movie definitely could have used some trimming down.
The primary problem with this movie is that once it starts going down the heavier supernatural path, it becomes familiar and far less interesting. We’ve seen countless films about exorcisms (hell this isn’t even my first one this month) and the exorcism sequence presented here does not do enough differently to stand out from the pack. People move in unnatural ways, prayers are chanted, people are thrown around the room, you’ve seen it in all before. There are also some scenes at Bana’s home where his daughter is experiencing some spookiness in her bedroom at night that are pretty effective but feel like they are from a completely different movie. The initial trailer made it look like this one should join the ranks of titles such as The Conjuring and Insidious but that’s not accurate. It tries to be a lot of things but only really succeeds at a couple of them.
Deliver us from Evil isn’t a bad movie, it’s actually almost a very good one in my opinion. It just doesn’t do enough to stand out, at least once the plot really starts to get going. You’ll get some mild scares out of it and the performances are good, but I still file this one firmly in the disappointment category.