When the first trailer for Deliver Us from Evil hit, I was stoked. It showed a little girl in bed, scared of scratching sounds, and then her little owl toy falls to the ground and hoots and rolls towards the bed. The father comes in, looks under the bed, sees nothing, and looks up to find a bloody creature in the mirror behind him.
Jump to the next trailer, and the entire plot is revealed. You know you’re in trouble when the entire film is banking on its audience coming because of the director’s previous works. In this case, Scott Derrickson’s previous films were The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Sinister, which are two horror movies with promising ideas that fall apart in their weak finales. However, let’s not forget that this is also the same guy who brought us The Day the Earth Stood Still remake and Hellraiser: Inferno. They don’t want you to remember those two bombs, though.
Deliver Us from Evil tells the “true story” of an NYPD Special Ops officer who investigates some cases involving children dying or being thrown into a Lion’s pit at a zoo. He meets a few whack jobs, and a priest, and soon uncovers true evil. There’s a lot more to it that falls into the unbelievable realm, but I enjoyed the characters. They felt like real, damaged people just trying to make life work, and each one is nicely fleshed out.
Eric Bana stars, and he just seems too good for the role. He’s great, and outshines everyone in the cast. The rest of the cast is competent, which is surprising for the genre. There’s one scene where Olivia Munn has to show some emotion as her husband explains the cases he’s working on, and this moment falls flat, but she turns in a fine performance otherwise. Sean Harris gives a fantastic and creepy performance as our “villain”. There’s also a good collection of background actors, like Mike Houston and Dorian Missick. Chris Coy is the weakest link, and while he is creepy, he ruins his big climax by looking into the camera, and it really took me out of the scene.
I’m really not a fan of Scott Derrickson as a director, but I have to say that he does a good job here. The film has a dark and moody vibe, the soundtrack is fantastic, and I love the inclusion of The Doors, which really makes the final act come to life. His use of flickering lights just makes the dark, creepy scenes look fantastic, and I haven’t been impressed with an American horror film’s style since the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake (which, to this day, is still visually stunning).
I expected to hate Deliver Us from Evil because of all the negative buzz surrounding the film after its release. I actually thought about skipping it entirely, and just waiting for the DVD to release. Thankfully, I had time to waste, and I’m really glad I saw this. The rest of the audience didn’t seem too thrilled once the credits rolled, but I had a blast. There’s a slew of cheap jump scares, and I’ll admit that I fell for two of them. There are also some bad one-liners here and there, and at times, the film feels like it’s handing you every detail on a silver platter because they don’t expect the audience to be able to piece it all together. That said, what really sold me on the film was the well-shot and well-acted finale; it elevates Deliver Us from Evil from an average film to a truly solid horror flick.