Combustible Celluloid
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With: Eric Bana, Édgar Ramírez, Olivia Munn, Chris Coy, Dorian Missick, Sean Harris, Joel McHale, Mike Houston, Lulu Wilson, Olivia Horton, Scott Johnsen, Daniel Sauli, Antoinette LaVecchia, Aidan Gemme, Jenna Gavigan
Written by: Scott Derrickson, Paul Harris Boardman, based on a book by Ralph Sarchie, Lisa Collier Cool
Directed by: Scott Derrickson
MPAA Rating: R for bloody violence, grisly images, terror throughout, and language
Running Time: 118
Date: 07/02/2014

Deliver Us from Evil (2014)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Warped Doors

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Writer/director Scott Derrickson, who already has one exorcism movie under his belt (The Exorcism of Emily Rose), started off with some strong material here. Ralph Sarchie's story could have made a gripping, tense, and spooky police procedural, with a genuine sense of awe about what is possible in the universe. Instead, Derrickson gives us Deliver Us from Evil, which has been twisted and forced to resemble a traditional horror movie. That is, it has a few dozen scenes wherein something scary jumps out at the camera, or some sudden noise startles us. Plus, it has lots of blood and gore. Anything genuinely scary is long gone.

The story, based on true events, begins in Iraq in 2010, as three soldiers discover a sinister chamber. In the present day, South Bronx cop Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) and his partner (Joel McHale) investigate a spousal abuse report, and then an even stranger report wherein a woman threw her baby into a ravine at the zoo. The cops notice a hooded stranger there, and in surveillance footage, observe him performing some kind of weird ritual. Sarchie meets a priest, Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez), who knows the woman from the zoo, and who seems to know what's actually going on. But when Sarchie's wife (Olivia Munn) and young daughter are kidnapped, he must reach down deep within himself to accept new realities that he never dared face before.

At the helm, Derrickson's rhythm and timing seems off. He resorts to shaky-cam and confusing use of space whenever anything dynamic happens, and, though he drags the story on to 118 full minutes, it feels alternately rushed and draggy. The talented Ms. Munn has nothing to do here, though Bana and Ramirez have a few good scenes together. And Christopher Young's score is quite unsettling.

I received a DVD review copy from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, which comes only with a director commentary track and one behind-the-scenes featurette (the Blu-ray has more stuff). The commentary is interesting for folks that might want to learn more about the real-life story that inspired the film.

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